In a surprising move that no-one expected, NVIDIA has added full DirectX 12 feature-level support for graphics cards based on the Fermi architecture. This covers cards released under the GeForce GTX 400 and GTX 500 series families, and covers a couple of low-end rebrands that lasted all the way until the GT 600 series. There’s a few requirements that need to be in place first for this to work, however, and are also some caveats to this despite the fact that it works.
If you currently have a desktop or laptop with a Fermi-based GPU, you firstly need to be running Windows 10 version 1703, also known as the Creators Update. The Creators Update added provisional support for Fermi cards in the DirectX 12 API, but the drivers were the other thing needed to make this work. As of GeForce driver version 384.xx, all Fermi-based GPUs will now be DirectX 12_0 feature-level compliant. They’ll be able to run DirectX 12 benchmarks, and they’ll be able to play DirectX 12 titles like Forza Motorsport Apex or Gears of War 4. A lot of older high-end models like the GeForce GTX 580 are still very capable gaming cards for DirectX 11 titles, and now their life will be extended even further.
The Fermi architecture supports OpenGL 4.5, OpenCL 1.1, CUDA 2.0, and Shader Model 5.0, so they’re quite compatible with a lot of things that get done on the desktop today, including machine learning and CUDA acceleration for modern applications. However, the feature-level support for DirectX 12 also includes support for Shader Model 5.1 and also has backwards compatibility with DirectX 11 feature levels 2 and 3, which added new features that Fermi wasn’t capable of.
It may be the case that games using DirectX 12 are now playable, but there could be unexpected issues due to lacking hardware support, and some advanced features won’t work at all. Luckily, most DirectX 12 games have fall-back rendering modes for DirectX 11, so we’re covered for now. It’s just something to keep in mind for future purchases.