NVIDIA is bringing ray-tracing to GTX 10 series cards after all

NVIDIA GTC 2019

Well this is an interesting turn of events. At a GTC 2019 keynote earlier this morning, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang stated that their GeForce GTX 10 series graphics cards will support ray-tracing in an April driver update.

Their performance won’t be up to par with the newer RTX series, of course, but the hope is that this will accelerate tech growth and developer take-up.

Here’s what it says straight from NVIDIA’s presser:

“NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPUs powered by Pascal and Turing architectures will be able to take advantage of ray tracing-supported games via a driver expected in April. The new driver will enable tens of millions of GPUs for games that support real-time ray tracing, accelerating the growth of the technology and giving game developers a massive installed base.

With this driver, GeForce GTX GPUs will execute ray-traced effects on shader cores. Game performance will vary based on the ray-traced effects and on the number of rays cast in the game, along with GPU model and game resolution. Games that support the Microsoft DXR and Vulkan APIs are all supported.”

Is your GPU on the list?

The applicable GTX cards are below, including their notebook variants:

  • Pascal
    • Titan V
    • Titan XP
    • Titan X
    • GTX 1080 Ti
    • GTX 1080
    • GTX 1070 Ti
    • GTX 1070
    • GTX 1060 6GB
  • Turing
    • GTX 1660 Ti
    • GTX 1660

You’ll be limited to what NVIDIA calls “Basic RT Effects” with a lower ray-count. Their beefier RTX cousins will still see better experience, with “2-3x” faster performance and more.

That being said, the list of games is still limited to a small list of newer titles such as Metro ExodusShadow of the Tomb Raider, and Battlefield V. You’ll get to see those ray-traced reflections in action but not the more taxing enhancements such as global illumination.

Greater availability to developers

As mentioned, the hope is that the larger install base would translate to faster adoption and exploration by game developers. For that, NVIDIA had  two more announcements to make. The first is that real-time ray tracing will be integrated into the widely-used Unreal Engine and Unity, while the other is that the new NVIDIA GameWorks RTX open source tools will be available as plugins for said game engines.

A burn for early adopters

While this is good news for most, some RTX early adopters are probably feeling stung by the whole update. Ray-tracing was the golden carrot for NVIDIA’s new GPU line, in what was generally understood as an exclusive feature and the whole point of upgrading; the RTX 2080 Ti does fare better at 4K gaming than its Pascal counterpart, but even then the improvements weren’t so drastic to warrant a generational flagship upgrade. It pays to be wary of the hype train.

See more ray-tracing in action

We’re likely to see some cool RTX developments as the tech matures — like the Beat Saber for VR, if you will — but for now we’ll settle for these beautiful comparison screenshots for Quake II RTX and some new trailers.

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Ade Putra

Ade thinks there's nothing quite like a good game and a snug headcrab. He grew up with HIDEO KOJIMA's Metal Gear Solid, lives for RPGs, and is waiting for light guns to make their comeback.