Best CPUs for DirectX 12 games

If you’re a PC gamer, you’ve probably heard of DirectX and how it interacts with the best graphics cards, even if you don’t know exactly what is does. It’s been around for a long time, and in a nutshell, it’s a piece of software which talks to your PC’s hardware. Because everyone’s PC hardware is different, developers can use DirectX to talk to your PC’s hardware directly rather than having to code for each individual graphics card or other device. Most importantly, DirectX is largely responsible for the 3D performance of your games. Windows 10 has brought with it a new version, DirectX 12, and although new versions of things are always hyped up, DX12 really has changed the landscape of game performance. To take full advantage of DirectX 12, you’ll want multicores and hyperthreading, and Intel’s i7 series of CPUs, in particular the Intel® Core™ i7-6700K, is a good way to go in that regard.

The way DirectX worked in the past was fine for the age in which it was created, however these days everyone has a multicore processor, perhaps with hyperthreading, and they may even have multiple graphics cards. Direct3D 11 attempted to speed up the process of sending tasks to the hardware to match with the more powerful components, but it was still flawed. With Direct3D 12, we have what’s called a low-level API, offering developers more access to the hardware. The game itself can generate command lists in parallel and control when they’re submitted to the GPU. This means there’s less overhead, and as a result, the performance of your game is better. In essence, DirectX 12 has well-balanced parallel work distribution, and that means it can better utilize CPUs with multiple cores.

All this means it’s important to consider DirectX 12 when selecting your next processor, especially if you know you’re going to be playing CPU demanding games. Large-scale strategy games and or open-world games with lots of detail can often be limited by your CPU. The list of games which support DirectX 12 isn’t huge currently, but it is growing, and support will soon become the norm. If you’re looking to push your framerate up well beyond 60, you can find CPU limitations there too. This is also important as more people start to adopt virtual reality, which requires 90 frames per second so you don’t become sick while playing.

Of course, you could go crazy and spend $1,700 on Intel’s 10-core i7-6950X with its 3GHz clock speed and 25MB cache, but there are far more cost effective solutions available. The Intel® Core™ i7-6700K is a smart upgrade, and will only set you back around $330. It’s a quad-core processor running at a speedy 4.0GHz clock speed with a boost clock speed of 4.2GHz, meaning it’ll overclock itself if it deems it necessary. Plus, that “K” means it’s unlocked, so you’re able to overclock the hardware even more if you’re confident doing so. Make sure you’ve got a good cooling solution and be wary of the increased power consumption if you go down that route. The 6700K also has a healthy 8MB of L3 cache.

The most important aspects here are of course the four cores and the hyperthreading which comes with them. The most basic description of hyperthreading will tell you that it essentially doubles the amount of cores on your processor, which isn’t strictly true. For each core your processor has, hyperthreading will create two virtual cores and the operating system will share work between them. A logical processor can be halted and given a different task to perform even if the other logical processor on the same physical core is still working on something else. Hyperthreading is especially good for rendering 3D graphics, and DirectX 12 is the first time it can properly be taken advantage of for games. Previously, everything was dumped onto one core, whereas now, background tasks on your PC can be pushed onto one core, while the heavy lifting is spread across the rest of the processor.

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