DirectX 11 vs DirectX 12: An In-Depth Performance Comparison

Introduction to DirectX

First, let‘s quickly demystify what exactly DirectX is and why game developers care so much about it. At a high-level, DirectX refers to a collection of APIs (application programming interfaces) created by Microsoft focused specifically on making it easier to produce complex 2D and 3D graphics and sound effects on Windows computers.

Adopted across thousands of popular game titles over the years, DirectX acts as an intermediary layer between a game‘s code and your PC‘s graphics card, processor, speakers etc. By abstracting away low-level hardware details from programmers, DirectX enables stunning visuals, immersive audio and dynamic physics to come to life on screens worldwide.

Among the many major version releases since the 1990‘s, DirectX 11 and the more recent DirectX 12 stand out given their widespread adoption and name recognition within the gaming community. But even for the non-technical, understanding the core differences between these prominent API options helps appreciate why some games perform and look better than others.

DirectX 11 vs 12 Adoption Overview

Before diving into the feature-by-feature technical comparisons between DirectX 11 and DirectX 12, let‘s briefly cover the relevant adoption stats and hardware dependencies associated with each standard:

DirectX 11

  • Initially launched in 2009 alongside Windows 7
  • Supported on Windows 7 and all later versions
  • Works on graphics cards back to 2006 era hardware
  • Powers over 75% of current game titles
  • Mature developer ecosystem and tooling

DirectX 12

  • Debuted in 2015 with Windows 10
  • Requires Windows 10 or newer
  • Demands modern GPU hardware released 2014 or later
  • Adopted in 35%+ of latest AAA game titles
  • Programming complexity limits adoption

So while game developers have eagerly embraced DirectX 12 for its cutting-edge optimizations, DirectX 11 remains the more ubiquitous and compatible default choice for many. But for those running contemporary GPU subsystems coupled with Windows 10, prioritizing DirectX 12 Support unlocks measurably faster experiences.

DirectX 12 Accelerates Graphics Up to 20% Faster!

One of the most impactful advantages DirectX 12 holds over earlier versions involves sheer graphics rendering speed and the number of effects able to be shown on-screen simultaneously. Demanding game engines frequently push hardware to the limits with complex particle systems, post-processing filters, elaborate 3D models and more keeping GPUs perpetually occupied.

DirectX 12‘s extensive changes dramatically reduce the nagging CPU overhead associated with traditional game rendering pipelines. By simplifying calls issued to the GPU and granting finer-grained control over resources, games built on DirectX 12 surrender 15 to 20% less frame time unnecessary to the CPU.

Let‘s explore the technical architectural improvements contributing to these significant performance gains over DirectX 11…

The following slideshow summarizes high-level differences between the two API‘s:


DirectX 12‘s asynchronous compute feature enables concurrent graphical and computational tasks for major efficiency gains – one of many major architectural improvements over DirectX 11. Image Source: Nvidia

DirectX 12 Multi-threading Properly Utilizes Modern Hardware

Another area where DirectX 12 pulls far ahead lies with multi-threaded workload distribution across today‘s prevalent multi-core CPUs. DirectX 11 sparingly exposes any explicit multi-threading functionality to game developers. This requires graphics drivers to attempt dividing rendering tasks across CPU threads.

However, key architectural limits in earlier versions meant only a subset of the available computational resources get properly leveraged. DirectX 11 can only address up to 4 active cores simultaneously – a major bottleneck given even mainstream CPUs now integrate 6 or more cores.

DirectX 12 completely overhauls scheduling and synchronization to unlock utilizing many more cores concurrently. By providing finer-grained control around dividing graphical and game logic tasks while giving insight into underlying hardware topology, DirectX 12 titles see radical reductions in idle CPU cycles.

Certain games realized 50% or greater CPU savings with DirectX 12, freeing up critical headroom to power more advanced physics, AI and immersive world simulation. So while multi-core computing defines the modern computing landscape, only DirectX 12 properly taps into this potential for maximizing in-game fidelity and fluidity.

DirectX 12 Memory and Resource Efficiency Innovations

DirectX 11 relies on pre-allocated memory pools that set aside FIXED capacities for each resource type like textures or geometry buffers. At run-time though, actual asset usage varies unpredictably. This simplistic approach therefore triggers rampant memory waste whenever allocated capacity exceeds temporary needs.

DirectX 12 overhauls resource handling by enabling fully dynamic allocation tuned precisely to instant requirements. By removing fixed function interfaces and giving developers total oversight, no memory gets tied up unnecessarily. DirectX 12 also allows custom resource pools catered to specific game events or scenes.

Intelligently adapting allocations in this manner cuts total memory consumption by 25% or higher for typical game workloads. Carefully tracking occupancy also avoids fragmentation issues plaguing DirectX 11. So while more labor intensive to work with, DirectX 12 unlocks the flexibility to strike an optimal balance between memory usage and performance.

Key Takeaways – DirectX 11 vs DirectX 12

To recap our in-depth inspection, here are the key technical differentiators and performance advantages DirectX 12 holds over DirectX 11:

  • Up to 20% faster frame rates – By reducing CPU overhead and driver complexity with a streamlined low-level architecture.
  • Multi-threading done RIGHT – DirectX 12 properly leverages multi-core CPUs by enabling fine-grained scheduling control and massively parallel work submission.
  • Asynchronous work scheduling – Simultaneous graphical and computational tasks thanks to queues and pipelines tailored for concurrency.
  • Far greater hardware efficiency – Resources like memory adapt to actual runtime requirements rather than sit idle.

While early DirectX 11 remains widely supported given its compatibility with aging hardware, modern AAA game titles stand to benefit tremendously by keeping up with Microsoft‘s latest API innovations. For those looking to push the boundaries of world simulation fidelity and graphics-rich gameplay, prioritizing DirectX 12 capability unlocks substantively faster and smoother experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the easiest way to tell if my computer and games support DirectX 12?

Verifying DirectX 12 readiness requires running Windows 10 or newer on a graphics card manufactured in 2014 or beyond. Supported GPUs include models like the Nvidia GTX 900 series or AMD Radeon RX 400 series. Over 35% of the latest game releases also now incorporate DirectX 12 codepaths.

Do older / simpler 2D game styles stand to benefit from DirectX 12?

Likely not – the programming complexity and hardware requirements around DirectX 12 only make sense for cutting-edge 3D titles aiming to simulate elaborate in-game physics and effects. For basic 2D gameplay, DirectX 11 strikes the right balance of capability and compatibility.

Can I force enable DirectX 12 in games defaulting to DirectX 11?

Occasionally yes! Many games with DirectX 12 support oddly default to the older standard until manually toggled otherwise. However, the setting won‘t apply or stable without running Windows 10 and a DirectX 12 compatible GPU. Forcing this setting on incompatible hardware often introduces graphical glitches or crashes.

Did you like those interesting facts?

Click on smiley face to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

      Interesting Facts
      Login/Register access is temporary disabled