Nice Shades: Eyes-on with Nvidia GTX 980 TI and DX12

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- If you're excited about what Nvidia's latest flagship video card, the GTX 980 TI, can do, just wait until Windows 10 arrives. Microsoft's new operating system comes preloaded with DirectX 12, a new set of APIs that enable even more realistic lighting effects, and the new GPU is primed to handle them.

Along with Nvidia's other "Maxwell" generation GPUs, the GTX 980 TI can handle an even higher feature level known as DirectX 12.1. In a brief demo, Nvidia director of technical marketing Tom Petersen showed us some of the more impressive benefits of the new video card by panning around an animation of a Mech robot suit on dark planet.

As he rotated the software's camera around the giant metallic object, Petersen enabled and disabled various DirectX 12.1 features to demonstrate the benefits of the new card. He started by showing us a technology called "Conservative Raster" which allows for real-time raytracing of shadows. With the feature disabled, shadows cast by the Mech on the planet's surface were a bit blocky when we looked at them closely. However, when he turned Conservative Raster on, the shadows had the smooth, natural appearance we'd expect in real life.

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Petersen then turned on a smoke effect, to show us another benefit of DirectX 12.1 and the GTX 980 TI: Sparse Fluid Simulation. With Sparse Fluid Simulation disabled, the billowing smoke looked pretty detailed but was much slower and jerkier. With the new feature on, the gas rose quickly and looked more like it was coming from a real fire. The new feature allows the GPU do to do less work in rendering fluid and gas movements so it can provide this kind of enhanced performance.

He then showed us how the card works with Microsoft's software to provide real-time reflections of light glistening off of objects. As he panned around the shiny metal Mech, we could see how light bounced off of one part of the robot suit onto another. When he turned the real-time reflections off, all the surfaces looked flat and lifeless.

We look forward to seeing more of what DirectX 12.1 and the Nvidia GTX 980 TI can do when we get our hands on systems that use them. Windows 10 is due out July 29 and Nvidia's GTX 980 TI card is available for sales now, starting at $649.

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Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.