Nvidia just released its latest 451.48 drivers for Windows PCs. These are the first fully-certified DirectX 12 Ultimate drivers, but they also add support for WDDM 2.7—that’s Windows Display Driver Model 2.7. New to Windows 10 with the May 2020 update, and now supported with Nvidia’s drivers, is hardware scheduling. This new feature shows up in the Windows display settings, at the bottom under the Graphics Settings, provided you have a Pascal or later generation Nvidia GPU. Could this help the best graphics cards perform even better and maybe shake up the GPU hierarchy? Probably not, but we decided to find out with empirical testing.
First, it’s important to note that this is not a new hardware feature but rather a new API feature. GPUs, at least as far as we understand things, have been able to support GPU hardware scheduling for some time. The description from Microsoft is vague as well.
Enabling the feature is simple. In the Windows Settings section, under Display, you can click “Graphics settings” to find the toggle. It says, “Reduce latency and improve performance. You’ll need to restart your PC to have your changes take effect.”
Information circulating on the web suggests GPU hardware scheduling could be quite useful, but we decided to investigate further. We selected five games out of our current GPU test suite, then ran benchmarks with and without hardware-accelerated GPU scheduling enabled on a few test configurations. We used an RTX 2080 Ti as the main test GPU, and ran the benchmarks with both Core i9-9900K and Ryzen 9 3900X. Thinking perhaps a low-end GPU might benefit more, we also went to the other extreme and tested a GTX 1050 card with the 9900K.
Obviously there are a ton of potential combinations, but this should be enough to at least get us started. We also tested with every possible API on each game, just for good measure. All testing was conducted at…