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NVIDIA Breaks Down the Truth Behind DirectX 12

Category: Gaming
Posted: 03:25PM

DirectX 12 (DX12) was officially unveiled last Thursday at GDC, and of course it has every PC gamer excited. Even though it's not scheduled to release until Holiday 2015, the biggest concern with any new major API release is whether it'll require new hardware to support it. During the GDC presentation, both NVIDIA and AMD took the stage to confirm DX12 support for existing cards, but just how true is that?

I had a chance to speak with representatives from NVIDIA today, who reconfirmed that all Fermi, Kepler, and Maxwell cards will support DX12. In other words, 100% of GeForce DX11 GPUs will already support DX12! You may recall that AMD didn't provide specifics at the GDC presentation and now I know why – according to NVIDIA, like AMD's Mantle, DX12 requires AMD's GCN architecture, which means only 40% of AMD DX11 GPUs will support DX12 (the same percentage that supports Mantle). Not the best news if you're a member of the red camp.

Also not the best news for the red camp is that Mantle seems doomed to fail now that DX12 has been officially unveiled. Proprietary graphics APIs have simply never been able to compete with the likes of DirectX because their footprint is much smaller. This is no more apparent than looking at the current breakdown from the recent Steam Hardware Stats. DX11 GPUs account for 78% of the total discrete GPU install base, with DX10 at 21% and DX9 at 1%. Of those DX11 GPUs, 79% support DX12, while only 14% support Mantle. How many developers will care to focus their efforts on Mantle when DX12 will have a much larger install base at launch?

So why does it seem NVIDIA is much better equipped to handle DX12 from the onset than AMD? While I am unsure of AMD's relationship with Microsoft, NVIDIA stated that DX12 is a "result of four years of collaboration between Microsoft and NVIDIA." Clearly that long-term collaboration and commitment is paying off. In fact, it was NVIDIA that provided Microsoft with a working DX12 driver to show off the world's first DX12 game demo, Forza Motorsport 5, which was running on a GTX Titan Black.

The good news for NVIDIA DX11 GPU owners is that we don't have to wait until Holiday 2015 to see some major performance improvements. A brand new NVIDIA driver will be publicly released in April that will improve performance dramatically across all DX11 games. Details are not yet available, but NVIDIA did release two benchmarks (one synthetic and one game) that show significant improvement, which can be seen below. Of course those should be taken with a grain of salt, considering the source, but it's certainly promising nonetheless.

Source: NVIDIA

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ET3D on March 25, 2014 12:16AM
The "discrete GPU install base" is a skewed measure, which naturally favours NVIDIA's argument. For one thing if DX12 is Windows 8+ only, and a lot of gamers would still be using Windows 7, then the percentage of DX12 compatible systems drops considerably and Mantle would have a significantly higher share of the low level API market (since Mantle is Windows 7 compatible). In addition NVIDIA dismisses off-hand AMD APU's, but I'm sure it includes low end graphics cards of its own. Short of it, don't take these figures as gospel.
ClayMeow on March 25, 2014 10:01AM
It's important to keep in mind that even if DX12 winds up being Win8+ only, NVIDIA still holds a majority share of the GPU market (52% compared to 31% for AMD according to Steam). So while these numbers don't take into account OS, AMD will still be fighting an uphill battle with Mantle compared to DX12.
Guest comment
Will on March 25, 2014 05:56PM
Anyone who claims that Mantle was or is "doomed to fail" is completely missing the point. Game developers had for many years begged for a graphics API that worked more closely to the metal. Unfortunately, DirectX was hopelessly stagnant with it being found nowhere on Microsoft's roadmap, so AMD developed Mantle to meet this need. We would most likely to this day still see no news of DirectX 12 if it weren't for Mantle. Driving the industry forward was Mantle's purpose from the beginning, and that's exactly what transpired. Indeed, AMD has reiterated in official statements that it "supports and celebrates a direction for game development that is aligned with AMD's vision of lower-level, 'closer to the metal' graphics APIs for PC gaming".
ClayMeow on March 25, 2014 07:18PM
Just because something helped bring in a new age, doesn't mean it's going to last.
Guest comment
Will on March 26, 2014 11:33AM
I believe you are still tying longevity and success together. That may be true in most cases, but again, the purpose of Mantle was to end stagnation in graphics APIs, not to replace DirectX. If its goal had been to replace DirectX, it would have been made architecture-agnostic to begin with. In other words, it helped bring in a new age, which was precisely its intended purpose. The market moved in the direction in which Mantle was created to push it. I cannot see how that is considered a failure.
ClayMeow on March 26, 2014 12:03PM
I think you're misinterpreting what I wrote. I said that Mantle now seems doomed to fail (a phrase that speaks toward its future), not that it is currently a failure.
Guest comment
Will on March 27, 2014 01:32AM
You are still missing the point. Mantle has already succeeded in its goal. Consequently, it cannot possibly fail, in either the present or the future. QED.
Guest comment
Huh on March 26, 2014 07:52AM
Biased article. Graphics like "Faster in theory" and "faster in practice" are making a parallel between unreleased software and released software? Also while we have seen big FPS (which is and important for consumers but irrelevant to judge the actual performance) from Nvidia 7XX this is about highest measured FPS and not constant FPS as we have seen before. These figures dont even say the full hardware it was tested on. The "marketshare" which has been "analized" is also tailored to make Nvidia look good. The title of the "article" is by itself such a big propaganda, making us believe NVIDIA is actually officially revealing anything important but its actually just the article author trying to look good in front of the NVIDIA userbase. It is never about who is better or worse, its always about who is paying you to write for. How can most consumers have an informed opinion about the products they want to buy, if every article written is of that quality?
ClayMeow on March 26, 2014 08:29AM
Also, those benchmark graphs do list some system specs, though our OCC logo covers them up slightly. NVIDIA lists "i7 3930K, 8GB RAM, and Win7x64".
ClayMeow on March 26, 2014 08:27AM
I assure you NVIDIA didn't pay me a dime, and I'm completely upfront that all this information is based on my conversation with NVIDIA and NOT with AMD. There is no personal bias here, this is my reporting what NVIDIA has provided. If AMD would like to counter the information, they are more than welcome to and I will gladly write from their perspective.

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