Here’s What You Need To Know About DirectX 12

Here’s What You Need To Know About DirectX 12

Microsoft hinted that a new iteration of its gaming and multimedia API DirectX was on the cards earlier this month and last Thursday, it followed up on said hinting with the announcement of DirectX 12. If you’re not sure if your graphics card will support it, how it compares to AMD’s Mantle or if you should be interested at all, you’ve come to the right place.

Firstly, it’s going to be a while before we see games making use of DirectX 12, or more accurately Direct3D 12, which is almost exclusively the focus of Microsoft’s announcement. The company itself states “holiday 2015” for its consumer debut… which is nearly two years away.

So if you’re concerned about the need to suddenly upgrade, you can safely unclench the appropriate organs.

On top of this, NVIDIA has stated that all its DirectX 11-compatible GPUs will happily support the upcoming API (Fermi, Kepler and Maxwell) and AMD has said the same thing about its Graphics Core Next chips (the HD 7000-series and onwards). This means if you’ve purchased a 3D accelerator in the last few years, you should be OK.

What Microsoft failed to mention is what operating systems will support DirectX 12. When DirectX 10 came out, only Windows Vista and later were given the privilege of hosting it, a fact the gaming community didn’t take kindly to.

However, DirectX 11 and its subsets have all been made available to post-Windows XP platforms and given how significant a shift XP to Vista represented, I’m going to tentatively say DirectX 12 will be supported on Windows 7. At least from an architectural point of view, there’s no reason for it not to be.

I’ll admit this is an educated guess and given Microsoft didn’t just confirm this in its original announcement, I can’t say anything with 100 per cent confidence.

The performance gains Microsoft is reporting with Direct3D 12 are due to reduced CPU utilisation — basically lessening and/or optimising its role in the rendering process. This is the same approach AMD has taken with Mantle.

This graph, supplied by Microsoft, shows the change in workload:

By allocating user-mode driver calls to other threads (and therefore other logical cores) the delay between frames is reduced. Microsoft also seems to have taken the kernel mode driver out of the equation, further helping the cause, though I don’t have the technical know-how to explain how it’s gone about that.

Sufficed to say, if anyone was going to circumvent Windows’ kernel-layer (or reduce its impact to near-zero), it’d be Microsoft.

Usually improvements and upgrades to APIs like DirectX are of little importance to console owners — if they’ve even aware of its existence — but DirectX 12 is the exception. Unlike Mantle, which was designed specifically for PC and won’t be available to either the AMD-powered PS4 and Xbox One, Microsoft will be bringing DirectX 12 to its latest console.

(Humorous aside: AMD’s VP of Global Channel Sales, Roy Taylor somewhat short-sightedly declared in 2013 that Microsoft would never release DirectX 12. Oops.)

As for the PS4, it’s already using a close-to-metal graphics API so it’s essentially old hat for Sony. Heck, it even came up with its own shader language so developers could maximise the potential of the hardware.

Other than Microsoft and the two largest players in the discrete GPU market, our best source of information on DirectX 12 are the people who will be working with it. Dualshockers’ Giuseppe Nelva went to the trouble of picking out a few of the more interesting developer reactions on Twitter:

Unfortunately, DirectX 12 is still extremely new and we won’t know any further details until Microsoft — or developers with access — share them with us. The biggest question is about operating system support… hopefully the company won’t keep us waiting too long for an answer.

DirectX 12 [Microsoft]


  • I’m sure I speak for a large number of Windows7 users when I say, if I have to buy Windows8 to run DX12… I won’t be happy.

    • You have nothing to worry about……

      …. dx12 will be windows 9 and above I’m sure 😉

      More seriously though, I’m putting my pressures on the game devs themselves now. Quite frankly I don’t want to be forced to use *any* version of windows moving forward. Give me native linux support and bypass all of this locked in, microsoft exclusive bullshit.

      • There’s nothing stopping linux from taking advantage of any of these specifications when hardware does support them.. But Microsoft are unlikely to pay to make a product for linux to help people NOT use Windows.

        The drivers are pretty good nowadays, but i’d be unsure to what level they support all of this, as neither AMD nor nvidia themselves are too keen to pay to implement this standard, which is how Mantle obviously came into existance.. But then, it’s also unlikely they will end up NOT supporting DX standards either, since Windows still is the master race for gamers, at least for the immediate future.

        In the end it all comes down to who is going to pay for it, and if the answer is nobody – then you’re pretty much limited to OpenGL – which is quite capable in most regards, but still lacks the commercial polish. You’re going to end up doing a lot of work to achieve the same things.. So in the end it’s you that pays, as well as whoevers working on it.

        All in all, there’s no downside to the DX standards though..

    • Windows 7 will be about 6 years old when this comes out, I don’t think you should expect them to be supporting it forever, that’s a sure fire way to be let down.

      • I get that, but I refuse to settle for a substandard operating system. I don’t give a flying fish wasabi about a start screen with tiles for big fat fingers. All they need to do for Windows9 or whatever the next one may be is to put two versions on the disc…we can choose to install ONLY the desktop, or ONLY the start screen. Or both, if you swing that way.

        • I don’t care for the start screen either, or numerous other changes they’ve made, I work around it, I use start8 as a start menu replacement (even in 8.1). Use many “theme hacks” to get some nice, non-pastel colours happening.

          As a consumer I find it acceptable from a day-to-day usage scenario, Not sure how well it’d work on my work PC, but that said, I don’t need DirectX 12 on my work PC.

          I guess if you’re settled with Windows 7, and not wanting to upgrade at all, then you probably shouldn’t be expecting anything else to be upgraded along side it. DX11 works right now, as does Win7. If you want to upgrade you can, or you can stick with what you’re currently using.

        • Stop crying about the start screen you don’t even have to use it. At all. Ever. I doubt you’ve even used Windows 8 and if you have and haven’t figured out that you can avoid the start menu then you probably should pack up your computer and stick to paper and pencil.

          • I have a Windows 8 tablet so yes, I’m aware of how to use the system. I just don’t want an OS that has completely unnecessary features bogging down my 15 second boot time :/ I just hope that they’ll release a version specifically for PCs without all the superfluous bullshit.

            Way to get butthurt.

  • “However, DirectX 11 and its subsets have all been made available to post-Windows XP platforms and given how significant a shift XP to Vista represented, I’m going to tentatively say DirectX 12 will be supported on Windows 7. ”

    Well… no. DirectX 11.2 is only available on Winodws 8.1, Windows 7 and 8 both miss out on tiled resourcing support. I would imagine DX12 would only come to 8.1 SP1 and 9 at this point.

  • All you need to now about DX12, it could be implemented on Windows7, but it won’t be, as Windows8 isn’t selling as well as we’d hoped.

  • There are 2 images missing from this article putting a bit of speculation into if windows 7 will be supported as it says 100% of new computers will be compatible. 80% of new gaming pcs will be compatible. And only 50% of current gaming pc’s will be compatible. So from those numbers i would say windows 7 wont get any support.

  • They can’t afford not to support Windows 7; while I personally love Windows 8, the majority still prefer Windows 7 and forcing those still running it to upgrade would see a backlash like they did with the Xbox One.

    • Microsoft can afford not to support windows 7. However EA etc. cannot afford to drop windows 7 yet. But give it time. I’m sure in a few years most nontechnical people with have switched to windows 8 or 9.

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