Other Notes

Before jumping into our results, let’s quickly talk about testing.

For our test we are using the latest version of the Windows 10 technical preview – build 10041 – and the latest drivers from AMD, Intel, and NVIDIA. In fact for testing DirectX 12 these latest packages are the minimum versions that the test supports. Meanwhile 3DMark does of course also run on Windows Vista and later, however on Windows Vista/7/8 only the DirectX 11 and Mantle tests are available since those are the only APIs available.

From a test reliability standpoint the API Overhead Feature Test (or as we’ll call it from now, AOFT) is generally reliable under DirectX 12 and Mantle, however we would like to note that we have found it to be somewhat unreliable under DirectX 11. DirectX 11 scores have varied widely at times, and we’ve seen one configuration flip between 1.4 million draw calls per second and 1.9 million draw calls per second based on indeterminable factors.

Our best guess right now is that the variability comes from the much greater overhead of DirectX 11, and consequently all of the work that the API, video drivers, and OS are all undertaking in the background. Consequently the DirectX 11 results are good enough for what the AOFT has set out to do – showcase just how much incredibly faster DX12 and Mantle are – but it has a much higher degree of variability than our standard tests and should be treated accordingly.

Meanwhile Futuremark for their part is looking to make it clear that this is first and foremost a test to showcase API differences, and is not a hardware test designed to showcase how different components perform.

The purpose of the test is to compare API performance on a single system. It should not be used to compare component performance across different systems. Specifically, this test should not be used to compare graphics cards, since the benefit of reducing API overhead is greatest in situations where the CPU is the limiting factor.

We have of course gone and benchmarked a number of configurations to showcase how they benefit from DirectX 12 and/or Mantle, however as per Futuremark’s guidelines we are not looking to directly compare video cards. Especially since we’re often hitting the throughput limits of the command processor, something a real-world task would not suffer from.

The Test

Moving on, we also want to quickly point out the clearly beta state of the current WDDM 2.0 drivers. Of note, the DX11 results with NVIDIA’s 349.90 driver are notably lower than the results with their WDDM 1.3 driver, showing much greater variability. Meanwhile AMD’s drivers have stability issues, with our dGPU testbed locking up a couple of different times. So these drivers are clearly not at production status.

DirectX 12 Support Status
  Current Status Supported At Launch
AMD GCN 1.2 (285) Working Yes
AMD GCN 1.1 (290/260 Series) Working Yes
AMD GCN 1.0 (7000/200 Series) Working Yes
NVIDIA Maxwell 2 (900 Series) Working Yes
NVIDIA Maxwell 1 (750 Series) Working Yes
NVIDIA Kepler (600/700 Series) Working Yes
NVIDIA Fermi (400/500 Series) Not Active Yes
Intel Gen 7.5 (Haswell) Working Yes
Intel Gen 8 (Broadwell) Working Yes

And on that note, it should be noted that the OS and drivers are all still in development. So performance results are subject to change as Windows 10 and the WDDM 2.0 drivers get closer to finalization.

One bit of good news is that DirectX 12 support on AMD GCN 1.0 cards is up and running here, as opposed to the issues we ran into last month with Star Swarm. So other than NVIDIA’s Fermi cards, which aren’t turned on in beta drivers, we have the ability to test all of the major x86-paired GPU architectures that support DirectX 12.

For our actual testing, we’ve broken down our testing for dGPUs and for iGPUs. Given the vast performance difference between the two and the fact that the CPU and GPU are bound together in the latter, this helps to better control for relative performance.

On the dGPU side we are largely reusing our Star Swarm test configuration, meaning we’re testing the full range of working DX12-capable GPU architectures across a range of CPU configurations.

DirectX 12 Preview dGPU Testing CPU Configurations (i7-4960X)
Configuration Emulating
6C/12T @ 4.2GHz Overclocked Core i7
4C/4T @ 3.8GHz Core i5-4670K
2C/4T @ 3.8GHz Core i3-4370

Meanwhile on the iGPU side we have a range of Haswell and Kaveri processors from Intel and AMD respectively.

