The New Era of GPU Acceleration
Microsoft DirectX 11 and DirectCompute enable new levels of realism and performance to games and other applications.
With the advent of mainstream Accelerated Processing Units, or APUs, the era of graphics computing is in full bloom. APUs combine CPUs with advanced graphics processing by incorporating the latest GPU technology, which is better suited for handling games and other visual applications.
That's because these programs run many small, but highly intensive, computations that are part of a larger program. They use very similar computations operating on the same set of data; for example, game graphics running at high frame rates. That's exactly the type of task that graphics processors are designed for. Game physics, AI, and water simulation are other examples commonly used in games. Applications like photo manipulation, video transcoding, and sound editing are also strong candidates for GPU computing.
Until recently, however, there was no standard way to tell the GPU to perform non-game calculations, which made "GPU compute" programs complex and unwieldy to write. Programmers either needed to hand-craft these apps or use a proprietary interface to write GPU compute code, which typically only worked with a particular manufacturer's GPU.
For GPU compute to become mainstream, developers needed a standard way to get software to talk to hardware, and several layers of software were necessary to make that possible. For example, the application programming interface, or API, provides standardized specifications that allow software programs to communicate with each other. Then the driver allows the operating system to communicate with the GPU.
Those software interfaces only recently became a reality. APIs like Microsoft® DirectX® and OpenGL help programmers quickly write high performance graphics engines. The latest version of DirectX has a new feature called DirectCompute that enables programmers to easily write small programs to perform non-graphics calculations.
DirectCompute works with Windows 7, and OpenCL is a software interface designed to bring GPU compute capability to all operating system platforms, including MacOS and Linux. With these standards in place, app developers can bring GPU compute-enabled applications to market quickly.
AMD builds GPU solutions for almost any computer. APUs bring entry level DirectX 11-capable graphics to notebooks, while an added discrete graphics card can make a mainstream, robust desktop PC more powerful. At the high end, graphics cards provide what you need for robust, immersive games and Internet graphics. No matter what your budget, system, or performance needs, AMD's graphics solutions run the gamut.