The Vulkan API is promising exciting new things for mobile gaming and 3D application development, and today the company behind the popular Unity engine has announced that its Vulkan Renderer Preview is now live for developers to test out.
The benefits brought about with the introduction of Vulkan are a major speed boost, improved multithreading, and new graphical features. Vulkan boasts notable speed improvements over OpenGL ES 3.x, as the new API has been designed to take advantage of multiple CPU coress along with other optimizations. Unity says that it has seen benchmark performance improvements up to 35 percent with its new renderer, compared with the old OpenGL ES 3.1 renderer, even through they’re both running on a single thread. The cross platform Vulkan API was officially supported on smartphones with the release on Android 7.0 Nougat.
Unity’s Vulkan Renderer Preview is still in the experimental phase at the moment, but the option is now there for developers to enable, if they so choose. First, you’ll need to grab the experimental build from the Unity beta page. To enable Vulkan support, open “Player Settings”, then go to the “Other Settings” pane and clear the “Auto Graphics API” checkbox. Here you’ll be presented with a list of graphics APIs to choose from, which should include Vulkan.
If developers want to test out the improved multi-core performance on offer with Vulkan, they can also hit the Graphics Jobs checkbox for a notable performance boost. Although Unity notes that developers should never have both “Multithreaded Rendering” and “Graphics Jobs (Experimental)” settings enabled at the same time.
The team is currently testing the renderer out on the Exynos Samsung Galaxy S7 model, the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X, NVIDIA Shield Tablet, and Shield TV. For PC hardware, Unity recommends that developers grab the latest AMD and NVIDIA drivers as well. As is always the case with early builds, there are already a few documented bugs, including crashes, so be sure to back up your projects before diving in.