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Ray Tracing on a GTX

Is it working?

Nvidia latest driver release gives all of the 10 series video cards including and above the GTX 1060, the ability to support and run  Ray Tracing…. Say whaaaaat.

Ray Tracing was the main drive to change a 10 year old branding, going from GTX to RTX. Obviously Nvidia gambled big on Ray Tracing.

In effect this technology, already well known in the animation industry, renders on the fly life-like treatment of lights as well as life-like reflections. And it looks spectacular!

But, since the release of the RTX GPU line-up, 6 months ago, Nvidia has been facing a bumpy road in terms of adoption. Both on the user side and the developer side.

On the user side, the RTX card family is about 30% more expensive than all previous generations of GTX cards used to be, for very similar classical (non Ray-Tracing) performances when put head-to-head with its predecessor, the 10 series.

That resulted in the slowest user adoption rate seen in the past decade for Nvidia.

On the developer’s side, at launch date we had 2 games using Ray Tracing. 6 Months later, we have 3 … 1 more.

Despite Nvidia claiming that all major Gaming studios where working on Ray Tracing enabled games, facts are that industry adoption is simply not here.

And studios are not really rushing to rewrite their engines for 1 series of very expensive Nvidia cards, despite what the buzz was pointing at.

That is indeed very problematic for Nvidia. If there are no Ray Tracing Games, why would you spend a near fortune for a card which is other-wise in all point comparable to its predecessor on non-Ray Tracing games.  There is simply not enough of an incentive to upgrade.

And that’s near catastrophic for Nvidia.

So in a surprise move and hoping to make Ray Tracing more widely supported and therefore more attractive to developers, on the 11th of April, Nvidia released a global GeForce update enabling Ray Tracing on 10 series GPUs (1060 6GB and up).

But wait, didn’t we need the RT cores, only present in the RTX line-up, to support live Ray Tracing. In principle, that is what Nvidia told us and wanted us to believe for the longest time. But in application not really.

What Nvidia did here is to release a DXR emulator which takes classic CUDA cores and run them as RT Cores. Instructions are now feed back to Microsoft DXR API (DirectX 12), and voila. You have a Ray Tracing enabled engine on a classical 10 series card. Clever… but that also means that our 10 series have now less CUDA cores to do the gaming with. And will see the results of that in a bit.

But one would point at the obviously risk of seeing the cheaper 10 series cannibalizing its much more expensive 20 series sibling.

No risk there… cause RTX suuuuuucks on a GTX… and let me show you why.


CRUNCHING Numbers

I have taken the only 3 games in existence using Ray Tracing:

  • Battlefield V
  • Shadow of Tombraider
  • And the very recent Metro Exodus.

And keep in mind that they all use different doses of Ray Tracing going from its lighter usage in Battlefield V to a much heavier one on Metro Exodus, which uses Global Illumination Ray Tracing.

I have tested the cards respectively in all 1k ,2 and 4k with Ray Tracing on and off, on a 2080ti, a 2080 and a 1080ti  giving me 48 different combinations in total.

I was going to include the 1080 and 1070ti in the test… but after seeing the 1080ti Ray Tracing results… I decided not to.


Battlefield V

Battlefield V is the game with the least amount of Ray Tracing and therefor the one which showed best performances with Ray Tracing on.

With a (STRIX) 1080Ti, it manages to stay in the 2080 performance neighborhood in 1k, but is distanced by the 2080 in  2k, despite being somewhat playable.

In  4k, it’s barely playable especially on “First Person Shooter: games like this one.


Shadow of the TOMBRAIDER

In 1k, its quite playable, whilst far from the 2080 performance. But as soon as you go 2k…. u can see real slow downs with dips in the low 20s.

In 4k… its not playable per say. You do have an average of 26 fps depending of the maps you are playing, but you have serious dips at 13 frames per seconds.


METRO : EXODUS

And finally, in the only game using Global Ray Tracing… it’s a carnage. At 1k we have a barely playable 30 fps with dips below 25.

At 2k with Ray Tracing on, we are at 20 to 30 FPS with dips in the 15s.

At  4k with Ray Tracing on, we are at an unbearable 13 fps with dips at 5 frames per second.

Put Ray Tracing off, and you’ll jump to 100 fps. About 8 times faster. This needs no running commentary.

That’s precisely why I didn’t benchmark any other 10 series cards.  If the 1080ti gives you these kind of performances with Ray Tracing on, anything below is a waist of time. Not a playable option with Ray Tracing on anyways.


the real problem of Ray Tracing adoption, both on the user and developer side, is Nvidia 20 series pricing. Nothing else.

 

It’s all about the pricing

But surely Nvidia knew this prioir to the driver update. So why would they go ahead with the release?It feels like this is not only about the “let’s get a wider Ray Tracing hardware base” thing.

I think that it might be a bit more cynical than this.

I believe that NVIDIA also wanted to make a bitter point. Showing that their latest RT cards really have a lot more than a simple expansive re-branding and show the users, the industry and the critics (yours truly) that Tensor and RT cores are not just there for show but are indeed a breakthrough.

Indeed, when used, these 2 new family of cores absolutely nail Ray Tracing to the ground. And you can especially see this on BFV which has been releasing no less than a dozen update since its launch 5 short months ago… all of them to calibrate and improve DLSS usage, doubling Ray Tracing FPS in that same period.

But this does not change a thing. We only have 3 games on the market which fully and wholly adopted the technology. And even AMD is going for it. The Playstation V is equipped with an AMD GPU chipped and guess what, there are RT cores and its RAY Tracing enabled.

But this driver and its surprise 10 series Ray Tracing Support will only affect the few of us who have a 1080ti… or SLI configurations.

What this all marketing operation achieves is to show clear as light, that the real problem of Ray Tracing adoption, both on the user and developer side, is Nvidia 20 series pricing. Nothing else.

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Laurent

The never aging alpha geek is still here! Don't you dare question me!

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks Laurent, very interesting. I’m feeling fine now about staying with my faithful little GTX1060 6GB now.

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