After making several highlights during GTC 2019, NVIDIA announced that its bringing real-time ray tracing support for older generation NVIDIA GeForce cards. That means that soon, the Pascal lineup, that includes GTX 1060 and above, will be able to handle ray tracing via Microsoft’s DirectX Ray Tracing API.
Before you rush to call RTX series a short-lived product, know that it’s going to be a drastically different experience. Ray tracing on GTX series relies on developers leveraging the DXR API to workout their own implementation and use the GPUs shader cores. These shader cores are not dedicated and share many other workloads.
RTX GPUs on the other hand feature dedicated hardware. The RT Cores accelerate ray tracing calculations much faster than a GPU without this specialized silicon. Hence, you can expect ray tracing quality and performance to be lower running on GTX versus RTX GPUs.
Interestingly, the new GTX 1660 and GTX 1660 Ti are part of the Turing family but don’t feature RT Cores. But being built on the Turing architecture means they can do INT32 operations with FP32 Cores, the former is something Pascal architecture does not feature. In a direct comparison between the GTX 1060 and GTX 1660, the latter should chart slightly better performance.
NVIDIA shared official benchmarks and they paint a realistic picture. Take a look:
To highlight the grunt of Turing architecture, NVIDIA disabled RT Cores to give Pascal a fair fight. The result is that Turing’s improvements like parallel INT32 calculations give much higher performance with ray tracing enabled. With RT Cores working their magic, the difference is significant.
But these results should be treated as inconclusive until independent reviewers test it out. But on paper – at least – Turing holds the upper hand when it comes to ray tracing. Not to mention the Tensor Cores in Turing which provide RTX series with DLSS advantage.
Support for ray tracing for Pascal will arrive via an update in April. This move, along with the inclusion of ray tracing in Unity Engine, are steps NVIDIA is taking to make ray tracing mainstream.