Exploring APU performance in new APIs

Do Vulkan and DirectX 12 make a difference?

7870K Photos (5 of 6)

Over the past three years, we’ve seen AMD make major investments into new graphics APIs like Vulkan and DirectX 12. We’ve also seen AMD’s higher-end graphics product make major performance gains thanks to the use of these new APIs. But what we haven’t looked into is the kind of gains that AMD’s core products, APUs, are making thanks to these advancements.

With that in mind, we set out to benchmark AMD’s A10-7870K APU in all the DirectX 12 and Vulkan games that we own. We used the same test system as we did in the actual A10-7870K review article. Normally we test everything at 1080P. These things were a bit different: Ashes of the Singularity was tested on its low-quality setting at 1366 by 768, DOOM was tested on low with resolution scaling set to 50%, Warhammer was tested on low with resolution scaling set to 50%, DOTA 2 was tested on the high preset, and Hitman was tested on low as well.

Old APUs and New APIs

With that all out of the way here’s the results:

In Ashes of the Singularity, Warhammer, and Hitman we see a minor performance improvement. In DOOM we see a massive performance improvement and in DOTA 2 a big regression. I’m not sure what’s stranger: the massive boost in DOOM or the big hit in DOTA 2. DOTA 2’s Vulkan branch is still very much in beta so perhaps the regression here is a result of that and DOOM stellar results could be linked to the use of shader intrinsic functions. In any case these new APIs on average offer only as a minor performance boost for existing APUs.

Checking in with AMD

We sent AMD a preliminary copy of our test results to see what they had to say about the matter. They told that our results looked about right and suggested that current DirectX 12 and Vulkan games don’t leverage the features of the new APIs very heavily yet which is why we’re not seeing larger performance gains. Essentially the bottlenecks that capped APU performance in DirectX 11 and OpenGL aren’t addressed by Vulkan and DirectX 12. Memory bandwidth limitations imposed by DDR3 and the lack of raw performance are still the biggest factors restraining the gaming performance of AMD’s APUs.S|A

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Thomas Ryan is a freelance technology writer and photographer from Seattle, living in Austin. You can also find his work on SemiAccurate and PCWorld. He has a BA in Geography from the University of Washington with a minor in Urban Design and Planning and specializes in geospatial data science. If you have a hardware performance question or an interesting data set Thomas has you covered.