NVIDIA MADE such a song and dance about ray-tracing that it's bringing the slick real-time rendering capabilities to its older 10-series GTX cards.
Those capabilities will come courtesy of Nvidia's next GeForce driver, scheduled for release in April, which will enable support for DirectX ray-tracing.
That all sounds well and good, as on paper Nvidia is bringing one of the features it touted for its flash new GeForce 20-series RTX graphics cards to GPUs that are a lot less heavy on the wallet.
But there's a pretty obvious catch. The 20-series GeForce cards got the RTX moniker due to having cores dedicated for handling the complex calculations ray-tracing needs to deliver so-called global illumination, whereby lighting is more accurately reproduced in a scene by rendering pretty much all the paths light can take, including bouncing off shiny surfaces.
That takes a lot of power, so much so that the GeForce RTX 2060 with its dedicated RT cores can only run the games that support ray-tracing like Metro Exodus and Battlefield V, at 1080p resolutions and, according to various benchmarks, struggles to get close to 60 frames per second with all the settings cranked up.
So how the heck a Pascal architecture-based GPU with no dedicated RT cores will handle real-time ray-tracing is the major question. And it's one we can't answer until the driver rolls out.
But it could be the case that the 10-series cards, which will need to use their CUDA cores to chew through ray-tracing calculations rather than offload those to RT cores, will run a lower end take on global illumination. Perhaps it will be lower fidelity or the number of rays that get traced will be reduced.
And maybe with some careful fiddling of settings, ray-tracing could be used in games running on 10-series cards that balance visuals against playable frame rates.
But until we see ray-tracing enabled on Pascal cards ourselves, it's hard to tell what's going to happen.
However, by enabling ray-tracing support on older cards, Nvidia is effectively expanding the install base of ray-tracing enabled graphics cards. In turn, that could make going to the extra effort of enabling ray-tracing in games more appealing to developers because, in theory, more people should be able to witness their efforts.
We're not expecting to see a deluge of games with ray-tracing pop up just yet, but Nvidia is at least putting stepping stone out there for developers to tentatively hop to. µ
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