Vulkan 1.0 Specification has been Released
Vulkan is a low overhead graphics API from Khronos group, also responsible for OpenGL. Initially announced in 2014 as GLnext, Vulkan specification is finally complete, with first developer drivers already available. While DirectX 12 is restricted to Widows 10 and Metal is Apple-only, Vulkan is a multiplatform API supporting the widest range of software and hardware, compared to its competitors.
The first Vulkan drivers are ready mostly for the new API alone, so many current games might not work with them. Unless you are a developer, it is really worth waiting for the standard driver releases, which will include Vulkan support in the near future. The Talos Principle has already added an option to use Vulkan in its public beta.
While most Vulkan related materials concern developers, OS and GPU compatibility are very important for gamers. On OS side, Vulkan will support Windows 7, 8 and 10, Linux and Android, covering most gamers. While Vulkan itself should also support even the old Windows XP, there is no guarantee on driver availability and many games will not support it for other reasons. People playing on iOS and OS X will also miss on Vulkan, as Apple has decided to withdraw from its development and has not promised to implement it on their devices.
On hardware side, GPU manufacturers are more restrictive with Vulkan, than with DirectX 12. Intel supports DX12 on Haswell iGPU or newer, while Vulkan support so far has only been promised on Broadwell and Skylake iGPUs. That only applies to Intel’s integrated graphics, so if you have an external GPU, you only have to care about its support. Nvidia has promised to support DX12 on Fermi (GeForce 4xx) or newer, while Vulkan is only supported on Kepler (GeForce 6xx) or newer. AMD supports DX12 and Vulkan on the same hardware – GCN GPUs (Radeon HD 7xxx) or newer.
All major new graphics APIs are all here and it will be interesting to see how they develop. While DirectX 12 is already moving forward on Windows 10, Vulkan’s much wider platform support makes it an important contender. With new APIs on the stage and new GPUs on horizon, it will be interesting to see what game developers will create.