DirectX 12 Multiadapter: Lighting up dormant silicon and making it work for you

Are you one of the millions of PC users with a laptop or a desktop system with an integrated GPU as well as a discrete GPU?  Before Windows 10 and DirectX 12, all the performance potential from the second GPU goes unused.  With DirectX 12 and Windows 10, application developers can use every GPU on the system simultaneously!

Are you an elite power gamer with multiple graphics cards?  Well, by giving the applications direct control over all of the hardware on the system, applications can optimize more effectively for the ultra-high end, squeezing even more performance out of the most powerful systems available today and in the future.

We’re calling this DX12 feature “Multiadapter”, and applications can use it to unlock all that silicon that would otherwise be sitting dormant doing nothing.

At //build 2015 we both announced the Multiadapter feature and showed several examples of how it can be used.

Square Enix and DirectX 12 Multiadapter

Square Enix created a demo called “WITCH CHAPTER 0 [cry]” running on DirectX 12 and we were very happy to be able to show it at //build 2015.

With about 63 million polygons per scene and 8k by 8k textures, the demo showed the unprecedented level of detail you can achieve with DirectX 12 and Windows 10.

Square Enix’s DirectX 12 demo rendering in real-time on stage at //build 2015

The demo utilized four NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan X cards enabling Square Enix to achieve extremely realistic cinematic level rendering; only instead of pre-rendered content, this was being rendered in real-time!

This demonstrated the upper end of what’s possible using multiple high power GPUs and DirectX 12.

Take a look at the live demo video from April 30th's Keynote Presentation.

Now let’s take a look at how DirectX 12’s Multiadapter is also designed to extract all the power from a variety of mixed power hardware.

Explicit Multiadapter control in Unreal Engine 4

We used Epic Games’ DX12 Unreal Engine 4 to split the rendering workload across an integrated Intel GPU and a discrete NVIDIA GPU to showcase how it is possible to use two disparate GPUs simultaneously to maximize performance.

To show how this extra boost can help gamers, we set up a race between a single discrete NVIDIA GPU and a Multiadapter configuration consisting of the same single discrete GPU + an integrated Intel GPU.  In this race, each configuration rendered 635 frames of the UE4 Elemental demo as quickly as it was able to.

The results below show that the Multiadapter configuration manages to beat the single adapter configuration in a race to 635 frames.  At the end of the benchmark, we can calculate the overall fps where Multiadapter comes out as the definitive winner.

Multiadapter already beating single adapter at ~6 seconds

Final results of the fixed-frame-count benchmark

How does it work?

We recognized that most mixed GPU systems in the world were not making the most out of the hardware they had.  So in our quest to maximize performance, we set out to enable separable and contiguous workloads to be executed in parallel on separate GPUs.  One such example of separable workloads is postprocessing.

Virtually every game out there makes use of postprocessing to make your favorite games visually impressive; but that postprocessing work doesn’t come free.  By offloading some of the postprocessing work to a second GPU, the first GPU is freed up to start on the next frame before it would have otherwise been able to improving your overall framerate.

Analyzing the results

The below image shows the real workload timeline of the Intel and NVIDIA GPUs (to scale).  You can see how the workload that would normally be on the NVIDIA GPU is being executed on the Intel GPU instead.

In the demo, we even make use of DirectX 12’s Multiengine feature to complement the Multiadapter feature.  You can see that the copy operations on NVIDIA’s copy engine execute in parallel with the NVIDIA 3D engine operations improving performance even more.

GPU workload timeline (to scale)

Taking a look at the Intel workload, we can see that we still have some unused GPU time that we can take advantage of.  The final GPU utilization results were:

  • NVIDIA: ~100% utilization on average
  • Intel: ~70% utilization on average

Looking to the future, this tells us that the opportunity exists to extract even more performance out of the demo hardware.

For more details, take a look at Max McMullen’s talk at //build 2015 (when available):

You can also take a look at a video of the actual benchmark here:

Opening doors to new possibilities

DirectX 12 already helps you maximize performance by bringing apps closer to the metal.  At //build 2015, we have shown you a glimpse of the performance possibilities with DirectX 12 and how it can light up that precious but dormant silicon already in your machine using Multiadapter.

The fine grained-control over ALL of the hardware in the system offered by DirectX 12 gives game developers the power to use techniques that were simply not possible in DirectX 11. Our Multiadapter demos only scratch the surface of what creative game developers can do now that they have the ability to directly use ALL of the graphics hardware in the system, even if such hardware has different capabilities and is from different manufacturers.

