Our first DX12 Performance Results
Late last week, Microsoft approached me to see if I would be interested in working with them and with Futuremark on the release of the new 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test. Of course I jumped at the chance, with DirectX 12 being one of the hottest discussion topics among gamers, PC enthusiasts and developers in recent history. Microsoft set us up with the latest iteration of 3DMark and the latest DX12-ready drivers from AMD, NVIDIA and Intel. From there, off we went.
First we need to discuss exactly what the 3DMark API Overhead Feature Test is (and also what it is not). The feature test will be a part of the next revision of 3DMark, which will likely ship in time with the full Windows 10 release. Futuremark claims that it is the "world's first independent" test that allows you to compare the performance of three different APIs: DX12, DX11 and even Mantle.
It was almost one year ago that Microsoft officially unveiled the plans for DirectX 12: a move to a more efficient API that can better utilize the CPU and platform capabilities of future, and most importantly current, systems. Josh wrote up a solid editorial on what we believe DX12 means for the future of gaming, and in particular for PC gaming, that you should check out if you want more background on the direction DX12 has set.
One of DX12 keys for becoming more efficient is the ability for developers to get closer to the metal, which is a phrase to indicate that game and engine coders can access more power of the system (CPU and GPU) without having to have its hand held by the API itself. The most direct benefit of this, as we saw with AMD's Mantle implementation over the past couple of years, is improved quantity of draw calls that a given hardware system can utilize in a game engine.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors | March 4, 2015 - 08:46 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: GDC, gdc 15, API, dx12, DirectX 12, dx11, Mantle, 3dmark, Futuremark
It's probably not a surprise to most that Futuremark is working on a new version of 3DMark around the release of DirectX 12. What might be new for you is that this version will include an API overhead test, used to evaluate a hardware configuration's ability to affect performance in Mantle, DX11 and DX12 APIs.
While we don't have any results quite yet (those are pending and should be very soon), Intel was showing the feature test running at an event at GDC tonight. In what looks like a simple cityscape being rendered over and over, the goal is to see how many draw calls, or how fast the CPU can react to a game engine, the API and hardware can be.
The test was being showcased on an Intel-powered notebook using a 5th Generation Core processor, code named Broadwell. Obviously this points to the upcoming support for DX12 (though obviously not Mantle) that Intel's integrated GPUs will provide.
It should be very interesting to see how much of an advantage DX12 offers over DX11, even on Intel's wide ranges of consumer and enthusiast processors.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2015 - 02:31 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: sdk, Mantle, dx12, API, amd
The Game Developers Conference is San Francisco starts today and you can expect to see more information about DirectX 12 than you could ever possibly want, so be prepared. But what about the original low-level API, AMD Mantle. Utilized in Battlefield 4, Thief and integrated into the Crytek engine (announced last year), announced with the release of the Radeon R9 290X/290, Mantle was truly the instigator that pushed Microsoft into moving DX12's development along at a faster pace.
Since DX12's announcement, AMD has claimed that Mantle would live on, bringing performance advantages to AMD GPUs and would act as the sounding board for new API features for AMD and game development partners. And, as was always trumpeted since the very beginning of Mantle, it would become an open API, available for all once it outgrew the beta phase that it (still) resides in.
Something might have changed there.
A post over on the AMD Gaming blog from Robert Hallock has some news about Mantle to share as GDC begins. First, the good news:
AMD is a company that fundamentally believes in technologies unfettered by restrictive contracts, licensing fees, vendor lock-ins or other arbitrary hurdles to solving the big challenges in graphics and computing. Mantle was destined to follow suit, and it does so today as we proudly announce that the 450-page programming guide and API reference for Mantle will be available this month (March, 2015) at www.amd.com/mantle.
This documentation will provide developers with a detailed look at the capabilities we’ve implemented and the design decisions we made, and we hope it will stimulate more discussion that leads to even better graphics API standards in the months and years ahead.
