DX 11.2 and Mantle Support
All of the graphics card being launched today, in addition to the Radeon HD 7000-series, are going to have support for two APIs that NVIDIA can’t claim to have. The first is DirectX 11.2, a small update to the Windows gaming API that adds in support for tiled resources.
By enabling hardware managed virtual memory for the GPU game developers can create large logical resources that really only take up small amounts of physical memory. Microsoft itself claims that this new features will be useful for terrain and application user interfaces. There are several other features that DX 11.2 adds to PCs with Windows 8.1 and you can read up on them here if interested.
Of course the more interesting API support being added this year is support for AMD’s very interesting, yet still controversial, Mantle low-level interface. Josh already wrote up a very good editorial focusing on the Mantle API and I am going to have you read it for a lot of the debate about its utility moving forward, but the idea behind it is quite simple. AMD is giving developers a specific API that allows them to target the GCN architecture of the Radeon HD 7000-series as well as the R9/R7 series of GPUs without having to go through the likes of OpenGL or DirectX. The result is a more efficient and higher performing game if everything goes to plan.
The real question of course is how many developers are going to actually spend the time to develop for it, as it essentially leaves NVIDIA out in the cold. Battlefield 4 is already confirmed to implement a Mantle-patch in December of this year but it will of course still have a DX11 path natively. The Frostbite 3 engine is going to be used in a quite a few EA games going forward so AMD will likely get a few more design wins in 2014 with Mantle. In the long run though, is the performance advantage offered by Mantle enough to ask developers to spend the time on it and possibly cut out the current market share leader in discrete PC graphics?