Up For Debate - Is GeForce RTX Ray Tracing Worth the Performance Hit?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Aug 25, 2018 5:22 PM

It’s been a momentous week for Nvidia. Monday kicked off with the reveal of its next-generation GeForce RTX 20 Series graphics cards. A generational leap with the usual bump in performance was just half the story though, and it was the support ray-traced lighting that garnered the most headlines.

Real-time ray-traced lighting has been the goal of graphics card manufacturers and visual artists for decades. It has always been tantalisingly out of reach. Nvidia was also keen to make the technology appear less achievable than it was, claiming its Star Wars RTX demo in January was running on four Quadro RTX GPUs. Seven months later we’re told it was all a ruse. The demo was running on a single Quadro RTX graphics card. Real-time ray tracing was happening, and it was happening now.

But, and there’s always a but, then the initial impressions began to creep. The universal opinion from everyone who’s seen it in action is that ray-traced lighting looks fantastic. It’s arguably the single biggest leap in visual quality we’ve seen in years. The immense calculations required to physically trace light beams reflecting and refracting across complex landscapes comes at an immense cost to performance though. Reports and footage of Shadow of the Tomb Raider at Gamescom 2018 confirmed that the mighty GeForce RTX 2080 Ti was struggling, hitting between 30-50 frames per second at 1080p resolution. That’s a hell of a hit for a GPU that can probably hit a locked 60fps at 4K in the same game with ray tracing turned off.

Fortunately, there is plenty of time until Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s ray tracing patch arrives. There’s optimisation work still be done, both from Nvidia and Eidos Montreal. The picture could shift between now and a few months time. Eidos Montreal cannot work miracles though, and there’s no conceivable way that 4K AAA gaming with ray-tracing is going to be possible right now. For gamers forking out $1199 for a graphics card, this could come as a disappointment. RTX 2080 Ti owners are going to be faced with a choice - play at 4K with high frame rates or drop all the way down to 1080p with variable frame rates and ray-tracing enabled. A drop to a quarter of the resolution is a savage hit to take though, particularly for the enthusiast gamers the RTX 2080 Ti is already targeting. Most early adopters likely have 4K monitors already, but they’re going to be forced to let that monstrous pixel count go to waste for the wonders of ray-tracing.

Ultimately though, when considering these new RTX 20 series graphics cards, and those Tomb Raider benchmarks, in particular, it can be all too easy to get hung up on ray-traced performance. These graphics cards will offer a significant performance boost over the previous gen, improved even further with DLSS. Six weeks ago we could only dream of real-time ray-tracing being consumer friendly. Now we’re complaining it’s not good enough. I think we do have to have to reset our expectations a bit and remember these RTX GPUs are damned fast but they will struggle the demands of ray-tracing. It’s embryonic tech that will be refined and improved upon, becoming more affordable and less resource intensive in the process.

With all this in mind though, do you think that enabling ray-tracing is going to be worth the performance hit? Are you going to be happy dropping down to 1080p, or would you prefer to disable ray-tracing and enjoy liquid-smooth 4K gaming? Get voting and let us know why below!

Which would you rather do?

Our favourite comments:

a year ago people were crying over all the focus on 4k and that they rather have improved visuals... now we have improved visuals, yet you decide to cry over the fact that it's not at 4k.... make up your freaking mind

TheJusticeHobbit

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00:03 Aug-31-2018

I know this probably isn't the best place to ask but do you think my rig will hold up for the next 2 years playing games at high 1080p 60fps thanks in advance everyone.

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00:20 Aug-31-2018

Most likely yes. Since the focus right now is either higher res or ray tracing. As long as you stick to high (not ultra), rtx off, you should be good for 60fps 1080p.
I have a very similar rig (laptop) and I wouldnt mind being right :)

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00:43 Aug-31-2018

Your rig is similar to mine, and I play games at 1440p just fine.

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20:28 Aug-30-2018

Waiting on the 1080p Rtx off benchmarks for the entire line up.

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13:35 Aug-30-2018

It is worth it.... but only if you have a bit bigger screen, like 27-32 inches, so that you can notice all those amazing details.
P.S. I don't have money for new system and high-end RTX but i am surely not a hater about it. This is a great progress and major "leap" in gaming.
Go Ray Tracing...

