Fed up with your CPU holding you back when playing PC games? A new DX12 feature could be the answer to your prayers

A PC Gamer looking happy
That face when you discover you own your games on GOG (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Microsoft has officially released a new feature for DirectX 12 which should help the best PC games run faster by allowing the graphics card to take some of the load away from the processor (in very basic terms).

This is called D3D12 Work Graphs, and while that sounds drier than the Sahara, it’s potentially a major step forward in PC gaming, lessening the typical effect of CPU bottlenecking where the processor holds the GPU back (no matter how good that graphics card might be).

Work Graphs was actually available in preview last year, but this is the full release of the feature which Microsoft describes as “enabling new types of GPU autonomy” in a developer blog post highlighted by Wccftech.

The ins and outs of exactly how Work Graphs functions is pretty tech-heavy stuff, as fully covered in the above post. But the short version is that it’s about moving heavy graphics processing loads from the CPU to the GPU, and cutting back communication between these components to eliminate the lost performance therein.

As mentioned, it’s all about eliminating the bottlenecking a processor can cause in certain circumstances, and Alan Wake 2 developer Remedy has been talking up the tech as Wccftech discovered in a recent interview.

Remedy’s Tatu Aalto, Lead Graphics Programmer, observed: “Communication between CPU and GPU has been a major performance cost in real-time applications like games for a long time already, and we saw a large performance gain in Alan Wake 2 when moving more computation to happen fully on GPU. Having more fine-grained control on GPU scheduling ensures that all the available GPU power can be wisely used.”

Want another excited expert with a quote? Go on then, this time it’s from Graham Wihlidal, an engineering fellow (in graphics) at Epic Games, as cited by Microsoft: “We have been advocating for something like this for a number of years, and it is very exciting to finally see the release of Work Graphs.”

Analysis: Game for a graph

This all sounds great, but remember this is very early days for the feature with it only just coming to the table out of preview.

Also, a point of caution to note here is that this won’t necessarily be a magic bullet across the board for PC gaming. Any gains are likely to be variable, as is usually the case, based on the game, settings, PC hardware specs, and so on – plus running Work Graphs won’t be free in terms of resources.

Nvidia explains in a post which is a DX12 Work Graphs case study of deferred shading: “There is a cost associated with managing the graph’s records and scheduling work. This cost eats some of the gains the work graphs achieved.”

We’re not trying to pour cold water on here, more like manage expectations to some degree – but clearly, this is an exciting development for DX12 games, as counteracting CPU bottlenecking to any extent is a seriously promising step forward. Roll on the future so we can see how the tech works in games in the real world.

You might also like

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).