DirectX 10: Is it worth upgrading to Vista for?

2 minute read

As a developer (and gamer) you always want the latest gadgets and DirectX 10 seems to be one of these gadgets that you just “need to have”.

But does it justify spending much money for an upgrade?

What does DirectX 10 have that DirectX 9 doesn’t? According to some technology demos - not so much. Ok, some special effects but what about the rest? A game isn’t made out of SFX (although it seems to become a trend).

It turns out that DirectX 10 isn’t only about special effects but defines a new style of next generation technology. Video Card manufacturers are forced to use optimized pathways to support the new industry standard resulting in very fast hardware such as the Geforce 8 series (8800 GTX, 8800 GTS).

One of these features is WDDM which stands for Windows Display Driver Model. WDDM is basically a resource manager for graphics processes. One example of what WDDM does is this: In XP when you switch from one Direct3D application you will receive a DEVICE_LOST exception, which basically means that you can’t run two processes from one GPU. Your application crashes and you’ll have to write X amount of handlers dealing with the exception. According to Microsoft this is now a thing of the past.

Since the Vista desktop is a 3D environment you’d loose your application everytime you minimize. This has now been eliminated. Each GPU process is its own thread (just like in regular programming) meaning that you can have X amount of 3D processes running without the need for special handlers. Also in the same category is improved crash handling that comes with DirectX 10.

Ok, so that’s neat but I’ll need more to be convinced to switch to DirectX 10 hardware and Windows Vista.

Another feature of WDDM is that if you run out of video memory WDDM can virtualize your System’s memory for video processes. Which - in theory - sounds very cool, but I don’t know if this would cause slowdowns.

Here’s a list of new features

  • Shader Model 4
  • Texture arrays
  • DirectSound is gone, XACT is its replacement
  • Less load on the CPU - GPU tasks really get processed by the GPU this time
  • Unified Pipeline Architecture - the Programmable Graphics pipeline (SM 4.0)
  • No object limit - There is no software limit to how many objects you can add to your scene. The only factor in this is your graphics hardware
  • Geometry Shaders
  • Instancing 2.0 - An optimized version of the Instancing technology found in Geforce 6 series up and Radeon 9500 and up

So as a developer is it worth it to upgrade to Vista and DirectX 10 hardware? In my opinion, yes. This is simply the new generation of computer graphics, just because you have to upgrade doesn’t mean is’t evil.

Remember when you upgraded from your TNT 2 card to a Geforce? Same thing. Yet this time the improvements revolve more around the pipeline than the actual quality of the image.