Meet The New Future of Gaming: Different Than The Old One

Up until last month, NVIDIA had been pushing a different, more conventional future for gaming and video cards, perhaps best exemplified by their recent launch of 27-in 4K G-Sync HDR monitors, courtesy of Asus and Acer. The specifications and display represented – and still represents – the aspired capabilities of PC gaming graphics: 4K resolution, 144 Hz refresh rate with G-Sync variable refresh, and high-quality HDR. The future was maxing out graphics settings on a game with high visual fidelity, enabling HDR, and rendering at 4K with triple-digit average framerate on a large screen. That target was not achievable by current performance, at least, certainly not by single-GPU cards. In the past, multi-GPU configurations were a stronger option provided that stuttering was not an issue, but recent years have seen both AMD and NVIDIA take a step back from CrossFireX and SLI, respectively.

Particularly with HDR, NVIDIA expressed a qualitative rather than quantitative enhancement in the gaming experience. Faster framerates and higher resolutions were more known quantities, easily demoed and with more intuitive benefits – though in the past there was the perception of 30fps as cinematic, and currently 1080p still remains stubbornly popular – where higher resolution means more possibility for details, higher even framerates meant smoother gameplay and video. Variable refresh rate technology soon followed, resolving the screen-tearing/V-Sync input lag dilemma, though again it took time to catch on to where it is now – nigh mandatory for a higher-end gaming monitor.

For gaming displays, HDR was substantively different than adding graphical details or allowing smoother gameplay and playback, because it meant a new dimension of ‘more possible colors’ and ‘brighter whites and darker blacks’ to gaming. Because HDR capability required support from the entire graphical chain, as well as high-quality HDR monitor and content to fully take advantage, it was harder to showcase. Added to the other aspects of high-end gaming graphics and pending the further development of VR, this was the future on the horizon for GPUs.

But today NVIDIA is switching gears, going to the fundamental way computer graphics are modelled in games today. Of the more realistic rendering processes, light can be emulated as rays that emit from their respective sources, but computing even a subset of the number of rays and their interactions (reflection, refraction, etc.) in a bounded space is so intensive that real time rendering was impossible. But to get the performance needed to render in real time, rasterization essentially boils down 3D objects as 2D representations to simplify the computations, significantly faking the behavior of light.

It’s on real time ray tracing that NVIDIA is staking its claim with GeForce RTX and Turing’s RT Cores. Covered more in-depth in our architecture article, NVIDIA’s real time ray tracing implementation takes all the shortcuts it can get, incorporating select real time ray tracing effects with significant denoising but keeping rasterization for everything else. Unfortunately, this hybrid rendering isn’t orthogonal to the previous concepts. Now, the ultimate experience would be hybrid rendered 4K with HDR support at high, steady, and variable framerates, though GPUs didn’t have enough performance to get to that point under traditional rasterization.

There’s a still a performance cost incurred with real time ray tracing effects, except right now only NVIDIA and developers have a clear idea of what it is. What we can say is that utilizing real time ray tracing effects in games may require sacrificing some or all three of high resolution, ultra high framerates, and HDR. HDR is limited by game support more than anything else. But the first two have arguably minimum performance standards when it comes to modern high-end gaming on PC – anything under 1080p is completely unpalatable, and anything under 30fps or more realistically 45 to 60fps hurts the playability. Variable refresh rate can mitigate the latter and framedrops are temporary, but low resolution is forever.

Ultimately, the real time ray tracing support needs to be implemented by developers via a supporting API like DXR – and many have been working hard on doing so – but currently there is no public timeline of application support for real time ray tracing, Tensor Core accelerated AI features, and Turing advanced shading. The list of games with support for Turing features - collectively called the RTX platform - will be available and updated on NVIDIA's site.

The RTX 2080 Ti & 2080 Review The RTX Recap: A Brief Overview of the Turing RTX Platform
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  • Bp_968 - Sunday, December 2, 2018 - link

    Even though the review is older and this comment is a few months old I just wanted to jump in and say "hah, look, eddman was right!" Now that the Titan RTX leaks are showing up. Lol. They didn't even wait for supply to stabilize on the 2080ti before dropping the titan.