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21:11 Aug-29-2018

RTX 20s are the worst price to performance ratio in Nvidia history.


less than 50% performance increase but 100% price increase


i am Nvidia fan boy but i will say great work Nvidia


Bravo Nvidia....

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03:38 Aug-30-2018

How are you playing games at that resolution with that hardware it's 10 years old.

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20:58 Aug-30-2018

lol.

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21:57 Aug-30-2018

He can't.. 4K is only supported from the 600 series up?

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23:23 Aug-30-2018

That's what I thought lol so not sure why he has his resolution set to 4k.

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11:09 Aug-29-2018

I feel the article is being a bit unfair in targeting only 4K gamers. Am I wrong in stating that 1080p is still the mainstream res? I don't wanna play at 4K. Show me a card that can run ultra settings in 1080p at 144Hz and I'm good. My 1060 can't run anything after 2010 on high without crapping out to 60-100Hz.

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11:53 Aug-29-2018

Honestly, never understood the need to game @ 4k, on a small monitor (24 inch) even 1440p is a bit wasted, it only makes sens for 27 inch +

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09:16 Aug-30-2018

Lol, I'm still playing on 1080p even though I have a 32 inch 144Hz monitor :P. What's the point of playing on high res if all you see is motion blur because your GPU can't handle it?

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15:25 Aug-31-2018

1440p 165Hz + G-Sync for me! On top-end rigs, ofc.

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15:33 Aug-31-2018

My point was actually that such high resolutions make sens if you have a big monitor (in your case, I'd guess 27 inch monitor) - I mean, if its just 24inch, is the difference even noticeable between 1080p & 1440p?

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20:03 Aug-28-2018

This is what we get when them dofus say 1080p is more then enough

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20:08 Aug-28-2018

Ahhh "and we 3 more generations away for 4k at max settings fluently, 1080p is best res" those people just screwed them shelves, im glad im not a gaming anymore, and settled for my gtx 1080, 4k laptop. There wont be any tech worth my while for while.lol

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19:37 Aug-28-2018

Probably gonna skip it for now since experience from hyped with DDR4 memory back in late 2014 that were only available for X99 motherboards and available for the masses only about 2 years later.


It'll be something to be hyped now, and probably a common in 2-3 years, just like DDR4 memory.


I'll wait for this tech to be more mature some time later, thanks.


TL; DR: NOT WORTH IT.

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17:21 Aug-27-2018

RT beta cards early access haha.

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17:19 Aug-27-2018

i knew i was gonna skip a gen or 2 thats why i got my 1070 for 1080p gaming only lol feels like a titan :D

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16:10 Aug-27-2018

Performance hit? I thought it only hits your wallet!

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18:39 Aug-27-2018

Well the "beta" drivers the RTX 2080ti plays the unfinished Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1080p with 30-50fps with ray tracing.

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15:36 Aug-27-2018

I prefer better games over better graphics.

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15:58 Aug-27-2018

Absolutely!

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16:33 Aug-27-2018

agreed

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01:09 Aug-28-2018

looks at the specs "cough" youre not in a position to make that argument until you upgrade the hardware

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06:31 Aug-28-2018

Am no... -_-


You don't need to have strong hardware to prefer GAMEPLAY, the thing that makes a game a game, over graphics QUALITY, the thing made for people without imagination that can't get immersed unless the graphics are "realistic"/"photo-realistic" and realistically bring nothing to the game...


Art Style and Graphical Design, on the other hand, give the game Character and Atmosphere and you don't need a lot of Polygons, cheap effects and strong hardware for either one of them, just a creative graphics designer.

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15:23 Aug-28-2018

Exactly my point.My brother runs everything on 4K but rarely plays.
For me however,I make do with whatever I got.

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15:42 Aug-28-2018

i know guys like you that talk big but yet you didnt even mention indie games 1 bit and they exactly gameplay over visuals because of tight budgets, yet you conplain about progress, am i talking to an anti-technophobe

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18:48 Aug-28-2018

I'd mention indie games if 99.9% of them weren't garbage to just make money... -_-

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18:51 Aug-28-2018

I do complain about progress, but at the same time you can have a lot more things on the screen when the graphics quality isn't super high. I prefer to have many things on the screen with great art-style and design than a desolate scene with 10 billion polygons...