That's great! We will finally be able to read about the API and how it functions, getting access to the detailed information we have wanted from the beginning. But then there is this portion:
AMD’s game development partners have similarly started to shift their focus, so it follows that 2015 will be a transitional year for Mantle. Our loyal customers are naturally curious what this transition might entail, and we wanted to share some thoughts with you on where we will be taking Mantle next:
AMD will continue to support our trusted partners that have committed to Mantle in future projects, like Battlefield™ Hardline, with all the resources at our disposal.
- Mantle’s definition of “open” must widen. It already has, in fact. This vital effort has replaced our intention to release a public Mantle SDK, and you will learn the facts on Thursday, March 5 at GDC 2015.
- Mantle must take on new capabilities and evolve beyond mastery of the draw call. It will continue to serve AMD as a graphics innovation platform available to select partners with custom needs.
- The Mantle SDK also remains available to partners who register in this co-development and evaluation program. However, if you are a developer interested in Mantle "1.0" functionality, we suggest that you focus your attention on DirectX® 12 or GLnext.
Essentially, AMD's Mantle API in it's "1.0" form is at the end of its life, only supported for current partners and the publicly available SDK will never be posted. Honestly, at this point, this isn't so much of a let down as it is a necessity. DX12 and GLnext have already superseded Mantle in terms of market share and mind share with developers and any more work AMD put into getting devs on-board with Mantle is wasted effort.
Battlefield 4 is likely to be the only major title to use AMD Mantle
AMD claims to have future plans for Mantle though it will continue to be available only to select partners with "custom needs." I would imagine this would expand outside the world games but could also mean game consoles could be the target, where developers are only concerned with AMD GPU hardware.
So - from our perspective, Mantle as we know is pretty much gone. It served its purpose, making NVIDIA and Microsoft pay attention to the CPU bottlenecks in DX11, but it appears the dream was a bit bigger than the product could become. AMD shouldn't be chastised because of this shift nor for its lofty goals that we kind-of-always knew were too steep a hill to climb. Just revel in the news that pours from GDC this week about DX12.
Subject: General Tech | February 26, 2015 - 02:07 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: pcper, podcast, video, usb 3.1, Broadwell, Intel, nuc, Samsung, 840 evo, asus, Strix Tactic Pro, GTX 970, directx12, dx12
PC Perspective Podcast #338 - 02/26/2015
Join us this week as we discuss more USB 3.1 Devices, Broadwell NUC, another 840 Evo fix and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
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- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak
Program length: 1:46:04
EVGA Contest Winner!
Week in Review:
News item of interest:
Question: Alex from Sydney
Just a quick question regarding DirectX 12. I’m planning to buy a new graphics card soon but I want a DirectX 12 card for all the fancy new features so I’m considering either the GTX 970 or 980, the question I have is are these real DirectX 12 cards? Since DirectX 12 development is still ongoing how can these cards be fully DirectX 12 complaint?
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | February 21, 2015 - 04:23 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: wddm 2.0, nvidia, geforce 349.65, geforce, dx12
Update 2: Outside sources have confirmed to PC Perspective that this driver contains DirectX 12 as well as WDDM 2.0. They also claim that Intel and AMD have DirectX 12 drivers available through Windows Update as well. After enabling iGPU graphics on my i7-4790K, the Intel HD 4600 received a driver update, which also reports as WDDM 2.0 in DXDIAG. I do not have a compatible AMD GPU to test against (just a couple of old Windows 7 laptops) but the source is probably right and some AMD GPUs will be updated to DX12 too.
So it turns out that if your motherboard dies during a Windows Update reboot, then you are going to be spending several hours reinstalling software and patches, but that is not important. What is interesting is the installed version number for NVIDIA's GeForce Drivers when Windows Update was finished with its patching: 349.65. These are not available on NVIDIA's website, and the Driver Model reports WDDM 2.0.
It looks like Microsoft pushed out NVIDIA's DirectX 12 drivers through Windows Update. Update 1 Pt. 1: The "Runtime" reporting 11.0 is confusing though, perhaps this is just DX11 with WDDM 2.0?
