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DirectX 12 FAQ: All about Windows 10's supercharged graphics tech

Brad Chacos | July 27, 2015
The Internet's been abuzz over the promise of Windows 10's underlying DirectX 12 gaming technology for months now. Drastically higher frame rates! Drastically lower power consumption! Drastically improved performance from AMD hardware! A--gasp--whole new era in PC gaming.

Will I need a new graphics card to play DirectX 12 games?

Probably not.

DirectX 12 will work with most modern graphics cards. Any Radeon graphics card or APU built around AMD's Graphics Core Next Architecture--so the Radeon 7000 series, Radeon 8000 series, Radeon R200 series, Radeon R300 series, and the Fury and Fury X--will all play nice with DX12. That's basically every AMD graphics solution released since 2012.

Nvidia's DirectX 12 support goes back even further. All graphics cards powered by Nvidia's Maxwell, Kepler, or Fermi GPUs--so the GeForce GTX 900, 700, 600, 500, and 400 series--will work with DirectX 12. In fact, Nvidia's second-generation Maxwell cards (like the GTX 980 Ti) are the only graphics cards announced thus far to support DirectX 12's 12.1 feature level, which includes features like volume tiled resources and conservative rasterization.

Does that mean all other graphics cards don't support "full DirectX 12," as you'll see some folks claiming on forums and social media feeds? Not really. It's complicated. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty, be sure to check out Joel Hruska's superb "Demystifying DirectX 12 support" at ExtremeTech.

As far as Intel goes, all fourth-generation (Haswell) or newer core processors will support DX12.

So wait, what if I run Linux or a Mac?

You won't be able to run DirectX 12, full stop. That's nothing new, of course, as the six-year-old DirectX 11 is only expected to land on Linux later this year via a CodeWeavers workaround.

That doesn't mean you'll be left in the technological dust, however. The Khronos Group, the powerful industry consortium behind OpenGL, is toiling away on Vulkan, an open-source, platform-agnostic "closer to the metal" graphics API rising from the ashes of AMD's Mantle. And with Valve's Linux-powered Steam Machines set to launch in November, Vulkan and OpenGL are poised to make a bigger splash with PC gamers than ever before. Linux gaming is on the rise--so alternatives to DirectX are, too.

Windows 10 is out! DirectX 12 should make my games faster now, right?

Not so fast. Yes, Windows 10 is out, and yes, DirectX 12 is baked into its very core, and yes, you may even see some performance increases in your games--but it won't be because of DirectX 12. At least not yet!

Software needs to be written specifically for DirectX 12 to take advantage of its features. While Futuremark's aforementioned 3DMark benchmarking suite already has a tool for testing DX12 draw call performance, the first DirectX 12 games aren't expected to hit the streets until the end of 2015. Remember how it took a while for DirectX 11 to become widely adopted after Windows 7's debut? Crafting games takes a long time, especially when you're wrapping your mind around a new API with new features.

Patience, grasshopper. It'll be worth the wait.


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