Nvidia Corp., a leading developer of graphics processing units (GPUs), has released its first drivers supporting compute shaders, a crucial part of DirectX 11 application programming interface. There is no available DirectX 11 hardware from Nvidia, but DX11 compute shaders version 4.0 are supported by existing DirectX 10 graphics chips.
“Windows 7 combined with applications that take advantage of the new DirectX Compute Shaders technology have the potential to transform the personal computing experience for millions of customers using GPUs to turbo-charge scenarios in digital media applications. We’ve already seen some applications come to market that take advantage of the GPU, Windows 7 and DirectX 11 Compute Shaders will make it even easier for developers to write applications and deliver these benefits to millions of additional customers,” said Mike Ybarra, general manager for Windows Product Management at Microsoft Corp.
Nvidia has received Windows Hardware Qualification Lab (WHQL) certification for a driver supporting DirectX 11 compute shaders and Windows 7. The ForceWare 190.62 driver is available for download at the company's web-site.
In order to popularize compute shaders (CS) among developers, the DirectX 11 includes not only compute shaders 5.0 (which are supported only by DX11 GPUs), but also compute shaders 4.0 (for Direct X10 hardware) and 4.1 (for DirectX 10.1 hardware), which are not supported by DirectX 10. Compute shaders 4.0/4.x have a number of limitations compared to version 5.0, including maximum number of threads per group (768), thread group shared memory (16KB vs. 32KB in CS 5.0), absence of atomic operations or append/consume and so on. CS 5.0 will also offer better interaction with graphics pipeline (e.g., it can output to textures), double precision and so on.
The main aim of compute shaders 4.x is to allow game developers to practice with compute shaders technology, enable GPGPU via DirectX as well as let game developers to use CS for complex rendering-related tasks instead of pixel shaders so to gain performance.
Beta version of DirectX 11 as well as drivers that support compute shaders 4.x have been available available from Microsoft, ATI/AMD as well as Nvidia for several months now.