NVIDIA has released the Game Ready Driver 425.31 WHQL which enables ray tracing for GeForce GTX graphics cards – a capability previously reserved for the company's RTX series of graphics cards. This change "enables millions more gamers with GeForce GTX GPUs to experience ray tracing for the first time ever", as the list of DXR-capable graphics cards from NVIDIA has grown considerably as of today.
The list of NVIDIA GPUs that are DXR-capable now includes (in addition to the RTX series):
- GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
- GeForce GTX 1660
- NVIDIA TITAN Xp (2017)
- NVIDIA TITAN X (2016)
- GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
- GeForce GTX 1080
- GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
- GeForce GTX 1070
- GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
- Laptops with equivalent Pascal and Turing-architecture GPUs
NVIDIA previously warned of a performance deficit when comparing even high-end Pascal GPUs such as the GTX 1080 Ti to the Turing-based RTX 20-series GPUs when this driver update was discussed during GTC, and their position is that for the best experience dedicated ray tracing cores will be required, and will make a measurable impact – with or without DLSS (a feature that requires the RT cores of the RTX series of GPUs).
"With dedicated RT cores, GeForce RTX GPUs provide up to 2-3x faster performance in ray-traced games, enabling more effects, higher ray counts, and higher resolutions for the best experience. 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."
In addition to the driver release which enables the visual goodies associated with real-time ray tracing, NVIDIA has also released a trio of tech demos on GeForce.com which you can freely download to check out ray tracing first hand on GTX and RTX graphics cards. Not only will these demos give you a taste of what you might expect from games that incorporate DXR features, but like any good demo they will help users get a sense of how their system might handle these effects.
The demos released include, via NVIDIA:
Atomic Heart RTX tech demo – Atomic Heart tech demo is a beautifully detailed tech demo from Mundfish that features ray traced reflections and shadows, as well as NVIDIA DLSS technology.
Justice tech demo – Justice tech demo hails from China, and features ray traced reflections, shadows, and NVIDIA DLSS technology. It is the first time that real time ray tracing has been used for caustics.
Reflections tech demo – The Reflections tech demo was created by Epic Games in collaboration with ILMxLAB and NVIDIA. Reflections offers a sneak peek at gaming’s cinematic future with a stunning, witty demo that showcases ray-traced reflections, ray-traced area light shadows, ray-traced ambient occlusion for characters and NVIDIA DLSS technology.
The download page for the tech demos can be found here.
And now to editorialize briefly, I'll point out that one of the aspects of the RTX launch that did not exactly work to NVIDIA's advantage was (obviously) the lack of software to take advantage of their hardware ray tracing capabilities and DLSS, with just a few high-profile titles to date offering support. By adding the previous generation of GPUs to the mix users now have a choice, and the new demos are a big a part of the story, too. Looking back to the early days of dedicated 3D accelerators the tech demo has been an integral part of the GPU experience, showcasing new features and providing enthusiasts with a taste of what a hardware upgrade can provide. The more demos showcasing the effects possible with NVIDIA's ray tracing hardware available, the more Pascal GPU owners will have the ability to check out these features on their own systems without making a purchase of any kind, and if they find the effects compelling it just might drive sales of the RTX 20-series in the endless quest for better performance. It really should have been this way from the start, but at least it has been corrected now – to the benefit of the consumer.
This kinda feel like a “New
This kinda feel like a “New Coke” moment. So if the GTX can do RT then why is there RTX?
Did you read the article? It
Did you read the article? It answers that.
While any card can
While any card can technically do “ray Tracing”, it just won’t be a good experience.
Nvidia’s purpose here is to advertise and upsell.
That ray tracing demo on AMD
That ray tracing demo on AMD Vega 56 really shook them up. I have a feeling they didnt want to repeat a FreeSync vs GSYNC scenario again.
That’s also because Microsoft
That’s also because Microsoft wants to get more DXR/DX12 adoption in games so that means a separate code path for GPUs without the direct Hardware support for Ray Tracing, or AI/Tensor-Cores. So that means shader core accelerated Ray Tracing and/or CPU core caclulated Rays.
