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First of a new gen­er­a­tion of Nvidia cards

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Ray tracing goes hard­ware; end of the URL; top Mac app is spy­ware; Win 7 earns re­prieve; Huawei cheats.

THE LAUNCH of a ma­jor new range of graph­ics cards is al­ways a no­table event, but Nvidia’s new GeForce RTX range is some­thing be­yond that. Th­ese are the first of a whole new gen­er­a­tion of cards based on the Tur­ing GPU. Nvidia’s pres­i­dent, Jensen Huang, has claimed this is the com­pany’s most im­por­tant GPU since the Tesla, in 2006. It shows where cards are head­ing over the next few years, and it’s go­ing to look sump­tu­ous.

There are three new cards ini­tially: The RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080 are due first ( and we’ve got one—see page 76). The Ti ver­sion is an eye­wa­ter­ing $999; the plain ver­sion is a still-sub­stan­tial $699. The RTX 2070 is due to fol­low in a month, at around $499. There are Founders Edi­tions, too, for an ex­tra $100–200. Th­ese are huge prices, even if they are the van­guard of a new gen­er­a­tion.

The flag­ship RTX 2080 Ti has a “Big Tur­ing” GPU, with 4,352 CUDA cores, 11GB of VRAM, and can man­age 13.4Tflops, with a hefty 250W TDP. The 2080 has 8GB of mem­ory and 2,944 CUDA cores. It churns out 10.1Tflops. The 2070 comes in at 7.5Tflops and is armed with 2,304 CUDA cores.

The fuss is en­cap­su­lated in the “RTX” part of the name. Th­ese cards have been built to hard­ware-ac­cel­er­ate ray tracing, a first for con­sumer cards. They em­ploy Nvidia’s ray­trac­ing API, RTX, launched in March. This is com­pat­i­ble with Mi­cro­soft’s DirectX Ray­trac­ing, DXR. Full real-time ray tracing may be a goal, but it’s a bit much to ask for just yet. RTX en­ables se­lec­tive ray tracing, a hy­brid sys­tem that en­ables spe­cific parts or as­pects of a ras­ter­ized scene to be mapped out the hard way. Great for cre­at­ing re­al­is­tic shad­ows and high­lights. The Tur­ing GPUs con­tain what Nvidia calls an RT core, ded­i­cated to run­ning spe­cific ray-tracing cal­cu­la­tions. It also boasts hard­ware AI, a ma­chine­learn­ing en­gine to pre­dict the work­flow.

As yet, we have no game de­vel­oped from scratch to make use of ray tracing; it’s all added sparkle. So far, there are 11 games with some as­pects of ray-tracing sup­port. This is still a crush­ingly com­plex process—turn on ray tracing in Bat­tle­field V, and your frame rate can drop to 60fps at 1080p, and that’s us­ing the 2080 Ti.

Nvidia’s pre­vi­ous GPU ar­chi­tec­ture, Pas­cal, isn’t go­ing any­where just yet ei­ther. Only the top of the range gets Tur­ing GPUs for now. For more main­stream mar­kets, the 10-se­ries GTX range will soldier on. It’s widely thought that the lower 20-se­ries cards won’t sup­port RTX ei­ther. Rather than de­liver a sub-par ex­pe­ri­ence, they will skip it al­to­gether.

Where is AMD? Well, it also has a ray-tracing API, RadeonRays, but for now it seems to be con­tent to sit this one out and let Nvidia take the high ground, while it con­cen­trates on the big­ger mar­kets lower down the tree.

This is the big­gest launch from Nvidia for years. It has pitched th­ese first cards very high, which has al­ready prompted some push­back, es­pe­cially as there’s so lit­tle to run the RTX hard­ware on at the mo­ment. The first gen­er­a­tion of any new ar­chi­tec­ture is of­ten among the most ex­pen­sive, but never the best. If you buy a 2080 Ti just for ray tracing, you’ll be dis­ap­pointed for now, with few games as yet, and those have lim­ited sup­port. What it does do is point the way, and the way leads to won­der­ful graph­ics. Yes, for now it’s go­ing to be painfully pricey, but the first step to bring­ing real-time ray tracing to your desk­top has been made.

As yet, we have no game de­vel­oped from scratch to make use of ray tracing.

Nvidia’s RTX cards have real-time ray tracing builtinto their Tur­ing GPUs.

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