Launching Baldur’s Gate 3, many players encounter a choice – play using Vulkan or DirectX 11. What do these terms mean, and which one is actually better?

DX11 and Vulkan are both APIs – Application Programming Interfaces responsible for generating graphics in a video game.

Depending on the graphics card, they can provide a noticeably different aesthetic experience, so it’s crucial to recognize what they both offer. Are you wondering how the choice of API will impact your favorite video game performance? Let’s learn more to see what these alternatives mean!

Performance and Efficiency Low-overhead, improved game operation, reduces CPU memory load, precise control over hardware Stable operation, mature optimization, better for low-end hardware
Compatibility and Platform Support Cross-platform (Linux, macOS, Windows, Nintendo Switch, Android) Strong integration and optimization for Windows
Features and Capabilities Better FPS, highly compatible with high-end hardware, scales on multicores, best with AMD graphics cards Excellent for running older games on low-end hardware, works well with Nvidia graphics cards
Use Cases and Real-world Applications War Thunder, Valheim, Roblox, No Man's Sky, Hollow Knight, Life is Strange, Doom Eternal World of Warcraft, Medal of Honor, Metro 2033, Battlefield 3
Developer Preference Better for developing on multiple platforms, smoother operation Best choice for Windows platforms, easier to use
Gamer Preference Works better with AMD graphics cards Performs finer with Nvidia graphics cards

Understanding Graphics APIs

So, what exactly are these graphical APIs? Simply put, the Application Programming Interface is a channel between various software and hardware units, letting them share data and communicate most efficiently.

In video games, APIs are responsible for many details like graphics, sound, AI, and much more, providing developers with all the appropriate tools to communicate with crucial components.

As you’ve probably already guessed, all computers are unique, and their components may respond to some APIs with varying degrees of success. Some noticeably tweak the machine’s operation, while others don’t change much. Direct X is one of the most established and stable APIs for video games, so it has been a standard and reliable choice for developers and gamers for years.

Vulkan is relatively new, and many video games are still not fully optimized for its impressive features. However, it offers some exciting results, which you’ll learn about in this side-by-side comparison below.

The Key Differences Between Vulkan and DX11

  • Performance and Efficiency

Vulkan is a low-overhead, cross-platform 3D graphics solution created in 2016. Unlike DirectX, it focuses on reducing CPU memory load and guarantees precise control over the hardware, resulting in improved game operation.

Vulkan runs on many operating systems but is much more challenging to learn for novice developers.

Meanwhile, many games support Direct X, offering stable operation and mature optimization. While it may not deliver the same outstanding results as Vulkan, it is better for the smooth display of many games, especially those running on low-end hardware.

  • Compatibility and Platform Support

As a cross-platform API, Vulkan runs on multiple operating systems, including Linux, macOS, Windows, Nintendo Switch, Android, and more.

That makes it the first-ever solution of its kind for both PCs and mobile devices. On the other hand, DX 11 provides strong integration and optimization specifically for Windows environments.

  • Features and Capabilities

Apart from the already mentioned features, Vulkan offers modern capabilities like better frames per second values than DX 11. It is also highly compatible with high-end hardware and outperforms other APIs in scaling on multicores. As a newer API, it works best with AMD graphics cards and represents the default choice for Baldurs Gate 3.

DX is excellent at running older games on low-end hardware. While it may not provide operation results as impressive as Vulkan, its stability and Windows support make it popular among most gamers.

DX11 works particularly well with Nvidia graphics cards, delivering gameplay smooth enough for an enjoyable experience.

Use Cases and Real-world Applications

Vulkan has played a significant role in the creation of many wildly popular titles, including War Thunder, Valheim, Roblox, No Man’s Sky, Hollow Knight, and Life is Strange.

Doom Eternal also offers the option to run the game with Vulkan, resulting in significantly better operation accompanied by lower CPU and GPU usage. Although this API is still relatively young, it revolutionized the availability of games on various operating systems.

As a native graphics API for Windows, DX 11 supports games like World of Warcraft, Medal of Honor, Metro 2033, and Battlefield 3.

It is the most common choice among owners of older hardware or people unsure about their hardware specs. If you belong to this group and plan to play Baldur’s Gate 3, check if DirectX offers steadier performance.

Choosing Between Vulkan and DX11

Which API should developers and gamers choose in 2024 – Vulkan or DX11? The first group should consider their goals and skills.

Vulkan is better if they plan to develop a video game on multiple platforms, guaranteeing smoother operation. However, when looking for an API for Windows platforms that may be a little easier to use, DX 11 is the best choice.

Gamers, on the other hand, should definitely focus on what hardware their machine uses. As mentioned above, Vulkan works better with AMD, while DX11 performs finer with Nvidia graphics cards.

Ultimately, the outcome may also depend on other factors, so the best strategy is to test both.


Hopefully, you already know what an API is and which will be better for your upcoming project or gaming session. As both are strikingly different, you should be able to decide whether Vulkan or DX11 meets your expectations.

If you don’t know your machine specs, test both options and see what happens. At the end of the day, they may not impact much depending on the video game. But if one of them does and the change is for the better – the choice is obvious.