That’s nothing unusual for MS and its eariler DX## versions when a new DX## version was made available and MS creating a separate software code path for older GPUs that lack all of the Latest DX/Whatever feature level support in their hardware.
The very same thing applies for Khronos and its Vulkan API with there being a separate code path for any Nvidia, AMD, or Intel/other GPUs/Graphics that lack direct Ray Tracing and Tensor Core support in their GPU hardware.
AMD’s Shader Core Heavy Vega 10 and Vega 20 based SKUs are going to fare better on any Shader Core accelerated Ray Tracing compared to Nvidia’s Pascal/Eariler SKUs that have less numerous Shader Core Counts and do not have any RTX in hardware features sets like RTX/Turing supports.
The Vega 10(Big Die Not Mobile) Tapeout based Vega 56 has the exact numbers of shader cores and TMUs as the GP102 Based GTX 1080Ti with Vega 64 having even more available shader cores at 4096. So any Vega 10(Big Die) and even Vega 20 based SKUs have plenty of excess shader cores to compete well in Ray Tracing workloads against Nvidia’s non RTX Pascal SKUs. And even Nvidia’s GTX/Turing based non RTX enabled variants will also do better because of Turing’s increased Shader core counts relative to Pascal and Turing’s Shader cores can also do Int and FP calculations at the same time whereas Pacsal’s shader cores can not.
Ray Tracing can also be offloaded to any excess CPU cores and AMD’s Ryzen/Threadripper SKUs are also not short on the available CPU cores that can also be used for some Ray Tracing/Other acceleration workloads also along with the GPU doing that on the Shader cores.
Any Vega 20 based consumer variants like the Radeon VII are also going to have the Vega-2 GPU Micro-Arch’s related AI Instruction Set Extentions that where added for Vega 20. So any “DLSS” like workloads on Vega 20 based SKUs will also execute more efficiently via those AI ISA extentions. But both AMD and Intel will have to begin to design Hardware based Tensor Cores and Ray Tracing cores IP of their own in order to remain competative with Nvidia in the longer run.
Whow knows currently what Navi will include for the Discrete GPU gaming market but FPGAs can also be made use of for thigs like Ray Tracing and AI/Tensor cores implemented on FPGAs in advance of there being any GPU ASIC support for that on AMD’s GPUs, Intel’s GPUs as well.
MS and Sony are Free to add extra support for their console SKUs that they are paying AMD to help design using AMD’s Zen/Navi IP and AMD does have a patent pending/patent filing for some FPGA support added to the HBM2 die stacks so that’s a possible solution for any semi-custom console client if they want to add FPGA implemented Tensor Cores or Ray Tracing cores to any gaming console. FPGA’s can be added on the motherboard/PCIe card also if HBM2/newer memory is not being used.
MS already has the DX12 API loaded into the XBONEX with its DX12 API calls that are implemented directly into the GPU’s command processor to speed things up and reduce latency on MS’s current console offerings. So It’s not out of the question for AMD’s semi-custom division to make use of some FPGA IP if MS/Sony commission/fund that IP to be made use of. So FPGAs can be programmed for Ray Tracing(BVH) acceleration or even Tensor Cores to accelerate AI based denoising or “DLSS”/AA upscaling/anti aliasing.
All current GPU hardware based Ray Tracing is not really fully Ray Traced on games as Nvidia, and Imagination Technologies(PewerVR Wizard), make use of Hybrid Ray Tracing Mixed with Raster generated output for Hybrid “Real Time” Ray Tracing. So even the TU102 based Nvidia GPUs can not make use of totally Ray Traced Render Passes for AO, Shadow, Environment, Reflection/Refraction and other render passes. So Games/Gaming Engine developers can tweak their code paths to make better use of any available Ray Tracing acceleration assets that will generate Ray output to be mixed in with the regular Raster output to varying degrees and all GPUs, CPUs, can be made use of for that to some degree for gaming.
This driver support was known
This driver support was known to the public before the Crytek demo though.