Nvidia has released a new driver that allows ray tracing effects to be switched on in GeForce GTX 10- and 16-series graphics cards, such as the GTX 1080 and the GTX 1660. Ray tracing is a resource-intensive feature that makes rendering lighting, shadows, and reflections in real time look more realistic — and thanks to new DirectX Raytracing (DXR) support, you’ll be able to test it out with the painfully small batch of games that have actually adopted ray tracing. That currently includes Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Battlefield V, and Metro: Exodus (we’re eagerly awaiting more).
If you don’t have those games — or hey, if they’re old news for you and you’d rather not reinstall them — Nvidia is also offering a few new tech demos that you can download for free from its website.
By expanding compatibility for ray tracing to Nvidia’s older cards, more people can test out global illumination in Metro: Exodus, or see the reflective puddles in Battlefield V without having to buy new hardware. That’s cool, but don’t expect great, or even good, performance. If RTX-series cards were built to display how good ray tracing can look in motion, its purpose on lesser GPUs in the GTX 10-series seems geared to show how it looks frame by frame. We’re headed into choppy waters here.
As my colleague Sean Hollister pointed out at Nvidia’s GDC event, even the GTX 1080 Ti — still one of the most powerful GPUs available — can only squeeze out around 30 fps while running Shadow of the Tomb Raider with ray tracing settings enabled on a high-end gaming rig with a Core i9 CPU. The results do get interesting with the new $279 GTX 1660 Ti, though. That card is said to be roughly equivalent to the GTX 1070 in most cases, but the benchmark shows that its Turing cores help to bring it closer to the GTX 1080 when it comes to gaming with ray tracing activated.
Some people, myself included, purchased an RTX graphics card with the hope that ray tracing would have taken off in a bigger way by now. That hasn’t yet happened, and with the release of this driver, I’m almost a little jealous that hold-outs get to try it before I get my full bragging rights.