NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M – DirectX 12 benchmark and all you need to know about Microsoft’s new API

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Let’s first start with a short introduction of what DirectX 12 is all about. This is an application programming interface which handles visual and multimedia tasks and it’s developed by Microsoft. The API is currently supported only on Windows 10 systems and will most likely remain that way. However, Microsoft has made a step forward in the right direction with the new API making it available for almost every Windows 10 platform, including Xbox One.

But what’s all the fuzz about? Well, in general, DirectX 12 will make your hardware run faster and support more demanding applications with ease while this was impossible with the six-year-old DirectX 11. The new API lets the developers dig even deeper into the hardware for additional tweaking and optimization. Features like CPU efficient utilization, balancing loads between multiple cores instead of relying on just one core (yes, finally games will be optimized more efficiently on multiple core CPUs). DirectX 12 takes the game to a whole other level with the GPU optimization or should we say Explicit Multiadapter feature. With this neat addition, you can run two GPUs at the same time from different vendors. For example, your integrated Intel HD Graphics GPU will handle light tasks in the background while the discrete graphics card will take care of the rest. Even better, you can plug in AMD and NVIDIA GPUs and will play nice with each other instead of going full CrossFire or SLI configuration.

While these features all sound nice and lucrative, it remains to be seen how integrated the new API will become, because it takes a lot of time for the developers to build an entirely new software product around DirectX12 or a new API in general. This is, however, the case with 3DMark’s API Overhead feature test that allows us to test the performance of a certain GPU with DirectX 12 and compare it to the performance using DirectX 11 – that’s exactly what we did. We got our hands on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M (4GB GDDR5) and we were eager to see the performance leap.

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On the image above you can see that the Draw Calls per second using DirectX 12 are roughly 86% more than the ones using DirectX 11. Other results on the Internet suggest the performance leap would be more than 50% in some cases and the test we did confirms it. Some experts say that this is some kind of a glimpse into the future making the outdated hardware run more efficiently and the gaming community going four generations ahead in terms of performance. Speaking of hardware, your next question would be: Which GPUs will support the new DirectX 12?

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A lot more than you thought they would. All AMD graphic cards released from 2012 until now – Radeon 7000 series, Radeon 8000 series, Radeon R200 series, Radeon R300 series, and the Fury and Fury X or in other words all GPUs that feature the Graphics Core Next Architecture. As for the NVIDIA GPUs, there will be a lot more – all graphic cards based on Maxwell, Kepler and Fermi architectures – GeForce GTX 900, 700, 600, 500, and 400 series. Fun fact, though – the only GPUs that support DirectX 12.1 features are the second-generation Maxwell GPUs and the GTX 980 Ti is a good example. Nonetheless, this is a whole other story. Regarding the CPUs, Intel assures that all CPUs released from the Haswell generation up to now will support the DirectX 12 API.

You can also take a look at an interesting detailed graphic revealing a bit more about DirectX 12’s optimization – better clock rates control, better CPU and GPU load control etc.

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