    Plus, if the 2080 replaced the 1080ti then why is it more expensive and no faster? That would be a first even for Nvidia..
    Reply
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    The model numbers aren't that significant. NVIDIA could just have easily released a 2080, a 2070, and a 2060 by putting different labels on the boxes of the 2080 Ti, the 2080, and the 2070 for instance. The Ti, the Titan, all of those are long standing marketing identities that buyers now automatically associate with a certain relative scale of performance among other GPUs of the same generation. NVIDIA can play upon buyer expectations by releasing various products to fill those expectations in the way that best advances the company's interest. Any company with enough brand recognition can easily do the same. Consider Intel's long-running i-series CPU numbering. The fact that something labeled as a Ti came out at a certain time isn't an example of technological development, but a way of meeting customer expectations in reflection of the MSRP. We would have balked much more at $1200 for the exact same product if it was labeled as a plain vanilla 2080 and the current vanilla 2080 was branded as a 2070. Instead, we say, "Well, the 2080 Ti is really expensive, but at least its a Ti so that makes it a little bit more reasonable." Reply
  • eddman - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    Model numbers are significant in the way that they point out the models in the same successive line up. That's the entire point of them.

    I and a lot of people are not in this "we" you talk about. Again, nvidia themselves compare it to 1080 Ti every chance they get, so I do not see why I should in any way think its price is "reasonable".

    That's not how past generational leaps worked, even for 8800 GTX. We got massive performance gains AND usually new rendering features at similar MSRPs or maybe a bit higher. The difference this time is that AMD has left the building, for now.
    Reply
  • PeachNCream - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    Don't misunderstand me. I'm not implying that the price is okay or that anyone should find it reasonable to stomach a $1200 MSRP for a mere graphics card. I also agree that part of the pricing problem is due to an absence of credible competition from AMD. I'm just arguing that the people in the NVIDIA marketing department may justify the price in part by slapping a Ti label on the box so consumers are less likely to balk during checkout. The reality is that we're getting a step sideways in performance for a noteworthy increase in TDP due to the addition of capabilities that may or may not actually add much value because said features are too demanding to play nicely at high resolutions and because there are not indications that the software side will move to take advantage of said features. At best, the addition of the hardware won't be very compelling until the next generation of GPUs after Turing when its likely that performance will pick up a bit.

    Then again, who am I to talk? I play PC games on a laptop with an HD 4000 infrequently and end up mostly gaming on my ancient dual core Kitkat era phone that I've been keeping as a cheap wireless mini tablet. To me, PC gaming became an overly pricey sink of my limited, single parent free time. I'd rather bank my spare money in something that yields interest over time than throw it into gaming hardware that's obsolete in a matter of a few years. That and my kids me to be both of their parents these days since that worthless ex of mine schlepped off to marry some woman in Canada. *grumble*
    Reply
  • tamalero - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    More like that they are pricing their high end cards like they are flagship cards.
    The 2080 Founders seems identical in price to a 1080TI. That is unacceptable. Specially when they are almost identical in performance (going slower in most games by a few small points).

    They(Nvidia) just want to clear the huge build up of PASCAL cards.. by charging insanity for those who are willing to claim to be "gamers" with money. period.
    Reply
  • tamalero - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    "You, like so many others don't get it. nVidia has re-worked their product lines. Didn't you notice how the Ti came out at the same time as the 2080?"
    What the hell does this has to do? Nothing for the consumer again.
    Reply
  • tamalero - Thursday, September 20, 2018 - link

    "Die size is not irrelevant to consumers because increased die size means increased cost to manufacture. Increased cost to manufacture means a pressure for higher prices. The question is what you get in return for those higher prices.
    "
    You're repeating the same.
    Die size means NOTHING to a consumer. It means something for the manufacturer because it costs THEM.
    If the die doesnt benefit anything at all (Fermi) compared to smaller dies that offer almost the same performance (Pascal). Why would the consumer have to pay MORE for LESS?

    New tech is nothing if there is nothing to show. And there is NOTHING to show right now.
    by the time raytracing becomes really viable, the new generation of cards will be out.
    Reply
  • Spunjji - Friday, September 21, 2018 - link

    This x1000. These cards are a necessary step towards getting the technology out there, but I'm thoroughly unconvinced that it is a good idea for anyone to buy them. The sacrifice in die area was too great, for far too little benefit. Given the strong indications that 1080p ~45fps is where real-time raytracing will be at right now, I just don't care. They sold me on high-resolution and high-framerate because those actually affect how much enjoyment I get from my games. I'm not interested in that rug being pulled from under my feet *and* paying damn near double price for the privilege. Reply
  • Morawka - Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - link

    Doesn't TSMC charge their customers by the wafer nowadays? Reply
  • PopinFRESH007 - Wednesday, September 19, 2018 - link

    how does that matter? Are you suggesting that magically makes the die size irrelevant? If you have a 300mm wafer and you double the die size, you also halve the number of die per wafer. This would also ignore yield. A larger die is more costly to produce because you get fewer die per wafer and increase the probability of having a defect within a die. Reply

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