First Thoughts

Bringing our preview of DirectX 12 to a close, what we’re seeing today is both a promising sign of what has been accomplished so far and a reminder of what is left to do. As it stands much of DirectX 12’s story remains to be told – features, feature levels, developer support, and more will only finally be unveiled by Microsoft next month at GDC 2015. So today’s preview is much more of a beginning than an end when it comes to sizing up the future of DirectX.

But for the time being we’re finally at a point where we can say the pieces are coming together, and we can finally see parts of the bigger picture. Drivers, APIs, and applications are starting to arrive, giving us our first look at DirectX 12’s performance. And we have to say we like what we’ve seen so far.

With DirectX 12 Microsoft and its partners set out to create a cross-vendor but still low-level API, and while there was admittedly little doubt they could pull it off, there has always been the question of how well they could do it. What kind of improvements and performance could you truly wring out of a new API when it has to work across different products and can never entirely avoid abstraction? The answer as it turns out is that you can still enjoy all of the major benefits of a low-level API, not the least of which are the incredible improvements in CPU efficiency and multi-threading.

That said, any time we’re looking at an early preview it’s important to keep our expectations in check, and that is especially the case with DirectX 12. Star Swarm is a best case scenario and designed to be a best case scenario; it isn’t so much a measure of real world performance as it is technological potential.

But to that end, it’s clear that DirectX 12 has a lot of potential in the right hands and the right circumstances. It isn’t going to be easy to master, and I suspect it won’t be a quick transition, but I am very interested in seeing what developers can do with this API. With the reduced overhead, the better threading, and ultimately a vastly more efficient means of submitting draw calls, there’s a lot of potential waiting to be exploited.

Frame Time Consistency & Recordings
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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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