Video Gamer Play // Ray tracing now runs on older Nvidia GPUs – but h...
Ray tracing now runs on older Nvidia GPUs – but how fast is it?
With the arrival of Nvidia’s RTX video cards and support for real-time ray tracing in both the DirectX 12 and Vulkan graphics APIs, we’re looking at one possible future for graphics technology – but it is one mired in controversy because up until this week, only RTX GPUs could run DXR-enabled software, meaning only a very limited number of PC users could access ray tracing functionality. But now, the floodgates are open: Nvidia’s latest driver allows its 10 and 16-series GPUs to run DXR software too. But is any kind of playable experience possible on cards without RTX’s hardware accelerated support?
We tested DXR software across three cards that lack Nvidia’s RT hardware – specifically the GTX 1060 6GB (the least capable compatible card), the GTX 1660 Ti (Turing with RT cores) and the top-end gamer’s 10-series offering, the excellent GTX 1080 Ti. To get a sense of comparison against the RTX line, we opted to bench the RTX 2080 and the RTX 2060. It’s an interesting assortment of cards: the RTX 2080 typically runs non-RT workloads at a similar speed to GTX 1080 Ti, while the 2060 is the cheapest card in the RTX line.
But what we quickly discovered is that outside of specially prepared ray tracing workloads, gaming benchmarks flatter to deceive the older cards. What quickly became evident is that RT workloads introduce such an enormous variability into gameplay that canned benchmarks only have limited relevancy compared to an actual experience of playing the game, and sometimes there’s basically no correlation at all. Ray tracing can add a baseline cost to a game, but in scenes heavy in RT components, a 10-series card crumples while a 20-series GPU powers through. As we discovered, what you test in-game needs to be very carefully selected.
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