I am hearing online that these drivers support the GeForce 600 series and later GPUs, and that there are later, non-public drivers available (such as 349.72 whose release notes were leaked online). NVIDIA has already announced that DirectX 12 will be supported on GeForce 400-series and later graphics cards, so Fermi drivers will be coming at some point. For now, it's apparently Kepler-and-later, though.
So with OS support and, now, released graphics drivers, all that we are waiting on is software and an SDK (plus any NDAs that may still be in effect). With Game Developers Conference (GDC 2015) coming up in a little over a week, I expect that we will get each of these very soon.
Update 1 Pt. 2: I should note that the release notes for 349.72 specifically mention DirectX 12. As mentioned above, is possible that 349.65 contains just WDDM 2.0 and not DX12, but it contains at least WDDM 2.0.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | January 23, 2015 - 07:11 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX
Microsoft has added DirectX 12 with the latest Windows 10 Technical Preview that was released today. Until today, DXDIAG reported DirectX 11 in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. At the moment, there has not been any drivers or software released for it, and the SDK is also no-where to be found. Really, all this means is that one barrier has been lifted, leaving the burden on hardware and software partners (except to release the SDK, that's still Microsoft's responsibility).
No-one needs to know how old my motherboard is...
Note: I have already experienced some issues with Build 9926. Within a half hour of using it, I suffered an instant power-down. There was not even enough time for a bluescreen. When it came back, my Intel GPU (which worked for a few minutes after the update) refused to be activated, along with the monitor it is attached to. My point? Not for production machines.
Update: Looks like a stick of RAM (or some other hardware) blew, coincidentally, about 30 minutes after the update finished, while the computer was running, which also confused my UEFI settings. I haven't got around to troubleshooting much, but it seems like a weirdly-timed, abrupt hardware failure (BIOS is only reporting half of the RAM installed, iGPU is "enabled" but without RAM associated to it, etc.).
The interesting part, to me, is how Microsoft pushed DX12 into this release without, you know, telling anyone. It is not on any changelog that I can see, and it was not mentioned anywhere in the briefing as potentially being in an upcoming preview build. Before the keynote, I had a theory that it would be included but, after the announcement, figured that it might be pushed until GDC or BUILD (but I kept an open mind). The only evidence that it might come this month was an editorial on Forbes that referenced a conversation with Futuremark, who allegedly wanted to release an update to 3DMark (they hoped) when Microsoft released the new build. I could not find anything else, so I didn't report on it -- you would think that there would be a second source for that somewhere. It turns out that he might be right.
The new Windows 10 Technical Preview, containing DirectX 12, is available now from the preview build panel. It looks like Futuremark (and maybe others) will soon release software for it, but no hardware vendor has released a driver... yet.
Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2015 - 09:45 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows 10, windows, spartan, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX, cortana
Microsoft will hold a briefing tomorrow (Wednesday, January 21st at 12pm EST/5pm UTC) about “The Next Chapter” of Windows 10. This has been described as the Consumer keynote, mirroring the original one that was supposedly intended for the enterprise. Otherwise, there are few official comments regarding the event, but there are also things that we can speculate on.
Here is what I expect to see:
A New Build for Windows 10
Maybe it will not be released on the same day as the speech, but it cannot really be too far behind. We are about two-thirds through January and December was skipped, so it must be happening soon. When 9879 was released, Microsoft said that it would be the last build of 2014 and that “We'll have something new to share with you early in 2015”. Whatever that is (or those things are) will probably be discussed at the event, which means that the build is probably not too far behind it.
When the graphics API was announced, they specifically said the following (see our recap for the second slide that was posted at 10:48am PST):
- Targeting Holiday 2015 games
- Preview release coming later this year
- Don't want to wait that long? Early access!
The preview release later in 2014 did not happen, but the early access did. As such, I am guessing that the date slipped to either the next Windows 10 build, or maybe a build or two after. Whenever it happens specifically, I am guessing that it will be mentioned at this event and available for developers soon (and not just a hand-picked group of Early Access members). Sure, it could wait until Build 2015 in April, but the original slide sounds like they were targeting the end of 2014.
