If you’ve spent any time gaming over the last several years, odds are you have encountered games using DirectX 12. This API serves as the connection between your computer’s hardware and the video games you play; DirectX defines how applications connect to graphics cards and other video hardware for optimal operation; its presence is required for running all Windows (and Xbox Series console) video games.
Microsoft is raising the bar with DirectX 12 Ultimate, its ambitious new game development standard for PCs and Xbox Series consoles. DirectX 12 Ultimate consolidates advanced GPU technologies like ray tracing, variable rate shading and mesh shaders into one package that developers can easily reference when building their next big titles.
DirectX 12 Ultimate officially kickstarts many features that have been in development or “early adopter” status into mass adoption, meaning modern PCs equipped with appropriate hardware will soon be able to experience some of the most exciting new features in future games.
One of the key new features is an Explicit Multiadaptor multi-GPU support, enabling separable workloads to run simultaneously on various GPUs for greater performance boost. This feature should prove especially helpful in post-processing tasks by offloading some functions from CPU and freeing up GPU resources for rendering sooner.
Another notable upgrade is a pipeline state object which enables multiple CPU cores to simultaneously submit commands to the GPU, providing greater access than in prior versions of DirectX where only one core could use your video card at any one time.
Final major upgrade includes an updated pixel shader which provides for more flexible execution of draw calls and optimizes efficiency by decreasing data transfer between CPU and GPU and, thus, decreasing memory usage.
As previously noted, all these features require having a modern PC with the appropriate GPU. For optimal experience, your GPU must support DirectX 12 at least up to the 12_0 feature level or higher and all modern AMD and Nvidia GPUs do, including those from Kepler and Maxwell families as well as Hawaii, Tonga and Fiji GPUs from Nvidia Fermi architecture.
Though GPU support will differ between GPU models, all should offer similar performance levels. To experience all the benefits of DirectX 12, however, you’ll need Windows 10, as this OS currently offers it – fortunately there’s a free upgrade available to existing systems as well as most new PCs!