Comments (16)

  1. Spyro says:

    A whole frame of latency for a 3.5 fps gain..?

  2. Void says:

    as long as  the latency is outrun by the framerate, it's not a big deal…

  3. Alekdias says:


    You didn't understand.

    The Multi-Adapter Demo runs much quicker (as in: it gets fastest to a specified point in the demo) than the SingleAdapter Demo, and even has better FPS.

  4. dark_sylinc says:

    There is no frame of latency introduced. That would only happen if the integrated GPU took 25.5ms to do the postprocessing, which it did not.

    The first frame will take as much as a discrete-only solution or may be a little more, yes; but the second frame will take less.

    Also, "3.5 fps" is meaningless. It's 2.67ms of improvement, which is a lot. Not to mention this is the first attempt ever, and it's already showing promise.

  5. Wisteso says:

    @dark_sylink, actually Spyro is correct. There is no getting around the fact that the delay between user input and monitor output will be increased by a significant percentage The integrated GPU extends the render time of each frame to a total of (what looks to be) about 40ms when it was 28ms before.

    @Alekdias, games do not work that way. Finishing the demo faster doesn't mean anything in terms of latency. Games render frames on a fixed interval. There is no "queue" of frames to render, unless you're rendering a 3D scene (e.g. Pixar / Disney movies). I could hypothetically daisy chain six GPUs together and have 200+ FPS, but the delay from input-to-reaction would be 6x long as well.

  6. Alekdias says:


    Where did I say games work like a demo or CG?

    Anyway, we will know about that theoretical frame latency once this new techonology is exploited by a game.

  7. _C_E_ says:

    This test is a lie.

    I think some people here don't understand what actually happened according to the test performed on this page. A large thing to note on the GPU workload timeline (to scale) image is that the 3D – Intel frame did not complete it's 3rd ACTUAL frame, 0 being a dummy frame which contains no frame to output and essentially is blank… Of course the discrete card will get to the 3rd frame 1st if POST PROCESSING is cut from it. That is a no brainer. Not letting the 3rd frame complete on the integrated gpu, essentially, cut the test very short. Is the integrated gpu in this example not outputting the final image to the monitor? A lot of people may suspect the discrete NVIDIA card is, which it is not doing so in this test, but has been used as the completion and winner of the test, which is false.

    Overall, the addition of post processing will allow much NICER effects for an actual DECREASE in fps in real world tests (just look where frame 3 would finish in the above example for the integrated gpu..). Of course, however, additional discrete cards most likely could post process before the 1st frame is out. But as a proof of concept, it will enhance the overall experience for us end users for sure 🙂

  8. _C_E_ says:

    I stand to correct myself, it eventually does overrun the frames past the ~12-15th frame. So this introduces other problems, such as those 1st 12 frames of latency per second, which may very well be noticed when gaming, and which is fine for predefined tests where we are testing an environment with no lag from a gamer but for raw computing. This may look weird and distorted to a gamer where those catchup frames are concerned.

  9. Jerry Elkins says:

    Is it possible to get the bits for the multi adapter demo to do tests on systems?

  10. Blair says:

    I am not seeing the big wow! And I seriously doubt DX12 is going to be any better than Mantle was in performance! And Mantle only raised performance very little. I just do not see DX12 being worth my privacy running Windows 10!

  11. Sakib Saikia says:

    If you accept a single frame latency, then you can argue that the perf is better. Otherwise, the absolute time for each frame is actually longer than the single GPU case because of the sync and the fact that you are running part of a the frame in a much slower GPU.

  12. mitchell wennink says:

    Be warned, everyone in the comment section appears to be a computer engineer.

  13. Gigaplex says:

    It's a shame that neither Sandy Bridge nor Ivy Bridge systems will be able to take advantage of this since Intel will only be providing DX12 drivers for Haswell and later. That means the vast majority of existing users will need new hardware, even though we were originally told that all DX11 capable hardware will work with the DX12 API (with a reduced feature level).

  14. Pissnelke says:

    I dont understand this overlapping frame concept! Why does the discrete GPU dont render 95% of the image and the integrated the last 5% of pixels? ( figuring out the right balance dGPU to iGPU is problem of the engine not me )

  15. Stephen Sharp says:

    Does this mean we can use Nvidia and AMD and get the benefits of both, aka SMP with Nvidia and Async with AMD?

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