Mesh shaders can boost FPS on current graphics cards by up to a massive 1800%

Written by Chad Norton on Fri, Feb 12, 2021 5:30 PM

A while ago we ran an Up For Debate on what the next big tech craze would be after ray tracing, and after some discussion the majority of the Game Debate community decided it would be based on performance, not graphics.

Well, I guess the GD community was right once again, as the current graphics cards (that is, the RTX 30 series from Nvidia and the RX 6000 series from AMD) can seemingly get a massive FPS performance boost of up to 1500% thanks to Mesh Shaders, a rendering technique that may soon become more widely used.

What are Mesh Shaders?

Nvidia has been touting Mesh Shaders ever since their launch for Turning-based GPUs (that’s the RTX 20 series and GTX 16 series). You can see the kind of implementation they demoed back then in the video below, which showed a scene with hundreds of asteroids on screen at any given moment with millions and billions of polygons, yet the FPS remained stable and smooth:

That’s Mesh Shading in action, which is a way to increase performance by only rendering exactly what is needed in a scene. Games already use similar techniques to this, but Mesh Shaders bring it to a whole other level.

By dynamically adjusting the LOD (Level of Detail) in a scene, players can not only benefit from much better performance, but also far more detailed objects and complex geometry. There’s a lot more to it than that, but think of this as the kind of Layman’s terms explanation: essentially, Mesh Shaders = Better Performance, without losing any detail whatsoever.

Mesh Shaders performance boost

Up until now, Mesh Shaders haven’t really been used in games yet since it is limited to only certain graphics cards. It was also hard to quantify really how much this feature will improve performance and was only available through the new DirectX 12 Ultimate API.

Thankfully that may change very soon, as the 3DMark benchmarking software can now put some actual performance numbers to the technology. So far, 3DMark has only added 2 feature tests from the DirectX 12 Ultimate API: these included DX Ray Tracing and Variable Rate Shading. Now UL has added a new feature test to 3DMark and it has to do with - yep, you guessed it - Mesh Shaders.

So how much can Mesh Shaders improve performance? Well, early results are staggering to be honest, with a performance boost of up to 1800%. Yes that’s right, the number in the title of this article wasn’t a typo as you may have thought.

Performance boosts seem to vary though, but on average you’re looking at anywhere from 500-1800% FPS increase on the new graphics cards like the RTX 30 series and RX 6000 series. Although Nvidia’s cards seem to get higher FPS numbers in general, it’s the AMD cards that see the biggest performance improvement.

A quick disclaimer though: although many graphics cards have been tested with the Mesh Shader feature test already including AMD’s RX 6000 GPUs, a recent driver for AMD significantly improved Mesh Shader performance for AMD cards. So unfortunately we only have one RX 6000 GPU tested compared to many other Nvidia cards. Still though, we can see the massive performance boost. (also if you want to test this yourself download the latest AMD driver for more accurate performance results).

So let’s see some actual numbers then shall we?

Well since we only have one AMD card (the RX 6800 XT ) that has been tested on the Mesh Shader Feature Test, let’s see how well it stacks up against Nvidia’s own equivalent (the RTX 3080 ).

3DMark Mesh Shader Feature Test Mesh Shaders Off (FPS) Mesh Shaders On (FPS) % FPS increase
RTX 3080 65.93 567.59 860.95%
RX 6800 XT 27.51 496.19 1803.65%

As you can see, the RTX 3080 gets much better overall FPS numbers at 65.93fps compared to AMD’s 27.51fps when the Mesh Shaders are turned off, then again when Mesh Shaders are turned on with Nvidia’s GPU reaching 567.59fps compared to AMD’s 496.19fps.

But it’s the percentage difference that really hammers home the performance boost, as the RTX 3080 had an increase of 860.95%, whilst the RX 6800 XT got a massive 1803.65% FPS boost. That’s, quite frankly, absolutely nuts.

Here’s even more benchmarks run on more graphics cards that we managed to collect from other users on the 3DMark database, including the above GPUs as well as the rest of the RTX 20 and 16 series.

Results seem to vary quite significantly between GPU and generation, so obviously more testing needs to be done to get the most accurate results. But quite frankly, what matters how much FPS it's off by when the %FPS increase results are in the hundreds.

