When Nvidia launched Turing, it decided to bifurcate its product branding, splitting the GeForce brand into two segments. GTX cards, even those based on Turing-class GPUs, would not include the new specialized hardware functions that enable Nvidia’s ray tracing support. RTX cards, which support Microsoft’s DirectX Ray Tracing (DXR) with some additional hardware capabilities, would.
Last month, the company shifted this guidance. DXR/RTX capabilities would be unlocked on Nvidia GTX GPUs, including last-generation Pascal cards, via a special driver update. 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. The new WHQL 425.31 driver enables RTX on GTX GPUs.
Ray tracing does carry a heavy performance hit — but the results from testing Pascal cards with the feature suggests that at least the 1080 Ti is capable of enabling the feature some of the time. Nvidia has published benchmark results from its own tests in three games: Metro Exodus, Battlefield V, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
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. In the third game, Metro Exodus, only the 1080 Ti can crack 30fps in this mode.
The relatively strong results for the 1080 and even the 1070, however, suggest that GTX gamers should at least be able to sample games in ray-traced mode. Even the GTX 1060 can squeeze above 30 fps in Battlefield V. For those looking for independent results, PC Gamer has confirmed its own numbers broadly conform to Nvidia’s own.
Note that these results do not include frame times, which typically rose on Turing GPUs when performing DXR calculations. It’s possible that Pascal may not perform as well as a Turing GPU of similar frame rate as a result. Without frame time information we can’t draw a conclusion there one way or the other.
It is not clear if Nvidia’s decision to open up support to GTX cards has any implications for AMD’s own ability to support these features. Just because both cards support a common code path does not always mean that their implementations of a feature do not benefit from fine-tuning. All of the tuning for DXR support has presumably been done solely on Nvidia GPUs, so how AMD cards would perform in these workloads or with these features enabled is still unknown.
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