Also, the DirectX 12 Twitter Account just retweeted the live stream and Phil Spencer will be there.
'Spartan' Browser (Maybe with DirectX 12 Support?)
Speaking of DirectX 12, its goal is to utilize GPU shader cores as efficiently as possible, reducing the time it holds up the CPU and balancing its load across multiple cores. This leads to power efficiency and the ability to load many more tasks on the GPU.
These are all things that a web browser vendor would love! Web standards are inherently difficult to multi-thread, because they are designed as sets of stages which build upon other stages. DirectX 12 could probably help immensely, at least with the drawing stage. Web content tends to be fairly simple, but there can be a lot of it, especially for complex Canvas animations (and especially for mobile devices).
It was also recently rumored that Trident, the rendering engine behind Internet Explorer and the not-quite-confirmed Spartan browser, was forked into two maintained versions. The expectation is that this was for compatibility reasons, where the new version can be developed to W3C (and other) standards without worrying about legacy, Internet Explorer-based compatibility cruft. If porting a DirectX 11 applications to DirectX 12 will be annoying, I can see why Microsoft chose to draw the compatibility line just behind that initiative. And honestly, how many people care about rendering, power, and multi-core performance increases for IE8-designed, and therefore desktop-based, web applications?
Continuum, Cortana, and Other Changes
Again, this is what Microsoft considers a Consumer event. As such, it would make sense for them to describe an ideal consumer device, which probably includes two-in-ones. Cortana should also be discussed as well, which is intended to bring value to the users and probably lead them to Bing services. Leaks have also suggested that they are preparing a dark theme.
Am I right? We'll see tomorrow.
Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2014 - 01:09 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: nvidia, maxwell, GTX 980, GTX 970, GM204, geforce, dx12, dsr
Move over Super Best Friends, the Dynamic Super Resolution Duo is here to slay the evil Jaggies! Ryan covered NVIDIA's new DSR in his review of the new Maxwell cards and how it can upsample a monitor with a resolution of 2560x1440 or lower to much higher resolutions using a process similar to supersampling but is in fact a 13-tap gaussian filter. That is important because supersampling would have some interesting challenges rendering 2560x1440 on a 1080p monitor. DSR gives you a much wider choice of resolutions as you can see in the Guild Wars screenshot below, allowing you to choose a variety of multipliers to your displays native resolution to give your game a much smoother look. The Tech Report has assembled a variety of screenshots from games with different DSR and AA settings which you can examine with your own eyeballs to see what you think.
"One of the more intriguing capabilities Nvidia introduced with the GeForce GTX 970 and 980 is a feature called Dynamic Super Resolution, or DSR, for short. Nvidia bills it as a means of getting 4K quality on a 2K display. How good is it? We take a look."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- There's more to Windows 10 than miscounting @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft WINDOWS 10: Seven ATE Nine. Or Eight did really @ The Register
- AMD demonstrates NFV tool using 64-bit ARM-based SoC codenamed 'Hierofalcon' @ The Inquirer
- Hong Kong Protesters Use Mesh Networks To Organize @ Slashdot
- Mozilla might add Tor encryption to its Firefox web browser @ The Inquirer
- Lenovo becomes the biggest x86 server provider in China as acquisition of IBM x86 server business completes, says IDC @ DigiTimes
- Supercomputers: The Next Generation – Cray puts burst buffer tech, Intel Haswell inside @ The Register
- Competition: Win One of Three BioStar Motherboards @ eTeknix
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 19, 2014 - 02:17 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: vr direct, video, nvidia, mfaa, maxwell, GTX 980, GTX 970, GM204, geforce, dx12, dsr
The answer to the two most important questions are as follows, the GTX 980 will cost you around $560 compared to the $500 for an R9 290X and the GTX 970 an attractive $330 compared to $380 for an R9 290. Availability is hard to predict but the cards will be shipping soon and you can pre-order your choice of card by following the links on the last page of Ryan's review. Among all the new features that have been added to this new GPU one of the most impressive is the power draw, as you can see in [H]ard|OCP's review this card pulls 100W less than the 290X at full load although it did run warmer than the 290X Double Dissipation card which [H] compared it to, something that may change with a 980 bearing a custom cooler. Follow those links to see the benchmarking results of this card, both synthetic and in game.