3DMark Mesh Shader Feature Test Mesh Shaders Off (FPS) Mesh Shaders On (FPS) % FPS increase
RTX 3090 67.15 648.15 865.52%
RTX 3080 65.93 567.59 860.95%
RTX 3070 67.09 498.83 643.6%
RTX 3060 Ti 64.71 382.99 491.9%
RTX 2080 Ti 80.93 531.67 556.9%
RTX 2080 Super 81.68 443.72 460%
RTX 2080 80.99 440.58 444%
RTX 2070 Super 79.37 391.06 392.7%
RTX 2070 75.46 381.68 398%
RTX 2060 Super 76.07 323.97 325.9%
RTX 2060 72.29 279.90 287.2%
GTX 1660 Super 71.43 197.94 177.1%
GTX 1660 Ti 68.36 201.55 194.8%
GTX 1660 65.86 181.14 175.1%
GTX 1650 Super 29.98 159.17 430.9%
RX 6800 XT 27.51 496.19 1803.65%

Why aren’t Mesh Shaders used in games more often?

Honestly? I’m not quite sure. I’ve done some digging but so far can’t find a concrete answer yet. Maybe some of the more tech savvy among you can tell us exactly why games aren’t using it to this extent right now.

It might be partly due to the fact that Mesh Shaders are much harder to explain than, say, ray tracing or even DLSS, and so it doesn’t get as much coverage as those other graphics techniques.

There’s also the fact that it is only limited to certain graphics cards and API, and so there is less incentive for developers to use this technique. But even DLSS 1.0 was only on specific hardware and still got implemented into games, though granted only in a handful of titles.

So maybe there’s a lot more to it than that, but it is certainly exciting nonetheless for future games, as Mesh Shaders have the potential to allow developers to create super complex scenes without too much of a hit to performance (I'm particularly looking at you, Star Citizen). Plus, the fact that it doesn’t have any visual quality loss means DLSS may be a thing of the past soon - which despite working really well already, has some small limitations when it comes to graphical quality reduction.

What do you think? Is this future of gaming performance? Will this be the next big tech craze after ray tracing like we talked about before? And why are no developers using it right now? Let us know!

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23:14 Feb-14-2021

Can my current GPU benefits from this tech and gets high frame rate and playing games smoothly on a reasonable settings ?

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00:22 Feb-15-2021

No,it needs hardware support, only rtx 2000 gpus and up plus AMDs rx 6000 series and above support it

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10:54 Feb-15-2021

But why only the support is for RTX 2000 and up GPUs ? they are as you know a powerful GPUs, so why this new tech don't include a weaker GPUs like my GTX 750 ti to enhance it's performance, in my humble opinion I think the weaker GPUs.....

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11:00 Feb-15-2021

In my humble opinion I think the weaker GPUs must have the priority in this new tech boost and I hope the dream become true and they make support for weaker GPUs.

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19:40 Feb-13-2021

Pretty much all AAA games use mesh shading already. It's not new. The speedup in the asteroids demo is best-case scenario, but not realistic in typical games.

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12:06 Feb-13-2021

This, make this common in game development.

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08:44 Feb-13-2021

Great article by the way, was a nice read about something I wasn't yet familiar with, thanks!

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07:09 Feb-13-2021

will we need New Game engines to make use of these or will it work with existing engines? with serious modifications?

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04:12 Feb-13-2021

If this feature were in games the GPU industry will go out of business because the need to upgrade a GPU every 6 months would cease to exist. xD

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16:04 Feb-13-2021

Not really they will just introduce some other heavy graphic features that will hammer the performance and thus ensuring the need to upgrade.

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junior admin badge
00:30 Feb-13-2021

As much as I'd love to see Mesh Shaders in action, the likelihood of that happening within a quick period of time (say the next 2 years) is low.


On a side note. One of the few devs that could (in my humble opinion) try to incorporate that tech into a AAA game, would be the DOOM devs. Given their past with Vulcan, if there ever was is a group of ppl that could pull it off it's them.

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22:18 Feb-12-2021

yo they should bring those to 10 series gpus also

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06:55 Feb-13-2021

somebody please! get this man a COOKIE

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00:27 Feb-15-2021

Because you have a 1080 right ? Might as well bring it to all gpus if they can give support to older gpus than the rtx 2000 series,but thats likely not possible

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10:08 Feb-15-2021

Why wouldnt it be possible?

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19:53 Feb-12-2021

No way it's going improve performance because devs will just optimise the games less if they get the headroom. Pretty games are easier to sell than good performing games at least on consoles.

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21:59 Feb-12-2021

While this may be true to some degree but devs also want their games to stand out in graphics as it is one of big selling points. So in my opinion yes it gives more wiggle room for devs for optimization or lack of but it will definitely improve graphics by far in upcoming future.

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00:06 Feb-13-2021

You would have to do a really terrible job to squander a 1000% FPS increase.

