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Tested: DirectX 12's potential performance leap is insane

Gordon Mah Ung | March 27, 2015
We already know DirectX 12 will drastically improve game performance when Windows 10 ships later this year, but just how much of a "free" boost you'll get isn't exactly known.

We already know DirectX 12 will drastically improve game performance when Windows 10 ships later this year, but just how much of a "free" boost you'll get isn't exactly known.

Microsoft execs expect frame rates to more than double when comparing DX12 to the current DX11 API. But that estimate looks to be conservative if Futuremark's new API Overhead Feature test is to be believed. 

Microsoft and Futuremark gave us early access to the latest 3DMark test, which lets us measure just how much more efficient Microsoft's Windows 10-only gaming API is than its predecessor, and whoa mama, does it perform. But before we get too carried way and the hype train leaves the station with a big toot toot, remember that this is a theoretical test, and not based on an actual game engine.

How we tested

For the tests, I used an Intel Core i7-4770K processor in an Asus Z87 Deluxe/Dual motherboard alongside 16GB of DDR3/1600 RAM, a 240GB Corsair Neutron SSD, and either a Gigabyte WindForce Radeon R9 290X or a GeForce GTX Titan X. I also switched off the Asus board's "Core enhancement" feature, which essentially overclocks the chip a little for you. All of our tests were performed at 1280x720 resolution at Microsoft's recommendation.

3DMark and Microsoft point out that the new feature test is not a tool to compare GPUs but an easy way to gauge a single PC's performance and API efficiency. Don't use it to compare PC Y with PC X, nor as a GPU test: This is all about how your particular PC configuration performs when running DX11, and how that same PC configuration performs when running DX12.

Even better, the test is available immediately to anyone who owns 3DMark. Here's how to get it to run if you want to do your own testing.

The test works by tasking the GPU to draw something on the screen. This instruction goes through the API, whether it is DX11, DX12, or AMD's Mantle. The less efficient the API is in handling these "draw calls" from the CPU to the GPU, the fewer objects can be drawn on the screen. 3DMark rapidly ramps up the draw calls and objects until the frame rate drops under 30 frames per second (fps).

The first test is a comparison of DirectX 11's single-threaded performance vs. DirectX 11's multi-threaded performance. It then tests AMD's DirectX 12-like Mantle API — if Mantle is supported by the hardware — and finally DirectX 12 performance.

As you can see from the chart below, DirectX 11's single-threaded and multi-threaded performance is underwhelming, churning through roughly 900,000 draw calls before performance drops under 30 fps on the Gigabyte WindForce Radeon R9 290X card. Using AMD's Mantle, we see an incredible jump to 12.4 million draw calls per second.

 

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