New Nvidia Drivers Unlock Ray Tracing on GTX Cards

New Nvidia Drivers Unlock Ray Tracing on GTX Cards

Nvidia released today the drivers that will enable ray tracing on GTX graphics cards.

Laptops which are running the mobile version (or Max-Q) counterparts of these GPUs are also capable of whipping out some real-time ray-traced lights after installing the latest update.

For the unfamiliar, ray tracing is created to bring enhanced lighting and shadow effects to game environments, making them look even more realistic. There's no many games out there supporting it, though, with only a few demos available, and some games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider supporting it but only for things like shadows.

The big question, though, is whether DXR will end up nuking these cards' performance without the aid of proper RT (or ray tracing) Cores found on Nvidia's RTX GPUs. At the same time, you can also see that the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti is nearly as fast as the GTX 1080 despite having lower compute horsepower.

The average framerates it gave were understandably underwhelming, but it should be pointed out that the scenarios NVIDIA ran them in were all done at 1440p resolution and with nearly all the settings maxed out either to Ultra or the second highest quality. But Nvidia's early discussions of DXR also emphasized that the performance impact of enabling ray tracing was ruinous - heavy enough that only specialty cards like Turing could handle it in the first place. However, remember that these benchmark tests were running ultra and high DXR, and as we already mentioned, Nvidia did tell us that we should only expect basic effects, ie low DXR.

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"With this new driver however, GeForce GTX 1060 6GB and higher GPUs can execute ray-tracing instructions on traditional shader cores, giving gamers a taste, albeit at lower RT quality settings and resolutions, of how ray tracing will dramatically change the way games are experienced".

Naturally, you have to bear in mind that the performance hit on GTX cards may be a tough blow to take, given that they don't have the fancy on-board tech and dedicated RT cores that really help with rendering scenes with ray tracing (which is an intensive task even for an RTX GPU, after all). What that means is even though a card like the GTX 1070 (5783 GFLOPS) theoretically has more computational power than the GTX 1660 (5027 GFLOPS), in numerous tests the GTX 1660 ends up being faster with ray tracing-and the more ray tracing that's used, the better the Turing cards do relative to Pascal, so for example in Atomic Heart and Star Wars Reflections, the 1660 even outperforms the GTX 1080.

This post originally appeared on Tom's Guide. The latest driver was announced last month by NVIDIA at GDC 2019, allowing non-RTX graphics cards to provide users with the ability to render real-time ray tracing effects. Thanks to this new driver there are now "tens of millions of DXR GPUs" in consumer PCs. The performance will naturally be better on Nvidia's RTX line of GPUs.

Nvidia has released new ray tracing benchmarks that the company hopes will give gamers a sense of how developers are using its marquee technology.

Unfortunately, the ray tracing won't be coming to GTX 1060 3GB, GTX 1050 or GTX 1030 cards.

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