NVIDIA Ray Tracing Explained in Time for New Driver and Demos

Yolanda Curtis
April 15, 2019

The driver revision also sees a large jump, indicating this is a major update-Nvidia has gone from version 419.67 to 425.31. Long baked into the DXR specification itself - which is designed encourage ray tracing hardware development while also allowing it to be implemented via traditional compute shaders - the addition of DXR support in cards without hardware support for it is a small but important step in the deployment of the API and its underlying technology. 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.

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 1920×1080, the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is capable of maintaining frame rates above 50fps in two of the three titles when running below "Ultra" quality. It's also important to note that performance varies depending on which method and how aggressively a game uses ray tracing. It features ray-traced reflections, ray-traced area light shadows, ray-traced ambient occlusion for characters and NVIDIA DLSS technology. GTX cards tend to struggle with advanced reflections and ambient occlusion in particular, as the 1080 Ti only manages an average of 9.4 frames per second at 1440p in NVIDIA's Reflections DXR tech demo.

The Nvidia GeForce GTX series of GPUs from the GTX 1060 upwards will now support ray tracing.

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).

Not every single GTX card is supported, of course, but most of the Pascal line is.

This post originally appeared on Tom's Guide.

To celebrate, Nvidia released three ray tracing demos.

Unfortunately, things get worse for GTX cards as we move through the different types of ray tracing and up the complexity.

You can see from the header up the top there which techniques are being used by current ray tracing-enabled games.

Nvidia explains ray tracing in a video released Thursday, just in time for a new driver for GeForce GTX GPUs and new demos demonstrating the technology, according to a press release. At the time of their announcement, NVIDIA announced that this driver would be released in April, and now this morning, NVIDIA is releasing the new driver.

What this means is that despite NVIDIA's promise to offer ray-tracing on Pascal, the features are largely unworkable for real-life gaming. While these cards feature the Turing architecture, both are missing the dedicated RT Core silicon to augment the ray tracing experience.

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