When NVIDIA launched its first trio of Turing GPUs – the GeForce RTX 2070, RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti – the headlining feature of the cards was their support for hardware-based real-time ray tracing. We’ve seen titles like Battlefield V and Metro Exodus make full use of real-time ray tracing to deliver ultra-realistic reflections, water effects, and shadows (among other visual effects) to enhance the gaming experience.
The effects look amazing, but they require beefy hardware to extract acceptable performance. But given that ray tracing technology has been commoditized within DirectX 12 as DirectX Raytracing (DXR), it will soon possible for us to enable the effects on cards that don’t even have dedicated hardware (i.e. RT cores on the GeForce RTX family). With this in mind, NVIDIA will deliver a Game Ready driver update in April that will bring ray tracing support to the entire Pascal family of graphics cards.
That’s right, graphics cards like the GeForce GTX 1060 on up through the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti and even the Titan Xp will have limited support for ray tracing. And in case you were wondering, this support will also extend to Turing-based, non-RTX cards like the GeForce GTX 1660 and GeForce GTX 1660 Ti.
Although all of these cards will technically be able to support DXR, you can expect an even bigger performance hit when enabling the feature in games than you would see with GeForce RTX cards with dedicated RT cores. As such, Pascal-based cards will be able to handle basic ray tracing effects with low ray counts (at various performance levels), while more complex ray tracing effects will be reserved for Turing. In case it wasn’t clear, we should also mention that DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) is separate from DXR and will not be supported by Pascal.
Going forwards, two of the most popular game engines out there – Unity and Unreal – will also add support for DXR. That should greatly increase the number of available titles that will be pushing real-time ray tracing effects in the future and should help make the effects more “mainstream” in the process.