Your PC is either DirectX 12 Ultimate-ready, or you're not a real gamer

Microsoft's Xbox Game Bar update for the PC includes a DirectX 12 Ultimate checker, as well as a resource monitor.

Credit: Nvidia

Add DirectX 12 Ultimate to the list of stickers and logos you’ll want to look for while buying PC hardware.

In March, Microsoft announced DirectX 12 Ultimate, which encapsulates many of the next-gen PC hardware and Xbox Series X technologies that Microsoft is now explicitly encouraging consumers to buy: DirectX Raytracing (DXR) tier 1.1, Variable Rate Shading tier 2, mesh shaders, and more. DirectX 12 Ultimate didn’t seem like a brand, just a collection of technologies governing the features of graphics cards like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founder’s Edition, as well as AMD’s RX 6800 series, too. Apparently, Microsoft thinks differently.

As part of a new Xbox Game Bar for PC update released Thursday, Microsoft includes an explicit check to determine whether your gaming PC qualifies for DirectX 12 Ultimate. The company is also encouraging gamers to look for the DirectX 12 Ultimate logo on the product page or retail boxes.

xbox game bar resources Mark Hachman / IDG

Microsoft’s new Xbox Game Bar, with both the new Resources widget and DirectX 12 Ultimate checker highlighted. 

It’s up to you whether to use the Xbox Game Bar on your PC, which is triggered by hitting the Win+G keyboard shortcut. Over time, the Game Bar’s overlay has been used to control screenshots and livestreams, monitor friends and gaming Achievements, and most recently as a source of third-party widgets.

Microsoft’s Game Bar announcement is actually tied to a new Resources widget, which allows you to keep an eye on what other apps are sucking up memory and CPU power. Even though PC gaming has evolved well past the days of configuring autoexec.bat and himem.sys, gamers know that performance is tied to minimizing the resources sucked up by other apps.

To be fair, the new Resources functionality is found within Windows’ own Task Manager, though that interface doesn’t highlight offending apps. (The expanded view shown in our screenshot above does away with the color coding.) In other words, there’s no real need to add this particular widget, except for those who want to keep a sharp eye on any runaway apps that might impact frame rate. Like all of the other Xbox widgets, they can be accessed from the bulleted widget menu icon just to the right of the system clock.

DirectX 12 Ultimate or go home

The DirectX 12 Ultimate checker is the more understated addition to Game Bar, yet it’s the most interesting. The DirectX 12 Ultimate checker can be found within Settings under Gaming Features.

It feels like an afterthought, but if your system doesn’t qualify for DirectX 12 Ultimate (as my Surface Laptop doesn’t), a link connects you to Microsoft’s blog post on the subject, where its goals become clear.

gamebar directX 12 Microsoft

Here, it seems that Microsoft has larger aspirations for the DirectX 12 Ultimate standard as a brand: “DirectX 12 Ultimate is the new gold standard for gaming graphics on both PC and the next generation of Xbox consoles,” Jianye Lu, a program manager on the graphics team, writes. Lu lays out a checklist of software, hardware, Game Bar, and game support for enabling DirectX 12 Ultimate, including Far Cry 6, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, Godfall, Dirt 5, and The Riftbreaker.

“If you are upgrading your gaming PC or buying a new one, look no further than ‘DirectX 12 Ultimate’ on the product page or retail boxes!” Lu proclaims.

With laptops already sporting stickers and logos from CPU and GPU makers, as well as audio enhancement technologies, it’s perhaps not surprising that Microsoft feels compelled to join the branding party. Apparently this generation of PCs, GPUs and consoles is the DirectX 12 Ultimate generation after all.

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Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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