NVIDIA is bringing ray tracing to older GeForce GTX GPUs

NVIDIA has partnered with Unity and Unreal to integrate ray tracing into both game engines, and the chip vendor is also bringing the tech to older GPUs. NVIDIA will roll out a driver update next month that will bring ray tracing to its GeForce GTX cards, with everything from the GTX 1060 and above slated to receive the update that enables DXR on these cards.

As DXR is a series of APIs, it doesn't matter what hardware it runs on. NVIDIA mentioned that it always knew there was a possibility for ray tracing to be on older hardware, with the vendor stating that the first demo was performed on a Titan Z. That said, the RT cores offer 2x to 3x better performance in terms of image quality, but the tech itself works on Pascal-based GTX cards as well.

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NVIDIA is essentially taking a two-pronged approach here — it is teaming up with leading game engines to make it easier for devs to build games with real-time ray tracing, and it is also making the technology itself available on more cards. RTX sales have been slow, so by bringing DXR to Pascal cards, NVIDIA is exponentially increasing the install base that can leverage ray tracing.

That said, the image quality on GTX cards won't be quite as realistic as the RTX GPUs as they lack the dedicated RT cores. NVIDIA mentions that the image quality will be based on the effect that is used — and how that is optimised — within a particular game. Global illumination, for instance, would not work so well as it needs dedicated RT cores.

For games like Battlefield V that use a lot of reflections, NVIDIA says you should be able to bring down the ray count by reducing the number of surfaces that are reflecting — which means you should get playable framerates with a GTX card. Devs will be able to scale the level of ray tracing tech so that the older GTX cards will still be able to play the games, with the RTX cards offering the best image quality with more fidelity and better effects.

Here's the full list of GPUs that will be getting the update:

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

NVIDIA mentions that the driver will start rolling out in April, and it should be a pretty sizeable update considering what's on offer. Who's excited?