PCs have dominated the market of home computers for a long time, it wasn’t until recently that we have started adopting lightweight computers, such as laptops and handheld devices like tablets/transformers and smartphones.  The fact is, that the shipments of desk-based computers have declined for nearly 6 percent in the second quarter of 2015, and the tendency is likely to continue. Many have claimed that, besides ever growing popularity of portable devices, Microsoft is the one to blame for these results. It is a general opinion of IT community that Windows 8 and 8.1 OS have been flops. By merging two types of environments, touchscreen based and a classic desktop, they have created a dysfunctional Frankenstein’s monster. Those few improvements that the OS did bring, were simply not enough for most users to migrate from ever popular Windows 7 to the later Windows 8/8.1.

You probably might be asking what does all of this has to do with DirectX 12? The answer is quite simple, the new low-level API (Application Programming Interface) is a feature exclusive to the newest iteration of Windows Operating System, The Windows 10. You see, what Microsoft has done, is that they have learned from their mistake and have taken the best features from previous OS, built upon them and placed them inside and environment more similar to Windows 7.

The new system is more agile, has more features than both Windows 8 and Windows 7 and what is more important it has a high adoption rate.

Mantle

Genesis

Some might argue that Microsoft has been forced into creating and implementing the new DirectX by a bold move made by AMD in March 2015, when they released their own low-level rendering API called Mantle. Now not to go too technical, what AMD has brought to the table was improvement in performance in cases where the CPU was the limiting factor. There were many situations in which a graphics card, paired with a budget CPU, is more than capable of running demanding graphics applications, but it simply fails because of the CPU. So AMD, in cooperation with DICE game developers, devised a software that manages the communication between hardware parts on a much more sophisticated and direct level – The Mantle API.

AMD has often pioneered new technologies, remember the implementation of 64-bit and multi-core CPUs, and High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) unveiled this year? Yet as an underdog, they continue to lag behind Intel and lately nVidia. Unfortunately it is the case with Mantle too. As soon as Mantle was released Microsoft announced that they were working on DX12 which, when revealed in its functionality was basically Mantle API with support for wider array of hardware. Yes nVidia didn’t want to have anything with AMD nor their API, even though AMD made it open source. All of that made the AMD’s magnificent piece of software obsolete.

GTX760

The Features

As stated before, DirectX is in charge of communication between software and hardware, making the system and applications utilize all of the hardware bits and pieces. Because of the large number of PC hardware manufacturers and the lack of general unification, DirectX was needed to make all of that work together, and in its latest release it does that magnificently. According to Microsoft and Intel we will see performance gains of 50 or more percent in some cases.

The DirectX Multiadapter is a feature already present in systems utilizing AMD CPUs and discrete graphics, only it allows hardware from different manufacturers to “cooperate”. Basically if you have an Intel CPU with and iGPU and an nVidia or AMD discrete graphics, they will be able to make use of the iGPU and transfer some of the less important workload onto it, in order to focus on important processes. Moreover it is stated that you will be able to combine nVidia and AMD together, in the same way. Crazy right?

R9-290X

Can I Run It?

In the end we come to the question of compatibility. First and foremost, Microsoft hasn’t made the new DirectX backwards compatible, meaning you will need Windows 10 to run the games supporting it. Which is to be expected as they are using it as an exclusive feature, to appeal to the gaming community to adopt the newest operating system. Other than that you will need compatible piece of hardware, and that is where the surprise lies. Both AMD and nVidia have announced backward compatibility with it’s previously released hardware.

AMD: all of the cards comprised with their GCN chips, meaning all of the graphics cards from HD7XXX series till date including APUs (which meld CPU and GPU on a single chip).

nVidia: GeForce 600, 700 and 900 series.

So that’s all there is to it. You need and appropriate graphics card, a system running Windows 10 and the latest available graphics adapter driver from your cards manufacturer. Oh yes, don’t forget the games, you need the games supporting DirectX 12, and these are… these are… actually you will have to enjoy the fact that you have your system ready with all the newest features, but nothing to use them so far, since only one game is currently available for playing in DX12 regime. It is Ashes of Singularity, you can play it and you can test your DX12 ready rig with its benchmark. It’s already been tested, and guess what? The underdog (read: AMD) won.

Key Features of DX12:

  • ASYNC SHADERS
  • MULTI-THREADED COMMAND BUFFER RECORDING
  • BACKWARDS COMPATIBILTY (hardware vise)
  • IMPROVED OVERALL PERFORMANCE AND POWER MANAGEMENT

This article was written by Alexander Muller you can follow him @AlexIMuller

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Posted by Marcus Jensen

Marcus is an Australian IT support professional. He's running his own business, working with companies that outsource their IT maintenance. In his free time he enjoys SciFi books and movies.

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