Microsoft reveals DirectX 12 at GDC, promises to make graphics processing more efficient

Microsoft unveiled the next iteration of their graphics API, DirectX 12, during a talk at this week’s Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. 

One of the key enhancements highlighted in DirectX 12 focuses on maximizing performance. According to Microsoft’s DirectX blog, DirectX 12 makes it easier for developers to spread computing tasks across multiple CPU cores, allowing for a “50 percent improvement in PC utilization,” based on 3DMark benchmarks running a DirectX 12 test. 

Microsoft also claims that with DirectX 12, graphics asks will be computed and processed much more efficiently compared with how DirectX 11 approaches them. For instance, with DirectX 11, workloads are generated and sent out as a steady list of commands. In DirectX 12, those commands will be instead sent out as command lists, which will contain all the information necessary for the GPU to compute and execute the command, instead of having to wait on DirectX 11 to provide it with the information it needs to process the tasks it needs to complete. The command lists will contain information pertaining to resource requirements. Then there are Direct X12’s “bundles.” Though command lists are essentially used and then tossed out the window, DirectX 12’s bundles can be reused, which decreases the workload.

With DirectX 12, Nvidia says that applications and developers will be in a much better position to take advantage of a system’s resources, while past APIs were much more focused on investments in image quality. The basic idea behind  DirectX 12 is that with its alleged improved efficiency with respect to managing and accessing hardware resources, users will get to enjoy performance gains via the new API’s reduced overhead. Based on Microsoft’s and Nvidia’s DirectX 12 claims, think of DirectX 11 as a bloated organization hampered by red tape, with DirectX 12 representing a more streamlined version of that organization that’s leaner and more able to get things done quicker. 

What’s more, DirectX 12 will be compatible with DirectX 11 graphics cards, so you’ll be able to take advantage of the new tech once the API hits the light of day. On the AMD side of the spectrum, Graphics Core Next architecture-based graphics cards will receive DirectX 12 support. GCN-based AMD cards include select Radeon R7, Radeon R9, and Radeon 7000-series cards. DirectX 12 will also work across multiple devices, from laptops to desktops, mobile devices as well as the Xbox One console.

However, don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Microsoft expects to release DirectX 12 during the 2015 holiday season. More will be revealed about DirectX 12 at Microsoft’s upcoming Build conference, which will begin on April 2. 

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