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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_1¹11_010_110_09_39_29_1
Shader Model5.15.1 5.1² 5.1²4.x4.0 2.0 (4_0_level_9_3) [vs_2_a/ps_2_x]⁵2.0 (4_0_level_9_1)2.0 (4_0_level_9_1)
Tiled resources Tier2⁶ Tier2⁶OptionalOptionalNoNoNoNoNo
Conservative Rasterization Tier1⁶OptionalOptionalNoNoNoNoNoNo
Rasterizer Order Views YesOptionalOptionalNoNoNoNoNoNo
Min/Max Filters YesYesOptionalNoNoNoNoNoNo
Map Default BufferOptionalOptionalOptionalOptionalNoNoNoNoNo
Shader Specified Stencil Reference Value OptionalOptionalOptionalNoNoNoNoNoNo
Typed Unordered Access View Loads18 formats, more optional18 formats, more optional3 formats, more optional3 formats, more optionalNoNoNoNoNo
Geometry ShaderYesYesYesYesYesYesNoNoNo
Stream Out YesYesYesYesYesYesNoNoNo
DirectCompute / Compute Shader YesYesYesYesOptionalOptionalN/AN/AN/A
Hull and Domain Shaders YesYesYesYesNoNoNoNoNo
Texture Resource Arrays YesYesYesYesYesYesNoNoNo
Cubemap Resource Arrays YesYesYesYesYesNoNoNoNo
BC4/BC5 Compression YesYesYesYesYesYesNoNoNo
BC6H/BC7 Compression YesYesYesYesNoNoNoNoNo
Extended Formats (BGRA, and so on)YesYesYesYesOptionalOptionalYesYesYes
10-bit XR High Color FormatYesYesYesYesOptionalOptionalN/AN/AN/A
Logic Operations (Output Merger) YesYesYes Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹NoNoNo
Target-independent rasterizationYesYesYesNoNoNoNoNoNo
Multiple render target(MRT) with ForcedSampleCount 1 YesYesYes Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹NoNoNo
UAV slots646464811N/AN/AN/A
UAVs at every stageYesYesYesNoNoNoN/AN/AN/A
Max forced sample count for UAV-only rendering 1616168N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A
Constant buffer offsetting and partial updatesYesYesYes Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ Yes¹ Yes¹ Yes¹
16 bits per pixel (bpp) formatsYesYesYes Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹ Optional¹
Max Texture Dimension1638416384163841638481928192409620482048
Max Cubemap Dimension16384163841638416384819281924096512512
Max Volume Extent204820482048204820482048256256256
Max Texture Repeat163841638416384163848192819281922048128
Max Anisotropy16161616161616162
Max Primitive Count 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 1048575104857565535
Max Vertex Index 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 2^32 – 1 1048575104857565534
Max Input Slots323232323216161616
Simultaneous Render Targets888888411
Occlusion QueriesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNo
Separate Alpha BlendYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNo
Mirror OnceYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNo
Overlapping Vertex ElementsYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNo
Independent Write MasksYesYesYesYesYesYesYesNoNo
Nonpowers-of-2 conditionally³NoNoNoNoNoNoYesYesYes
Nonpowers-of-2 unconditionally⁴YesYesYesYesYesYesNoNoNo


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:

Related topics

Direct3D 11 on Downlevel Hardware