And I do complain about progression... I wonder why other people don't... many just didn't give a crap, until popular YouTubers and "esports" came along and by then 5-10% improvements a year for the CPUs and 25-30% a year for the GPUs were "standard"...

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05:45 Aug-28-2018

better games huh... I think this has become the biggest of luxuries... pretty sad
Remembering back in 2004 - 2006, so many new games, each looking so cool, but being able to play any of them was the challenge (either due to being expensive or just having the needed Hardware to play them)... I miss that feeling

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15:26 Aug-28-2018

It is all about money and greed these days.
But at least every once in a while,we get something really good.

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15:39 Aug-28-2018

lol i member (sp ref) that saying "but can it run crysis 3" hysteria

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20:10 Aug-28-2018

please don't start that, that the same thing as no need for higher res, stick to 1080p. Next thing we notice all games will be looking like mine craft.

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08:56 Aug-30-2018

you know, this actually sounds pretty evil, yet possible - can you imagine if, on purpose, they mush-up the visual quality so much, that it scales properly with 1440p+ only?!

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23:11 Aug-26-2018

In think game debate should start working on a new graphic setting button called Raytracing.tho it is unfair for AMD users :/.

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08:52 Aug-27-2018

It's been added on the back end already, just needs tagging on the appropriate games to appear in their system requirements pages. Also planning some additional performance-related features based around it but that'll need a bit more time :)

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05:04 Aug-28-2018

amd has ray tracing available.

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15:35 Aug-28-2018

Theoretically I guess, but nothing that can actually use it for gaming purposes

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20:47 Aug-26-2018

Raytracing seems visually more stunning than 4k to me, I just hope they are able to optimize things to get a steady 60 fps at 1080p.

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20:13 Aug-28-2018

why settled for one when we should be entitle to both. and 4k is limited to what the image is displaying. (black screen 1080p is still going to be a black screen in 4k, its not going to be a better black).

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19:17 Aug-26-2018

I pre-ordered the 2080ti ... I will either play @4k or with raytracing @1080p .... There is nothing that says "i must play at a certain setting". It is totally up to me whether or not I want to enable raytracing .... Forget what others think and enjoy the technology/game


;)

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23:35 Aug-26-2018

I don't know why you got downvoted, but I'm with you. Just that in my case it's two 2080Tis and 1440p :)

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02:02 Aug-27-2018

I plan on using EVGA step-up which'll cost me like $227.6 at the most (that is if the card I want doesn't go back to $749.99 in which case it would be around $160 or so) for the EVGA RTX 2080 XC Edition. Gonna be staying at 1080p for the foreseeable future as I don't feel like gambling with the QA of a 1440p monitor.

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13:58 Aug-27-2018

Ah, you read the dreaded reviews where people took photos of a screen in the dark and yell how bad the "backlight bleed" or "IPS glow" is? My monitor looks amazing at dark, but if I take a picture on the phone (like most do) - the phone severely overexposes and shoiws all types of colors too - that's what you see the retards post and complain about. There isn't anywhere NEAR as much problem with QA as the negative "reviewers" would make you think.

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15:50 Aug-26-2018

Personal suggestion: The surveys should ask the same question as whatever the article headline as asking. It creates disagreements in the comment section even when people actually agree.


I think RTX isnt worth the cost and performance hit. But given the option of the same fps, I would rather game at 1080p with it on than at 4k without. I think a lot would do the same..

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15:58 Aug-26-2018

I mean think about it. If you got a GPU for FREE and you game at a 1080p monitor (which a vast majority do), would you rather apply DSR to 4k or turn RTX on?
But just reading the article heading preconditions everyone to vote for whatever option that is against ray tracing.

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17:11 Aug-26-2018

If it was in the $650-750usd range, and could play the newest games for the next three-four years on 1440p at 60fps with RTX, I would be all over it.

