It's been six years since Microsoft introduced DirectX 11 at the Gamefest 08 event in Seattle, a lifetime in the competitive world of GPU technology. There was even some chatter online that Microsoft had finally given up on its graphic library that's the standard for every game developer. AMD even introduced a competitor, called Mantle.
But the six year wait is almost over. DirectX 12 has been given its first public showing, appropriately at the SIGGRAPH show, and it has Intel singing its praises. In a demo by Intel, the reduced CPU utilization and improved performance were fairly clear.
Intel and Microsoft have a demo being show at the SIGGRAPH show running DirectX 11 and 12 on a Surface Pro 3 tablet along with a specially designed software demo. The demo renders an asteroid field with 50,000 unique asteroids, which means 50,000 objects to be drawn per frame. Each asteroid has a unique combination of vertices, textures, and constants, according to the Microsoft DirectX blog.
Since it ran on a Surface Pro 3, it had to use Intel's integrated HD4400 graphics GPU with the CPU rather than a more powerful discrete GPU. The demo allows for instant switching between DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 at the press of a button.
The result? Switching from DirectX 11 to 12 resulted in a 50% CPU power usage while rendering the exact same content at the same framerate. At the same time, performance skyrocketed.
In DX11 mode, the Surface Pro 3 runs the demo at 19 frames per second, unacceptable to any self-respecting gamer. That's because the CPU consumes much of the power even though it's not needed. But with DX12, the integrated graphics get more of the power for processing and the frame rate reaches 33 FPS, a 74% jump in rendering performance.
The reason for this, Intel explains, is that DirectX 12 is designed for low overhead, multithreaded rendering. Thanks to the new DX libraries, CPU power requirements are reduced so more power can go to the GPU for processing.
That's great for Surface, but what about the rest of the mobile world? Well, Windows Phone will likely get it, so 3% of the mobile phone market will be covered. After that, it's doubtful we will see DX12 on Android or iOS any time soon.
But for PC gamers, and Xbox One owners, this will be a welcomed update. A software update that can provide 74% better performance on the same hardware while lowering CPU power use is a remarkable job.
When we will get it is not clear. Microsoft has sometimes tied DX releases to operating systems: DirectX 11 came with Windows 7; DX11.1 came with Windows 8 and DX11.2 came with Windows 8.1. So if they follow the trend, DX12 will come with Windows 9, a.k.a. Threshold, in the second quarter of next year.