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DirectX 12 performance

So that's a thing. Switching over to DXMD's DirectX 12 renderer doesn't improve performance on any of our cards, and it actually makes life much worse for the Radeons. The R9 Fury X turns in an average FPS result that might make you think its performance is on par with the GTX 1070 once again, but don't be fooled—that card's 99th-percentile frame time number is no better than even the GTX 1060's. Playing DXMD on the Fury X and RX 480 was a hitchy, stuttery experience, and our frame-time plots confirm that impression.

In the green corner, the GTX 1070 leads the 99th-percentile frame-time pack by a wide margin, and that translates into noticeably smoother gameplay than any other card here can provide while running under DirectX 12.

The Radeons' lackluster 99th-percentile frame-time numbers in this test are corroborated by our "time-spent-beyond-X" graphs. In total, both of the red teams' cards spend half a second working on frames that take more than 50 ms to render, and that means an unpleasantly rough gameplay experience while DirectX 12 is enabled. If I hadn't been collecting data for this article, I would have immediately unticked the DirectX 12 checkbox in DXMD's options and gone back to the smooth sailing that the game's DX11 mode offers on all of these cards.

Click over to the time-spent-beyond-33.3-ms graph, and we can see that both Radeons spend a full second working on frames that take longer than that to render. Again, that means we're spending quite a bit of time below 30 FPS during our one-minute testing period, a noticeable blot on these cards' smoothness. The Fury X's monster shader array doesn't seem to be much help here—it's only a bit better off than the RX 480.

The GTX 1070 has a much better time of it in Deus Ex's DX12 mode. The card spends only a hair's breadth of time past the 33.3-ms mark, and it spends 34% less time working on frames that would drop the frame rate below 60 FPS than the Fury X does. I had to double-check whether the GTX 1070 was actually performing this well compared to the Radeons, but the numbers don't lie. It's the performance champion in DXMD's DX12 mode with these settings, and not by a small margin.

I hate to toot TR's horn here, but tests like these demonstrate why one simply can't take average FPS numbers at face value when measuring graphics-card performance. We've been saying so for years. From our results and our subjective experience, it's clear that the developers behind Deus Ex: Mankind Divided have a lot of optimizing to do for Radeons before the game's DirectX 12 mode goes gold in a week and change. AMD's driver team may also have a few long nights ahead, though in theory, DX12 puts much more responsibility on the shoulders of the developer.

It's also clear that it's too early to call a winner between the green and red teams for DirectX 12 performance in this beta build of Deus Ex, even if AMD seems to feel confident in doing so. The Radeon cards we tested perform poorly in our latency-sensitive frame-time metrics in DX12 mode, meaning that the Fury X's hitchy gameplay stands in stark contrast to its respectable average-FPS result. Even if Nvidia isn't shouting from the rooftops about Pascal's performance in DXMD's DX12 mode right now, the green team has some kind of smoothness advantage despite the game's beta tag. To be fair, we used different settings than AMD did while gathering its performance numbers, but we don't feel like the choices we made would be much different than those the average enthusiast would have with this hardware.

The one bright spot for AMD among these early numbers is that the R9 Fury X and GeForce GTX 1070 are so closely matched in Mankind Divided once DX12 is out of the picture. The similarly-powerful GeForce GTX 980 Ti was the clear favorite in our latency-sensitive 99th-percentile FPS measure when we pitted it against the Fury X, but the Fury X has closed the gap in this one game, at least. It's worth remembering that DXMD is a Gaming Evolved title, but even so, Fury X owners can enjoy a gaming experience that's just as smooth as they would get with a Pascal-powered card, and that's no small feat given AMD's past history with DirectX 11 performance. We'll just have to wait and see whether similar performance improvements are possible for Radeons running under Deus Ex's DX12 renderer once that software comes out of beta.

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