CPU: Intel Core i7-4960X @ 4.2GHz
Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200i
Hard Disk: Samsung SSD 840 EVO (750GB)
Memory: G.Skill RipjawZ DDR3-1866 4 x 8GB (9-10-9-26)
Case: NZXT Phantom 630 Windowed Edition
Monitor: Asus PQ321
Video Cards: AMD Radeon R9 290X
AMD Radeon R9 285
AMD Radeon HD 7970
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680
Video Drivers: NVIDIA Release 349.90 Beta
AMD Catalyst 15.200.1012.2 Beta
OS: Windows 10 Technical Preview (Build 10041)


CPU: AMD A10-7850K
AMD A10-7700K
AMD A8-7600
AMD A6-7400L
Intel Core i7-4790K
Intel Core i5-4690
Intel Core i3-4360
Intel Core i3-4130T
Pentium G3258
Motherboard: GIGABYTE F2A88X-UP4 for AMD
ASUS Maximus VII Impact for Intel LGA-1150
Zotac ZBOX EI750 Plus for Intel BGA
Power Supply: Rosewill Silent Night 500W Platinum
Hard Disk: OCZ Vertex 3 256GB OS SSD
Memory: G.Skill 2x4GB DDR3-2133 9-11-10 for AMD
G.Skill 2x4GB DDR3-1866 9-10-9 at 1600 for Intel
Video Cards: AMD APU Integrated
Intel CPU Integrated
Video Drivers: AMD Catalyst 15.200.1012.2 Beta
Intel Driver Version
OS: Windows 10 Technical Preview (Build 10041)
3DMark API Overhead Feature Test Discrete GPU Testing
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  • tipoo - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    4X gains seen here

  • Ryan Smith - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    Sorry, that was an error in that table. We didn't have the 4770R for this article.
  • geekfool - Saturday, March 28, 2015 - link

    hhm pcw says " All of our tests were performed at 1280x720 resolution at Microsoft's recommendation."
    if that's the case with your tests too then its seems that the real test today should be 1080p and a provisional 4k/UHD1 to get a set of future core numbers regardless of MS's wishes...
  • Ryan Smith - Sunday, March 29, 2015 - link

    720p is the internal rendering resolution, and is used to avoid potential ROP bottlenecks (especially at the early stages). This is supposed to be a directed, synthetic benchmark, and the ability to push pixels is not what is intended to be tested.

    That said, the actual performance impact from switching resolutions on most of these GPUs is virtually nil since there's more than enough ROP throughput for all of this.
  • Winterblade - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    Very interesting results, and very informative article, the only small caveat I find is that for proper comparison of 2, 4 and 6 cores (seems to be one of the focal points of the article) the clock should be the same for all 3 configurations, it is a bit misleading otherwise. The difference seems to be around 10 - 15% in going from 4 to 6 cores but there is also a 10% difference in clock rate between them.
  • chizow - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    Fair point, it almost looks like they are trying to artifically force some contrast in the results there. Biggest issue I have with that is you are more likely to find higher clocked 4-cores in the wild since they tend to overclock better than the TDP and size limited 6-core chips.

    That's the tradeoff any power-user faces there, higher overclock on that 4790K (and soon Broadwell-K) chip or the higher L3 cache and more cores of a 6-core chip with lower OC potential.
  • dragonsqrrl - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    I got 1.7M draw calls per second with an i7-970 and GTX480 in DX11, and 2.3M in DX11MT. Pretty much identical to every other Nvidia card benchmarked. Interested to see what kind of draw call gains I get with a 480 once Windows 10 and DX12 come out with finalized drivers.
  • godrilla - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    Vulkan seems more attractive for devs though.

    The battle of the APIs incoming.
  • junky77 - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    Well, currently, the limiting factor is almost always the GPU, with with a powerful GPU, unless we are talking AMD CPUs which are TDP limtied in many cases or an I3 and even then the differences are not great

    So, I think that it's mainly a look for the future, allowing higher draws scenes, potentially
  • Mat3 - Friday, March 27, 2015 - link

    Would be interesting to see how the FX-8350 compares to the i7-4960X for this test.

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