Unity Gets the Vulkan Renderer Preview
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Unity Gets the Vulkan Renderer Preview
29 September, 2016
News

Developers from Unity Technologies have presented the first developer preview of the upcoming Vulkan renderer for Unity, previously announced at Google I/O. Vulkan is a new generation graphics and compute API that provides high-efficiency, cross-platform access to modern GPUs in both PCs and on mobile platforms. 

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The main benefit of Vulkan over older mobile rendering APIs such as OpenGL ES 3.x is speed. Vulkan is designed to take advantage of multiple CPU cores by allowing the application to build command lists in multiple threads in parallel. This allows the application to take advantage of all of the CPU cores on the device, improving performance. The Vulkan preview release supports this via the “Enable Graphics Jobs” checkbox in the player settings. However, we’re seeing large performance gains even when running the renderer in a single thread. In one of our internal benchmarks we’re seeing up to 35% improvement in frame times on Android, compared to OpenGL ES 3.1 renderer, even though they’re both running in a single rendering thread!

The build is based on Unity 5.5 beta 4 release. Remember to back up your projects before trying this out!

To enable Vulkan support, open “Player Settings…”, go to the “Other Settings” pane and clear the “Auto Graphics API” checkbox. You are presented with an ordered list of graphics APIs to choose from. If Vulkan is not on that list, click the ‘+’ sign at the bottom of the list to add it. Then drag Vulkan to be the first item on the list so that it’ll be used whenever supported, and you’re done! All your existing shaders will get translated to Vulkan SPIR-V (unless specifically disabled via #pragma only_renderers or similar), and the idea is that things should “Just Work”.

Unity Technologies

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You can also experiment with the Enable Graphics Jobs checkbox, it can give a nice performance boost especially on multi-core CPUs.

NOTE! When targeting Android, make sure you never have both “Multithreaded Rendering” and “Graphics Jobs (Experimental)” settings enabled at the same time. They are mutually exclusive, and in the final version we’ll silently ignore the Multithreaded Renderer setting if Graphics Jobs are enabled.

Now, just build & run, and if everything went as planned, you should see something like this in the player log at startup:

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The preview build supports Windows, Android and Linux. The company states there some issues they’re working on, which you can check out here.

Get the experimental build from beta page.

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