Direct3D feature levels

To handle the diversity of video cards in new and existing machines, Microsoft Direct3D 11 introduces the concept of feature levels. This topic discusses Direct3D feature levels.

Each video card implements a certain level of Microsoft DirectX (DX) functionality depending on the graphics processing units (GPUs) installed. In prior versions of Microsoft Direct3D, you could find out the version of Direct3D the video card implemented, and then program your application accordingly.

With Direct3D 11, a new paradigm is introduced called feature levels. A feature level is a well defined set of GPU functionality. For instance, the 9_1 feature level implements the functionality that was implemented in Microsoft Direct3D 9, which exposes the capabilities of shader models ps_2_x and vs_2_x, while the 11_0 feature level implements the functionality that was implemented in Direct3D 11.

Now when you create a device, you can attempt to create a device for the feature level that you want to request. If the device creation works, that feature level exists, if not, the hardware does not support that feature level. You can either try to recreate a device at a lower feature level or you can choose to exit the application. For more info about creating a device, see the D3D11CreateDevice function.

Using feature levels, you can develop an application for Direct3D 9, Microsoft Direct3D 10, or Direct3D 11, and then run it on 9, 10 or 11 hardware (with some exceptions; for example, new 11 features will not run on an existing 9 card). Here is a couple of other basic properties of feature levels:

  • A GPU that allows a device to be created meets or exceeds the functionality of that feature level.
  • A feature level always includes the functionality of previous or lower feature levels.
  • A feature level does not imply performance, only functionality. Performance is dependent on hardware implementation.
  • Choose a feature level when you create a Direct3D 11 device.

For information about limitations creating nonhardware-type devices on certain feature levels, see Limitations Creating WARP and Reference Devices.

To assist you in deciding what feature level to design with, compare the features for each feature level.

The 10Level9 Reference section lists the differences between how various ID3D11Device and ID3D11DeviceContext methods behave at various 10Level9 feature levels.

Numbering Systems

There are three distinct numbering systems, for Direct3D versions, shader models, and feature levels:

  • Direct3D versions use a period; for example, Direct3D 12.0.
  • Shader models use a period; for example, shader model 5.1.
  • Feature levels use an underscore; for example, feature level 12_0.

Overview For Each Feature Level

The following features are available for each Direct3D feature level.

The headings across the top row are Direct3D feature levels. The headings in the left-hand column are features.

Feature \ Feature Level 12_1⁰ 12_0⁰ 11_1¹ 11_0 10_1 10_0 9_3 9_2 9_1
Shader Model 5.1 5.1 5.1² 5.1² 4.x 4.0 2.0 (4_0_level_9_3) [vs_2_a/ps_2_x]⁵ 2.0 (4_0_level_9_1) 2.0 (4_0_level_9_1)
Tiled resources Tier2⁶ Tier2⁶ Optional Optional No No No No No
Conservative Rasterization Tier1⁶ Optional Optional No No No No No No
Rasterizer Order Views Yes Optional Optional No No No No No No
Min/Max Filters Yes Yes Optional No No No No No No
Map Default Buffer Optional Optional Optional Optional No No No No No
Shader Specified Stencil Reference Value Optional Optional Optional No No No No No No
Typed Unordered Access View Loads 18 formats, more optional 18 formats, more optional 3 formats, more optional 3 formats, more optional No No No No No
Geometry Shader Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
Stream Out Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
DirectCompute / Compute Shader Yes Yes Yes Yes Optional Optional N/A N/A N/A
Hull and Domain Shaders Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No No
Texture Resource Arrays Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
Cubemap Resource Arrays Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No
BC4/BC5 Compression Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
BC6H/BC7 Compression Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No No No
Alpha-to-coverage Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
Extended Formats (BGRA, and so on) Yes Yes Yes Yes Optional Optional Yes Yes Yes
10-bit XR High Color Format Yes Yes Yes Yes Optional Optional N/A N/A N/A
Logic Operations (Output Merger) Yes Yes Yes Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ No No No
Target-independent rasterization Yes Yes Yes No No No No No No
Multiple render target(MRT) with ForcedSampleCount 1 Yes Yes Yes Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ No No No
UAV slots 64 64 64 8 1 1 N/A N/A N/A
UAVs at every stage Yes Yes Yes No No No N/A N/A N/A
Max forced sample count for UAV-only rendering 16 16 16 8 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Constant buffer offsetting and partial updates Yes Yes Yes Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ Yes¹ Yes¹ Yes¹
16 bits per pixel (bpp) formats Yes Yes Yes Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹
Max Texture Dimension 16384 16384 16384 16384 8192 8192 4096 2048 2048
Max Cubemap Dimension 16384 16384 16384 16384 8192 8192 4096 512 512
Max Volume Extent 2048 2048 2048 2048 2048 2048 256 256 256
Max Texture Repeat 16384 16384 16384 16384 8192 8192 8192 2048 128
Max Anisotropy 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 16 2
Max Primitive Count 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 1048575 1048575 65535
Max Vertex Index 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 1048575 1048575 65534
Max Input Slots 32 32 32 32 32 16 16 16 16
Simultaneous Render Targets 8 8 8 8 8 8 4 1 1
Occlusion Queries Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Separate Alpha Blend Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Mirror Once Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Overlapping Vertex Elements Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Independent Write Masks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Instancing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Nonpowers-of-2 conditionally³ No No No No No No Yes Yes Yes
Nonpowers-of-2 unconditionally⁴ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No

 

⁰ Requires the Direct3D 11.3 or Direct3D 12 runtime.

¹ Requires the Direct3D 11.1 runtime.

² Shader model 5.0 can optionally support double-precision shaders, extended double-precision shaders, the SAD4 shader instruction, and partial-precision shaders. To determine the shader model 5.0 options that are available, call ID3D11Device::CheckFeatureSupport. Some compatibility depends on what hardware you are running on: Shader model 5.1 is only supported on hardware that supports the DirectX 12 API, regardless of the feature level that's being used. DirectX 11 hardware only supports up to shader model 5.0. The DirectX 12 API only goes down to feature level 11_0.

³ At feature levels 9_1, 9_2 and 9_3, the display device supports the use of 2-D textures with dimensions that are not powers of two under two conditions. First, only one MIP-map level for each texture can be created, and second, no wrap sampler modes for textures are allowed (that is, the AddressU, AddressV, and AddressW members of D3D11_SAMPLER_DESC cannot be set to D3D11_TEXTURE_ADDRESS_WRAP).

⁴ At feature levels 10_0, 10_1 and 11_0, the display device unconditionally supports the use of 2-D textures with dimensions that are not powers of two.

⁵ Vertex Shader 2a with 256 instructions, 32 temporary registers, static flow control of depth 4, dynamic flow control of depth 24, and D3DVS20CAPS_PREDICATION. Pixel Shader 2x with 512 instructions, 32 temporary registers, static flow control of depth 4, dynamic flow control of depth 24, D3DPS20CAPS_ARBITRARYSWIZZLE, D3DPS20CAPS_GRADIENTINSTRUCTIONS, D3DPS20CAPS_PREDICATION, D3DPS20CAPS_NODEPENDENTREADLIMIT, and D3DPS20CAPS_NOTEXINSTRUCTIONLIMIT.

⁶ Higher tiers optional.

For details of format support at different hardware feature levels, refer to:

Direct3D 11 on Downlevel Hardware