Nvidia’s ray tracing technology is arriving to GTX 10-series cards today. But be warned: the graphics effects can seriously drag down a game’s frame rate.
According to Nvidia’s own benchmarks, GTX 10-series cards will struggle to fully render the ray tracing effects when running applicable games at a 2560 by 1440 pixel resolution on the highest settings.
Depending on the card, expect to squeeze out between 12 to 30 frame rates per second —far below the more optimal 60 fps— when running titles such as Battlefield V or Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
The frame rate will drop even further —to 6 to 16 fps— for the game Metro Exodus, which features extensive ray tracing across entire virtual environments. As you can see below, even the company’s newly-released GTX 1660 and 1660 Ti cards offer subpar performance.
So to enjoy ray tracing on a GTX 10-series card, you’ll have to dial down a game’s graphics settings.
While speaking with journalists, Nvidia product manager Justin Walker said he recommends playing the games at a 1920 by 1080 resolution, and perhaps downgrading other settings. “Maybe turn the ray tracing down a little bit, and you’ll get some playable frame rates,” he added.
The benchmarks will probably disappoint. But the company wants millions of additional gamers to enjoy ray tracing, rather than keep the technology exclusive to Nvidia’s latest line of RTX cards.
For the unfamiliar, ray tracing is designed to bring enhanced lighting and shadow effects to game environments, making them look even more realistic. For example, the technology can turn in-game water puddles into reflective surfaces, or generate additional shadows around virtual objects.
However, Nvidia’s ray tracing technology was only optimized for the company’s RTX series cards, which first launched last fall. The older GTX 10-series cards, on the other hand, were never designed to render the lighting and shadow effects with the same efficiency as their RTX counterparts.
The benchmarks from Nvidia illustrate the performance gap. Compared with GTX 10-series, the newer RTX cards can sometimes double, triple and even quadruple the frame rate for games or demos that use ray tracing.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to run two or three GTX 10-series cards together to improve the ray tracing performance. According to Walker, Nvidia hasn’t been focused on bringing SLI support to ray tracing. Instead, the company has been devoting its time to making more games support the technology.
“There’s a lot of interest from developers around this,” Walker said. “They all understand this is the way graphics are going to be.”
Owners of GTX 10-series cards can start running the ray tracing effects by downloading Nvidia’s latest drivers, which will be available on the GeForce website and over Nvidia’s GPU optimization tool, GeForce Experience.
Unfortunately, the ray tracing won’t be coming to GTX 1060 3GB, GTX 1050 or GTX 1030 cards.