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DirectX 12 won't need new hardware, but it's better to have some anyway

At its Windows 10 event last week, Microsoft talked a bit about how the company is focused on bringing a top-tier gaming experience to its desktop OS, as well as improving gaming across all of its devices with DirectX 12.

But that led to a bit of confusion as many users were curious to know whether existing hardware would play nicely with the company’s new graphics instruction set. Microsoft has now gone on record to clear up some of that.

As we previously found out, DirectX 12 will be exclusive to Windows 10, so older Windows operating systems won't have the new capabilities. However, considering that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for most Windows users, that shouldn’t pose any problems.

But what about hardware? Well, this is where it gets a bit more complicated. The short answer is that having a new DirectX 12 graphics card is your best option, so you should go for that. But the long answer is that you might not need it to take advantage of most of the system’s new features.

Microsoft showed off DirectX 12 as improving graphical processing capabilities in a dramatic fashion while also offering lower power consumption by a huge margin compared to DX 11. A mix of those two features will mean that better graphics and longer battery life is coming to all Windows 10 devices.

But Microsoft did go on the record saying that some of those capabilities will work with older graphics cards, including NVIDIA’s Maxwell, Kepler and Fermi-based GPUs, as well as Intel’s fourth-gen and newer Core processors and AMD’s Graphics Core Next GPUs. However, Microsoft also mentioned that new DirectX 12 dedicated hardware was your best option to make sure you get the whole package when Windows 10 launches.

Which features will be available in place and which will need a hardware upgrade isn’t exactly clear yet. But considering DirectX 12 is supposed to make a pretty remarkable difference, even on devices like the Xbox one, which are specifically designed to not be physically upgraded during their lifetimes, you’re likely safe if you have a new-ish GPU in your machine.

Of course this is just preliminary talk. Microsoft assured us we’ll learn a lot more about DirectX 12, its capabilities and its requirements at the Games Developers Conference in March.

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