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15:11 Aug-26-2018

Meanwhile I'm still just fine at 1080p and only want a gpu that can handle 60 fps minimum at max

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12:34 Aug-26-2018

Well, getting my 60FPS would be nice beginning. I have nothing against raytracing. But if it is going to hit me to where I will do 30FPS at 1080p with 2070, it just isn't worth it. Yes it looks nice, but I also want smooth. And this comes from someone who is not even that demanding when it comes to refresh rate.

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12:41 Aug-26-2018

Only a 2080ti can run 30fps at 1080p with RT currently. But that will change

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12:49 Aug-26-2018

Yeah, the big question is how much. Since if everything would be done properly, I would expect RTX2070 to be able to do 1440p 60FPS with raytracing. But this would require some huge change in terms of how well things work. And it makes me wonder, if they can pull it off. 600USD for 1080p raytracing is bit much.

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13:05 Aug-26-2018

Heh, it's near certain that a 2070 will be nowhere near of hitting 1440p 60fps. I don't know what you mean by "done properly", this is an experimental tech that was forced to customers so Nvidia can say "we were first". As such it should be expected to perform like it is.. also keep in mind that first generation of a new tech is almost never optimised. Amusingly enough, It costs me less to buy two 1080ti's than one 2080ti, From a performance per dollar standpoint they f*cked the top end cards like NEVER before.

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11:37 Aug-26-2018

a year ago people were crying over all the focus on 4k and that they rather have improved visuals... now we have improved visuals, yet you decide to cry over the fact that it's not at 4k.... make up your freaking mind

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11:42 Aug-26-2018

hah good point :D

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11:50 Aug-26-2018

Very true indeed!

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12:00 Aug-26-2018

Guys, it's not simple like that. From what we know right now, nvidia is asking an insane price for a performance that's not even close to acceptable like 1080p 30-50fps and for a techonology that hasn't really shown how it transforms games and if it's worth the performance hit. People are sceptical and that's what they should be, you shouldn't buy so fast on the marketing.

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12:54 Aug-26-2018

Bringing a technology to the market 10 years before it should be possible ofcourse brings a giant performance hit

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12:37 Aug-26-2018

Trends do change. And I don't think anyone is against Raytracing itself, they are against performance hit it might bring. 4k 60 FPS should easily be achievable with new cards. But if you will have to buy 2080Ti, just to have 1080p 40-50FPS, that is no go for many. And that is the problem, we would love it otherwise.

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12:39 Aug-26-2018

Like if we could do raytracing, 4k and 60FPS, no one would complain and people would be fine with it. But currently, early implementations show that all three aren't achievable in any form of combination. So huge performance hit is what we don't like, not raytracing.

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12:41 Aug-26-2018

Assuming we don't like raytracing is something I would expect clueless general media to report. If you read even a little into it, you can find real reasons. Just saying we don't like raytracing is HUGE over-generalization, to the level where proper point is long lost.

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16:39 Aug-26-2018

well you can't have 1 without the other, Ray tracing shouldn't even be possible yet... yet here we are almost a decade too early having it... ofcourse your gonna see a giant performance hit... it would be like complaining that VR games doesn't have as good graphics as battlefield 1... you like the VR but not the graphical downgrade

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12:47 Aug-26-2018

If you missed the point by that much (ouch), stop crying about people "crying".

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20:15 Aug-26-2018

Im upset because i invested 2500$usd on a 4k/144hz/g-sync/hdr(pg27uq) and now they tell me that their raytracing technology is 1080p only. Im not saying that raytracing is a bad technology, it is indeed breathtaking! And im even thinking of trying some game like Resident Evil 2 remake in raytracing because anyway its not a fast paced game so not running it above 60fps isnt a big deal-

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20:18 Aug-26-2018

(given the circumstances). But id be really, really happy if with the upcoming drivers and a little overclocking i could reach a constant 60fps.

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20:44 Aug-26-2018

I feel you bud. But that is the risk you take when you go for high res gaming.

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12:03 Aug-30-2018

People were critical of 4k for being pushed by console makers as being True 4K when it wasn't and for serving the minority because the majority of gamers across the globe were and are still using 1080p - 4k being too expensive.


