Don't panic! DirectX12 won't require a new graphics card after all

Hey, gamers! Do. Not. Panic.

You won't actually need a new graphics card to run Microsoft's new DirectX 12 API, which will be baked into Windows 10 later this year. Microsoft has formally confirmed that modern GPUs will indeed work with DX12 afterall.

The PC gaming site Rock Paper Shotgun threw people into panic mode when it reported that current GPUs--including cards purchased within the past few months--would not work with DX12.

Microsoft told PCWorld that the initial reports were incorrect.

"Microsoft's recent demonstration of a few new Windows 10 game experiences powered by DirectX12 has led some people to ask what specific hardware will be supported by the DirectX12 API," Kam VedBrat, Microsoft's Group Manager for DirectX, told me via email. 

"While we are not yet ready to detail everything related to DirectX12, we can share that we are working closely with all of our hardware partners to help ensure that most modern PC gaming hardware will work well with DirectX12, including; nVidia's Maxwell, Kepler and Fermi-based GPUs, Intel's 4th generation (and newer) Core processors and AMD's Graphics Core Next (GCN) based GPUs. We'll have more to share about DirectX12 at GDC in March."

What's the fuss

Rock Paper Shotgun's original report cited Mike Ybarra, Partner Director of Program Management, Xbox Platform, speaking at Wednesday's Windows 10 event. The site apparently asked if gamers would need new graphics cards to take advantage of DirectX 12.

"To get the full benefits of DX12, the answer is yes," Ybarra told the  reporter. "There will be DX 11.1 cards that take advantage of a lot of the driver and software tech that we're bringing in Windows 10, but if you want the full benefits of DX12, you're going to need a DX12 card."

As expected, the report got gamers chattering about whether the cards they expected to work with DirectX 12 wouldn't, in fact, work with DirectX 12.

DirectX12 promises far greater performance, similar to AMD's API Mantle, thanks to a better threading model and far better battery life on mobile parts. For months, Nvidia and AMD have been saying their current DirectX11 cards would support DirectX12.

When reached by PCWorld, Nvidia officials said there was no change in their statements on GPUs that support DirectX 12.

AMD officials also said nothing had changed. "All GCN-based graphics cards from AMD are going to support DirectX12," an official told PCWorld.

With all that said, it's wise to read between the lines here. Both AMD and nVidia have sparred with each other over support of Microsoft's APIs. In 2012, in fact, AMD took a swipe at nVidia in a blog post titled, "Yes, AMD has FULL DirectX11 11.1 support."

AMD got into the nuances of the various levels of feature support in the API, and claimed nVidia didn't support all the features it was supporting. In the end, though, few gamers ever actually noticed any differences. The only people who cared were those who like to watch the two graphics companies duke it out.

It's possible the same thing will occur again with DirectX 12. Perhaps today's cards will support DirectX 12.0, but for DirectX 12.1 support, you may indeed new hardware. This was intimated in an interview nVidia's Tony Tamasi had with the last March:

That same report, however, came to the same conclusion that's being echoed by the two major graphics vendors: that today's hardware will give gamers the parts that really matter in terms of performance and multi-thread support.

Why this matters: Gamers--like everyone else--like to stretch their budgets. Getting more life out of a graphics card means you'll have money to buy games. If DirectX 12 were to come out mandating new hardware beyond what was already on sale today, a mass gnashing of teeth would occur.


Gordon Mah Ung

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