What is DirectX 12 and what benefits it brings?
If you regularly look after our series of articles related to new Windows 10, you probably noticed that not infrequently they mentioned DirectX 12. This is no accident – from the moment when Microsoft started talking about the next version of the operating system, the company has repeatedly stressed the Central role given to the latest DirectX. Why is it so important to you, the user, and what improvements will bring the new version of the GUI with the upcoming Windows 10? Today we will try to briefly answer these questions.
A little background
Although it is often perceived as an integral part of each Windows, in fact, the first DirectX was first introduced in the second service pack for Windows 95. It is a complex set of different modules, grouped under the generic name «application programming interface» (application programming interface or API). Each of them has many and varied functions, but their main goal is to provide direct access to various multimedia and video programs (mostly games, of course) to the hardware of a computer system running Windows.
Before the first version of DirectX (which was the serial number 2.0 a) with Windows 95 Service Release 2, launch and implementation of such applications (games) were cumbersome and difficult process. To get direct access to the hardware, the program turned to DOS – the predecessor of Windows without a graphical interface. It was, to put it mildly, an inefficient mechanism for the use of components such as RAM, video and sound card, etc.
With the advent of Windows 95, Microsoft decided that it was time to open a new page in its history. The company realized that in order to make the new operating system is popular among users and especially among gamers, one needs to offer a more efficient working environment to operate game titles.
Thus was born the DirectX programming interface of the new generation, through which all multimedia apps that use it, got quicker access to appropriate equipment.
At the beginning of the adoption of the new API has gone relatively slowly, especially against fairly strong competition from the side appeared a few years earlier OpenGL. Gradually, however, DirectX has gotten better and better, and today, almost single-handedly dominates the world of computer video games – at least on the Windows platform.
Lucky number 12
Not difficult to guess that the numbers in the name of the interface indicates its version number. In this case we are talking about the twelfth version of DirectX that deserves special attention from all the eleven others that precede it.
The truth is that over the last decade – since the advent of version 10, Microsoft basically «lying on old laurels», if we talk about DirectX. The dominant position of the interface (and Windows in particular) in the PC segment has made the company a bit lazy, and as a result, most of the improvements in versions 10 and 11 were more evolutionary than revolutionary. Each of these versions received a minor update that added a relatively small optimisations and new, but not particularly exciting.
In contrast, the version 12 is a big, bold step forward not only for DirectX in particular, but also for Microsoft as a whole.
Since Windows 10 will be a single platform that runs on smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and gaming consoles (Xbox One), the advent of DirectX 12 will affect a much wider spectrum of hardware devices.
The owners of the Xbox One, for example, the new interface promises the acceleration capabilities of the rendering and therefore more attractive game. Moreover, Microsoft hope that the transition to DirectX 12 will destroy the superiority of their main competitor – Sony PlayStation 4 console, which now offers significantly more processing power than the Xbox One. For example, the new API will allow developers to get faster access to high-performance Xbox’s esram buffer, and this in turn will lead to an increase in the number of frames per second.
DirectX 12 promises and the acceleration of the dashboard of the Xbox One as full support for 4K video.
New life for old computers
Another very interesting promise associated with DirectX 12, is: optimization. Microsoft says that only with the upgrade to Windows 10 (and DirectX respectively) media (i.e. games) your computer’s performance can increase nearly two times. And PCWord preliminary tests showed that growth could be even greater.
Whereby it is possible to achieve a similar jump in performance without replacing hardware? It’s very simple – by taking full use of the resources available to the computer.
Today, almost all current computers, whether desktop or mobile, are counting on a CPU with more than one computing core. Moreover, in modern GPUs the number of cores is measured in thousands.
Going back to the past, when Intel has finished «war for the megahertz» and adopted the concept of improving performance through parallelism, i.e., by dividing the operations/calculations between two or more processor cores, then the software was not ready for such a giant leap forward.
No mass operating systems (read Windows) or applications running under their control, have not been optimized so as to benefit from the presence of more than one processor core.
Therefore, replacement of single-core two — or Quad-core processor, undoubtedly, led to an increase in performance but not as dramatic as people expected.
One of the main tasks of the new DirectX 12 just yet, and is to allow games to use all available CPU cores and load them to full capacity. The effect of such optimization is to put it mildly impressive results in the popular 3D Mark test show 10-15-fold increase in performance when moving from DirectX 11 to DirectX 12!
However, that’s not all. The software giant promises the growth of productivity not only for powerful desktop systems, but for weaker devices, such as portable computers and tablets with Windows.
Of course, this does not mean that they miraculously turn into a full-fledged alternative desktop gaming PC, but with Windows 10 and DirectX 12, they will offer a smoother and high-quality graphics.
The new interface will provide a much more efficient algorithm for allocating tasks between integrated and discrete graphics – a feature similar to the one that offers sensational a few years ago, technology company Virtu from Lucid.
And finally, DirectX 12 will prepare Windows for the new world of 4K, which we hope will be fixed in the PC world in the next few years.