“Mantle is Game Changing” is AMD’s tagline for their newest low-overhead API. Mantle has been in the news constantly since AMD publicly released the concept on September 26th last year in their public live stream. The biggest claim to fame of this new low-overhead API is its use in EA’s Battlefield 4 blockbuster and the support it has from EA’s famous FrostBite 3 Engine. However, what is all the fuss about? How does Mantle actually perform in practice? Why should you even care about it? These are questions we are hoping to address today.
What’s Mantle all about?
So we’ve briefly introduced Mantle as a “thing” but at a basic technical level, what is Mantle? Mantle is an API, or application programming interface, that reduces the level of CPU workload required during gaming. Mantle does this by offloading tasks traditionally done by the CPU to the GPU and by simplifying the communication between the two. Compared to DirectX, Mantle uses less CPU capacity for communication between a video game and its graphics card resources, as such CPU bottlenecks can be reduced or removed by using the Mantle API. In short Mantle is an attempt to bring “console-like” optimisations to the desktop PC platform.
Who can make use of Mantle?
The AMD Mantle API is currently only supported on AMD GCN products: that’s 28nm HD 7000 or Rx 2xx series graphics cards and Kaveri APUs at the time of writing. For Mantle to work the game must be programmed in the Mantle API. This is the main reason why AMD is working so hard to push its API among game developers; it cannot go anywhere without developer adoption. The Mantle API is currently in the closed beta stage, but upon release it will be fully open source and made available to all game developers, hardware vendors and industry figures.
What games does Mantle support?
Mantle is supported by a range of top-tier game titles, as of writing these are:
- Battlefield 4
- Battlefield Hardline
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare
- Civilization: Beyond Earth
- Star Citizen
- Sniper Elite III
Mantle is supported by the Nitrous, Frostbite 3 and CRYENGINE game engines meaning the potential is there to expand it to many more game titles in the future that use those engines. The only three games on that list that are currently available to buy right now, with Mantle support working right now, are Battlefield 4, Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare and Thief. So you guessed it….today we are putting those three to the test.
Full details of game support can be found on AMD’s regularly updated list right here.
Why is Mantle important?
Mantle is important because it is the first significant attempt by anyone in the PC industry to dramatically reduce overhead on a graphics API. Although not specifically confirmed by Microsoft, Mantle has been one of the influential driving forces behind DirectX 12. DirectX 12 has been announced by Microsoft but is still in development. DirectX 12 will be Microsoft’s successor to DirectX 11.x and will also be a low-overhead API like Mantle. AMD claims Mantle will be easily “portable” between DX11 and DX12 so anyone who develops for Mantle now will be able to easily move to the next DirectX when it is released. As such Mantle is not an attempt to undercut the DirectX 12 API, but an attempt to fast track the development and adoption of low-overhead APIs.