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junior admin badge
00:15 Feb-13-2021

Never underestimate the power of laziness

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07:06 Feb-13-2021

I think going forward with this Generation of Gaming Consoles we might see 120 FPS being a huge selling point and with Variable Refresh Rate Monitors getting common and TV's getting Serious with Gaming Capabilites and including VRR we might

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07:08 Feb-13-2021

see Games come with High Refresh rate as major selling points and if you can have it play fast and smooth while still looking Pretty and Shiny Damn thats the Holy Grail of game advertising Right there

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14:04 Feb-14-2021

Bullsh1t,long term devs will always prioritize graphics and not framerate,you'll be lucky to get 60fps towards the end of the generation

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07:22 Feb-15-2021

but from what Ive heard making Graphics Better is getting crazy expensive from a Development Cost perspective + development Time. then isnt it smarter to market it as a Realistic / HyperRealistic game with a Better Feel than risk it with HU

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07:25 Feb-15-2021

HUGE development Cost? and as Digital Platforms get stronger and Gamers start refunding games i mean sure CD project RED made a killing with Cyberpunk and they will fix the game but man plenty of gamers did refund it as well. Even WARNER BR

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07:25 Feb-15-2021

BROTHERS had to offer Refunds for Arkham Knight

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12:15 Feb-15-2021

The really big developement costs usually come from the games that push the size and complexity of their games more and more,and less from pushing graphics

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12:18 Feb-15-2021

Because now we have ray tracing,and this will simplify and lighten the burden of graphics artist a lot long term

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19:03 Feb-12-2021

I can see it being used but at a driver limited scale. No way 1800 percent!

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22:00 Feb-12-2021

Yes it is best case scenario but its very interesting and exciting feature which imo will be mandatory to run most modern games.

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00:30 Feb-15-2021

If nvidia had a monopoly on gpus and there wasn't a pesky little AMD breathing down their necks, that might just happen, but thankfully AMD is slowly but surely

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00:32 Feb-15-2021

Getting its sh1t back together, so ngredia cant afford to pull stunts like that or they'll lose their little prom crown

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00:34 Feb-15-2021

Not to mention that Intel will also soon enter the gpu space,and they had anounced support for mesh shading in their gaming grade gpu's

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18:44 Feb-12-2021

so now if a game has it.... i can't turn it on because i don't have DX12U ? Benchmarks can use it on GTX 16xx .... because they are benchmarks but games no?


Sorry i don't seem to understand this topic fully. Any help would be appreciated

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18:17 Feb-12-2021

Current business models show that we'll never get this improvement too soon or too cheap. It's just bad business. Look at Nvidia, it's almost March and we're still waiting for that free (albeit nothing radical) performance gain from the smart access memory. Who, in their right mind, would give us at least 500fps just like that... Which is sad, but true.

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18:31 Feb-12-2021

But its a product that already exists and is already out there. It's up to the game devs to use it. If they're not because of GPU makers it means Nvidia and AMD are pushing them to not use it.

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18:48 Feb-12-2021

this thing can make a GTX 1650S/GTX 1650 the best bang4buck gpus. Nvidia should help developers implementing it.. it can alleviate some of the demand on RTX 30 series casual gamers get an RTX 2060 or GTX 16 and they are fine.

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21:23 Feb-12-2021

Nah, nvidia just want you to buy more gpus (want the moneh), reason why they are releasing gpus with 8 and 10gb of ram so that in 2 or 3 years you buy another one with more vram.This is why i dont think we will see another situation like the 10 series gpu back in 2016 that are still ok if you dont care about RT in recent games.

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17:23 Feb-13-2021

totally agree
i have a 1070 ti and i play most games on 2k high at least 60 fps

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18:04 Feb-12-2021

no way it will be fully supported otherwise no one will ever upgrade or at least not after a longtime witch is bad for buisness lets say

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18:23 Feb-12-2021

Yep, i agree witt this statement, have my upvote, even if the performance increase was 50 or 60% it will slowly kill the gpu market if this gets implemented as very few people will be pushed to upgrade thei gpus.

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junior admin badge
00:17 Feb-13-2021

Sadly the cynic in me agrees with you.

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17:54 Feb-12-2021

I can't see them implementing this, it would kill the market for new gfx cards, wouldn't it? Not that there's any cards available out there...now, if it had a negative effect on mining, that would be good...

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17:39 Feb-12-2021

1800% fps boost on... benchmarks! Sounds cool but now something needs to utilize it.

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17:38 Feb-12-2021

Seems cool. Everything tech-wise seems to be improving crazy fast.

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Core i5-4570 3.2GHz Radeon HD 7970 OC Sapphire Edition 16GB
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