DirectX 9 vs DirectX11 in Civilization 5 DirectX 11 (or DX11) is Microsoft's latest incarnation of the DirectX API, a set of Application Programming Interfaces that are used for multimedia on a PC, and graphics in particular. DX11 adds some new features to allow better graphics details, such as tessellation and improved multi-threading, along with some other graphical enhancements. The first game to be released supporting DX11 was the RTS game BattleForge, initially released as a DX9 / DX10 game, and updated to support DX 11 in September 2009. There are currently only a handful of titles that have been released with DX11 support, and Civilization 5 is now one of them. Civilization 5 ships with two versions: a DX9 version, and a DX11 version. In this review here, I will endeavor to show you the differences between the two; but first a word on availability: In order to play the directx 11 version, you need to have both a video card that supports DX11 (ATI Radeon 5XXX or higher, or NVIDIA GeForce 4XX or higher), and an operating system that supports DX11 as well: Windows 7, or Vista (SP2). For those of you who have Windows XP, unfortunately you're out of luck: DX11 is not supported under XP. For those of you that have Vista SP2 or Windows 7, but don't have a graphics card that supports DX11, hopefully this article might help you decide whether an upgrade is a good option. Before we get into the differences between the two, I need to give you the "disclaimer" bit. CFC was contacted a couple of weeks ago by NVIDIA. NVIDIA have been providing some support to Firaxis on the graphics hardware side for Civ5, and just over a week ago, they released a new entry-level (affordable) DX11 card, the GeForce GTS 450. NVIDIA proposed that they could send me one of these cards for review. Well, we're not a hardware review site, and if I tried to get into the technical details of the benefits of CUDA vs other graphics architecture, I would get shot to pieces by those who know a heck of a lot more about it than me. So I saw this as an opportunity not to review the card per-se, but to show you how such a card can (in my opinion) improve the look of Civilization 5, by giving you access to all the bells & whistles that come with DX11. We will also use this as an opportunity to tell you about a NVIDIA Civilization 5 promotion, but we'll get to that later. So a bit about the set-up I used here. I have two PCs - one is a few years old, the other not so old. I ran the "System Requirements" checks using System Requirements Info on my older PC (Core II Duo, E6600 running at 2.4 GHz), and it told me I met the "minimum CPU" requirement, but no the "minimum speed" requirement for the CPU. I'm not really sure why it concluded that, but to allow this to be a graphics-focused discussion, I used my more modern PC - a Core i7 860. All tests were run on this, using a ViewSonic VX2433wm 24" widescreen. Resolution was set to 1920x1080, 60Hz refresh rate, and "WaitForVerticalSync" set in the game options. Now, I'm no expert, but I understand that this option forces the game to limit the number of frames per second to the screen refresh rate. This is the standard option, and designed to give a smooth display. Other graphics options, I all set to "high" detail level. The graphics options available in Civ5 are shown below: Now: One important point to note is that (in my setup at least), anti-aliasing is set to "off" for the DX9 version - the option is grayed-out (the screenshot above is for the graphics settings for the DX11 version). Anti-aliasing is a technology used to smooth-out jagged lines on textures (read more about it here). Now, while Civ5 doesn't seem to support anti-aliasing, the in-game settings can be over-ridden using the NVIDIA graphics control panel. I did actually try this to demonstrate the effect, and you can see the difference in the image below. The image on the left is with Anti-Aliasing via the NVIDIA control panel, set at 8x. The image on the right shows the standard image. You can see from the image above, that the lines along the vertex of the tent are sharper and more jagged in the non-AA version. Now: One other point: In Civ5, there is a minimum default zoom level. To show the textures in all their glory, I changed a setting in the Config.ini file for Civ5. Code: ; How close you can get (11.0=default, 4.0=debug zoom) Minimum Zoom Level = 4.000000 This has allowed me to zoom in to really see the details up-close. And finally, before we get onto the review proper, let me state that I am not an expert on the subtleties of these two technologies. I aim to show you the differences between the two in terms of the graphical experience playing Civ5, but if I have my explanations wrong, then please forgive me! Now: On to the review!