Mantle will require a GCN architecture GPU to work; not an open standard like OpenCL or OpenGL

Battlefield 4 v2

You’ve got to love PR marketing. Earlier last week, AMD revealed Mantle. As the red team hinted during its AMD event, Mantle would be compatible with AMD’s GPUs. Despite some websites claiming that this API will be open to other graphics manufacturers, it was recently revealed that Mantle will require cards based on AMD’s GCN architecture to work.

This was confirmed by both DICE’s Johan Andersson and AMD’s Chief Software Raja Koduri. Not only that, but as PCGamesHardware reported, AMD does not consider Mantle an open standard like OpenCL or OpenGL.

Koduri tried to save the day and also claimed that ‘if a competitor were to approach AMD to make their own backend and drivers for Mantle, AMD would not dismiss them right away.’ (thanks Beyond3D).

Sounds familiar? This is precisely the same thing Nvidia said about GPU PhysX. As NeoGAF’s member ‘angular graphics’ noted, Nvidia claimed – back in the days – that it was ‘committed to an open PhysX platform that encourages innovation and participation,’ and that company would be ‘open to talking with any GPU vendor about support for their architecture.’

Now replace the word PhysX with Mantle and you got yourself the very same thing happening with AMD.

In short, although AMD claims that any GPU manufacturer will be able to use Mantle, the cards from AMD’s rivals should be based on GCN. This means that Nvidia should abandon its current architecture in favor of this new API, something that – obviously – is not going to happen anytime soon. The fact that Mantle takes advantage of the GCN architecture also proves that we’re basically talking about a Glide API (specific API for a number of cards) and not a DirectX or OpenGL API (universal API supported by all cards).

Now there is a possibility that AMD will help Nvidia to develop a different path for Nvidia’s cards in order to support Mantle. Do note that we’re now simply speculating. Right now, Mantle can only be used by GCN Radeon cards, and that’s a fact. So, let’s ask ourselves this simple question; would Nvidia work with AMD in order to provide a different GPU PhysX path for the read team’s cards? And let’s say that AMD does actually co-work with Nvidia for a different path, will that path be as efficient as the one used for AMD’s cards?

Last but not least, Matt Skynner (corporate vice president and general manager at AMD) claimed that AMD would not be developing a completely new API just to get a 3 or 4 percent gain in performance and that the performance gain will be significant. Not only that, but Battlefield 4’s footage – during AMD’s event – was running on a beta version of Mantle, meaning that the final performance boost could be even better. And as you may have guessed, AMD’s future cards will be compatible with Mantle (compatibility with Mantle will be on the requirements list for future GPUs).

AMD promised to reveal more next month, during its upcoming event. DICE’s Johan Andersson will be meeting with John Carmack (and Tim Sweeney) next month to discuss about Mantle, so it will be interesting to see what the current-gen gurus can come up with.

Enjoy and stay tuned for more!