Nvidia’s latest GeForce 425.31 graphics card driver feels fairly momentous in that it enables real-time ray-tracing on non-RTX video cards. Any graphics card from the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB and upwards can now enable DXR in-game. Now, just because you could, doesn’t mean you should, as the initial performance benchmarks demonstrate, but at the very least it’s nice to have the option. As a side benefit, despite the low frame rates some users can expect, it does at least provide a peek at what’s possible with DXR for those with older GPUs when eventually upgrading.
Naturally, DXR performance on GTX 10 and GTX 16 Series graphics cards is going to vary depending on the resolution, the game settings, the quality of the ray tracing, and the type of ray tracing used. Each game right now tends to take advantage of a specific aspect, whether that’s Battlefield V’s raytraced reflections, Metro Exodus’ global illumination, or Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s raytraced shadows.
So we know what raytracing is, we know what it can do, but how does it perform on Nvidia’s older Pascal graphics cards, as well as the new GeForce GTX 16 series.
Unsurprisingly, they struggle in comparison to Nvidia's RTX 20 Series, which has the advantage of dedicated RT (Ray Tracing) Cores. However, playable frame rates are certainly possible of some of the more high-end 10 Series GPUs such as the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and GTX 1080, particularly at 1080p.
Anything above 1080p though and things begin to get very wobbly indeed, even on the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. In Battlefield V, the 1080 Ti scrapes through with 30fps average at 1440p, dropping to 16fps at 4K. As you can imagine, it only gets worse for the weaker 10 Series GPUs.
However, if you are prepared to compromise resolution and graphical fidelity, it’s not totally outside of the realms of possibility to play ray-traced games with these GPUs.
If we take the weakest graphics card, the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB, it’s obviously going to struggle. It’s a non-starter in both Metro Exodus and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, averaging 15fps and 22fps respectively at 1080p/High with Ultra graphics. While Nvidia hasn’t provided the results (we’ll look into some tests shortly), at Low or Medium you can probably get a locked 30fps with a GTX 1060 in these games, just at a much lower overall visual quality.
The best example of this has to be the Battlefield V Medium DXR benchmarks. The GTX 1060 averages 35.2 frames per second at 1080p with Medium DXR and Ultra visuals. That’s not terrible an and of itself, but drop the game settings a notch or two and it could become very playable.
It's a bit of a mixed bag when all is said and done, although the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti certainly comes reasonably close to matching the ray-traced performance of the GeForce RTX 2060. This does demonstrate the legwork those RT Cores are putting in though, allowing the entire RTX series, right down to the RTX 2060, to pull ahead in any Ultra DXR tests.
As I said earlier, we'll get to some proper testing of our own shortly, but these early results from Nvidia fall roughly in line with what most of us I imagine were expecting. Ray-tracing is a prohibitively expensive technology and the RTX GPUs are clearly best placed to take advantage of the feature. That said, with a few compromises it's certainly possible to have a play around and a taster with just about of these graphics cards tested.
So, do let us know how you're getting on with this new feature. Remember you'll need to have today's GeForce driver installed to take advantage of it.
What do you think of the performance? Has anyone done any benchmarks of their own yet? Let us know!