Difference between Vulkan and DirectX 12 API


API, for those who are stumped by the word means Application programming interface. For those who weren’t stumped by the word, well, kudos to you.

Difference between Vulkan and DirectX 12 API


The official jargon defines it as a set of subroutine definitions, communication protocols, and tools that are used for building software.

An API call involves making a request to the server to get a logical task/action done by the application back-end code. If you need software to behave in a certain way, the API interfaces between you and the software to give you the result you need.

Microsoft DirectX is a collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) that handle tasks associated with multimedia, especially game programming, the Windows Direct X 12 API being the latest in this line. The Vulkan API is a low-overhead, cross-platform 3D graphics and compute API. This API targets high-performance real-time 3D graphics applications such as video games and interactive media across all platforms.

But how do you understand the nuances between the two, that is where the API Overhead tool, which first came around in 2015 comes into the picture. What the API Overhead tool does it throws a bunch of these calls at the API it is testing at the same time.

Modern, low-level APIs are a little different from classical APIs like Direct X11 that are single-threaded because they efficiently spread their work over multiple threads. But APIs like Direct X11, although single threaded, have a high degree of overhead inside that single thread.

The latest iteration of the API Overhead test, which is now up to version 1.5, has added support for Vulkan, this makes it one of the feature-level benchmarks to have added support for this API.

One thing that we will have to keep in mind is that this is not a cross-GPU test or even a cross-system test. The purpose of this test is to measure overhead within a single setup.


a) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB

When tested with GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, it was found that the GTX 1060 can sustain 26.4M calls per second. This is 32% more than Direct X12 which is at a 20.

b) AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB

The Radeon RX 480 8GB is the one that is most comparable to the GTX 1060. But here’s where things get interesting, running the API overhead test on this card produces a result that is very different from the GTX 1060. The Vulkan doesn’t lead the race in this case. The DX12, although tiny, has a lead over the GTX 1060, 26M draw calls over 24.9M draw calls.

c) NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti

The NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti is the latest from NVIDIA’s line. Unlike the 1060, the lead that the Vulkan has is a narrow 4% difference.

The 3DMark API Overhead benchmark has proved that at a higher level neither DirectX 12 or Vulkan holds a consistent lead when it comes to API overhead. But what should also be kept in mind is that this test is designed to test one small aspect of a GPU/system.

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