About a year and a half ago AMD kicked off the public half of a race to improve the state of graphics APIs. Dubbed "Mantle", AMD’s in-house API for their Radeon cards stripped away the abstraction and inefficiencies of traditional high-level APIs like DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4, and instead gave developers a means to access the GPU in a low-level, game console-like manner. The impetus: with a low-level API, engine developers could achieve better performance than with a high-level API, sometimes vastly exceeding what DirectX and OpenGL could offer.

While AMD was the first such company to publicly announce their low-level API, they were not the last. 2014 saw the announcement of APIs such as DirectX 12, OpenGL Next, and Apple’s Metal, all of which would implement similar ideas for similar performance reasons. It was a renaissance in the graphics API space after many years of slow progress, and one desperately needed to keep pace with the progress of both GPUs and CPUs.

In the PC graphics space we’ve already seen how early versions of Mantle perform, with Mantle offering some substantial boosts in performance, especially in CPU-bound scenarios. As awesome as Mantle is though, it is currently a de-facto proprietary AMD API, which means it can only be used with AMD GPUs; what about NVIDIA and Intel GPUs? For that we turn towards DirectX, Microsoft’s traditional cross-vendor API that will be making the same jump as Mantle, but using a common API for the benefit of every vendor in the Windows ecosystem.

DirectX 12 was first announced at GDC 2014, where Microsoft unveiled the existence of the new API along with their planned goals, a brief demonstration of very early code, and limited technical details about how the API would work. Since then Microsoft has been hard at work on DirectX 12 as part of the larger Windows 10 development effort, culminating in the release of the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview, Build 9926, which is shipping with an early preview version of DirectX 12.

GDC 2014 - DirectX 12 Unveiled: 3DMark 2011 CPU Time: Direct3D 11 vs. Direct3D 12

With the various pieces of Microsoft’s latest API finally coming together, today we will be taking our first look at the performance future of DirectX. The API is stabilizing, video card drivers are improving, and the first DirectX 12 application has been written; Microsoft and their partners are finally ready to show off DirectX 12. To that end, today we’ll looking at DirectX 12 through Oxide Games’ Star Swarm benchmark, our first DirectX 12 application and a true API efficiency torture test.

Does DirectX 12 bring the same kind of performance benefits we saw with Mantle? Can it resolve the CPU bottlenecking that DirectX 11 struggles with? How well does the concept of a low-level API work for a common API with disparate hardware? Let’s find out!

The Current State of DirectX 12 & WDDM 2.0
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  • Alexey291 - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    It can be as free as it likes. In fact for all I care they can pay me to install it... Still not going to bother. And you know why? There's no benefit for me who only uses a Windows desktop as a gaming machine.

    Not a single one. Dx12 is not interesting either because my current build is actually limited by vsync. Nothing else but 60fps vsync (fake fps are for kids). And it's only a mid range build.

    So why should I bother if all I do in Windows at home is launch steam (or a game from an icon on the desktop) aaaand that's it?
  • Nuno Simões - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    Clearly, you need to read the article again.
  • Alexey291 - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    There's a difference in a benchmark. Well surprise surprise. On the other hand games are likely to be optimised before release. Even games by Ubisoft MIGHT be optimised somewhat.

    So the difference between dx11 and 12 will be imperceptible as usual. Just like the difference between ten and eleven was even though benchmarks have always shown that 11 is more efficient and generally faster.
  • Nuno Simões - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    So, it's faster and more efficient, but that's worthless?

    What happened between 10 and 11 is that developers used those improevments to add to substance, not speed, and that is probably going to happen again. But anyway you see it, there is a gain in something. And, besides, just the gains from frametimes and lower buffers is worth it. Less stutter is always a good thing.

    And the bad optimisation from some developers is hardly DX's fault, or any other API for that matter. Having a better API doesn't suddenly turn all other API's into s*it.
  • inighthawki - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    What are you blabbering on about? No benefit? Fake fps? Do you even know anything about PCs or gaming?
  • Alexey291 - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    You don't actually understand that screen tearing is a bad thing do you? :)
  • Murloc - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    I've never seen screen tearing in my life and I don't use vsync despite having a 60 Hz monitor.

    Fact is, you and I have not much to gain from DX12, apart for the new features (e.g. I have a dx10 card and I can't play games with the dx11 settings which do add substance to games, so it does have a benefit, you can't say there is no difference).

    So whether you upgrade or not will not influence the choices of game engine developers.
    The CPU bottlenecked people are using 144Hz monitors and willing to spend money to get the best so they do gain something. Not everybody is you.

    Besides, I will be upgrading to windows 10 because the new features without the horrible w8 stuff are really an improvement, e.g. the decent copy/paste dialog that is already in w8.
    Add the fact that it's free for w8/8.1 owners and it will see immediate adoption.
    Some people stayed on XP for years instead of going to Vista before 7, but they eventually upgraded anyway because the difference in usability is quite significant. Not being adopted as fast as you some guy on the internet think would be fast enough is no excuse to stop development, otherwise someone else will catch up.
  • inighthawki - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    I well understand what screen tearing is, but not locking to vsync doesn't suddenly make it 'fake FPS.' You literally just made up a term that means nothing/. You're also ignoring the common downside of vsync: input lag. For many people it is extremely noticeable and makes games unplayable unless they invest in low latency displays with fast refresh rates.
  • Margalus - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    it does make it "fake fps" in a way. It doesn't matter if fraps is telling you that you are getting 150fps, your monitor is only capable of showing 60fps. So that 150fps is a fallacy, you are only seeing 60fps. And without vsync enabled, those 60fps that your monitor is showing are comprised of pieces more than one frame in each, hence the tearing.

    but other than that, I can disagree with most everything that poster said..
  • inighthawki - Saturday, February 7, 2015 - link

    Correct, I realize that. But it's still not really fake. Just because you cannot see every frame it renders does not mean that it doesn't render them, or that there isn't an advantage to doing so. By enabling vsync, you are imposing a presentation limit on the application. It must wait until the vsync to present the frame, which means the application must block until it does. The faster the GPU is at rendering frames, the larger impact this has on input latency. By default, DirectX allows you to queue three frames ahead. this means if your GPU can render all three frames within one refresh period of your monitor, you will have a 3 frame latency (plus display latency) between when it's rendered and when you see it on screen, since each frame needs to be displayed in the order it is rendered. With vsync off, you get tearing because there is no wait on presents. The moment you finish is the moment you can swap the backbuffer and begin the next frame. You always have (nearly) the minimal amount of latency possible. This is avoidable with proper implementations of triple buffering that allow the developer to discard old frames. In all cases, the fps still means something. Rendering at 120fps and only seeing 60 of them doesn't make it useless to do so.

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