"Today NVIDIA launches its newest Maxwell GPU. There will be two new GPUs, the GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970. These next generation GPUs usher in new features and performance that move the gaming industry forward. We discuss new features, architecture, and evaluate the gameplay performance against the competition."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Nvidia's GeForce GTX 980 and 970 @ The Tech Report
- Maxwell is here! GTX 980 is now revealed! @ Bjorn3D.com
- Nvidia unveils second-gen Maxwell GPUs, the Geforce GTX 970 and GTX 980 @ The Inquirer
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Review @HiTech Legion
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Review @ Neoseeker
- NVIDIA GTX 980 Review @ OCC
- NVIDIA GeForce GeForce GTX 980 Maxwell Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G GPU Review @ Modders-Inc
- GeForce GTX 980 @ HardwareHeaven
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 @ Benchmark Reviews
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Review: Does Maxwell Bring Maximum Gameplay? @ Techgage
- ASUS Strix GTX 970 OC 4 GB @ techPowerUp
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Performance Review @ Hardware Canucks
- EVGA GTX 970 SC ACX 4 GB @ techPowerUp
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 SLI @ techPowerUp
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4 GB @ techPowerUp
- Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 970 & GTX 980 @ Legion Hardware
- Nvidia Geforce GTX 980 @ Kitguru
- Asus GTX970 STRIX OC @ Kitguru
- MSI GTX 970 Gaming 4G @ Kitguru
The GM204 Architecture
James Clerk Maxwell's equations are the foundation of our society's knowledge about optics and electrical circuits. It is a fitting tribute from NVIDIA to include Maxwell as a code name for a GPU architecture and NVIDIA hopes that features, performance, and efficiency that they have built into the GM204 GPU would be something Maxwell himself would be impressed by. Without giving away the surprise conclusion here in the lead, I can tell you that I have never seen a GPU perform as well as we have seen this week, all while changing the power efficiency discussion in as dramatic a fashion.
To be fair though, this isn't our first experience with the Maxwell architecture. With the release of the GeForce GTX 750 Ti and its GM107 GPU, NVIDIA put the industry on watch and let us all ponder if they could possibly bring such a design to a high end, enthusiast class market. The GTX 750 Ti brought a significantly lower power design to a market that desperately needed it, and we were even able to showcase that with some off-the-shelf PC upgrades, without the need for any kind of external power.
That was GM107 though; today's release is the GM204, indicating that not only are we seeing the larger cousin of the GTX 750 Ti but we also have at least some moderate GPU architecture and feature changes from the first run of Maxwell. The GeForce GTX 980 and GTX 970 are going to be taking on the best of the best products from the GeForce lineup as well as the AMD Radeon family of cards, with aggressive pricing and performance levels to match. And, for those that understand the technology at a fundamental level, you will likely be surprised by how much power it requires to achieve these goals. Toss in support for things like a new AA method, Dynamic Super Resolution, and even improved SLI performance and you can see why doing it all on the same process technology is impressive.
The NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 Architecture
The NVIDIA Maxwell GM204 graphics processor was built from the ground up with an emphasis on power efficiency. As it was stated many times during the technical sessions we attended last week, the architecture team learned quite a bit while developing the Kepler-based Tegra K1 SoC and much of that filtered its way into the larger, much more powerful product you see today. This product is fast and efficient, but it was all done while working on the same TSMC 28nm process technology used on the Kepler GTX 680 and even AMD's Radeon R9 series of products.
The fundamental structure of GM204 is setup like the GM107 product shipped as the GTX 750 Ti. There is an array of GPCs (Graphics Processing Clustsers), each comprised of multiple SMs (Streaming Multiprocessors, also called SMMs for this Maxwell derivative) and external memory controllers. The GM204 chip (the full implementation of which is found on the GTX 980), consists of 4 GPCs, 16 SMMs and four 64-bit memory controllers.