People who are critical of RTX are pointing out that it's again serving the minority who will be able to afford it, as well as it not being a major visual benefit. Yes, that's how all new tech starts - expensive, for early adopters, who are willing to pay the premium, eventually becoming mainstream. But sometimes it doesn't become mainstream. Some people feel it will, some feel it won't. Let's see.


Also, people have been waiting for GPUs to become more affordable, so they're pissed at them seeming to become even more expensive.

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11:36 Aug-26-2018

2560x1440 is sweetspot for me, I might consider raytracing rather than upscaling to 5120x2880 for sure

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23:39 Aug-26-2018

1440p for now for me too. As someone who works with graphics I find the pixel size perfect on a 27" screen - I'd need a 35" or bigger if I went 4K to avoid issues with scaling.
That being said, if the two 2080Tis can deliver RTX at 1440p - that's a bonus! Though for now I'm more interested in the raw performance to appease my 165Hz screen and that DLSS/DLAA stuff for a free AA/SS solution.

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01:33 Aug-27-2018

how about nvidia's new 65" 4k gaming monitor lol
4k, hdr, 1ms, 144hz


also i dont think two 2080ti's would do 1440p at 60fps. two might average 60fps at 1080p with ray tracing, depending on the game. i bet they top 100 fps at 4k for most games.

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16:48 Aug-27-2018

According to the new article and the guys from Dice - you can run BF5 at 1080p60 with RT. IF we take the worst case scenario that it's a 2080Ti running that - two of them could do 1440p60 easily, since 1440p is just 78% more pixels than 1080p.


Regardless, I'm interested in other stuff too, like how well Witcher 3 will run at 4K or 5K with the two beasts, since I love the visuals of that game at 4K+, but I also really value the smooth framerates. Can already do 5K60 with my 1080Ti SLI rig, so hoping I could reach 5K100 or so, for ultra awesome gameplay :)

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09:41 Aug-26-2018

I don't understand all these people trying to push 4k, like improve 1080p60fps graphics add more tech to that and then optimize it to 4k

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11:37 Aug-26-2018

It's not that people don't want to have increased graphical fidelity. It's just that they don't want to sacrifice 4k just for ray tracing.

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14:30 Aug-26-2018

I dont get how a vast majority dont want to "sacrifice" 4k when only a very small minority actually game at 4k.
It is actually: people dont want to pay $1200 to play at sub 60fps, which is perfectly fair. However, I would think a lot of us "should' be excited with the tech even if we cant or are simply not willing to pay for it. This is exciting stuff.

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15:10 Aug-26-2018

I don't think you understand the situation. I refuse to pay +1200usd for a card to play games at a laughable 1080p 30fps with a bit different lighting, it is not acceptable. A lot of people who DO buy the 1200usd cards want superior performance, 60fps 4K for example, not some new gimmicks that raise the price through the roof and you'll turn off anyway since they absolutely kill any performance... RT will get more meaningful in the upcoming generations I'm sure. You also say that paying 1200usd for a gpu and then getting sub 60fps performance is "perfectly fair". Especially at a measly 1080p res, that's just beyond words, madness.

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15:42 Aug-26-2018

You completely misunderstood me bud. I said what you said.

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Can They Run... |

| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-10700 8-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 2060 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
Core i5-9400F 6-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 770 DirectCU II 2GB OC Edition 16GB
0% No [2 votes]
Pentium Dual Core B960 2.2GHz Radeon HD 6950M 4GB
0% No [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 720p
Athlon II X2 245 GeForce GTS 250 4GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 8GB
| 60FPS, High, 720p
Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz Radeon R5 340 (OEM) 4GB
| High, 720p
Core i5-2400S 2.5GHz Radeon R5 340 (OEM) 4GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Medium, 720p
Ryzen 5 3500U 4-Core 2.1 GHz Radeon RX Vega 8 10GB
| 30FPS, High, 1080p
Core i3-8100 4-Core 3.6GHz GeForce GTX 1060 3GB 16GB
100% Yes [4 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 32GB
100% Yes [5 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-4770K 4-Core 3.5GHz GeForce GTX 980 4GB 32GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i5-10400F 6-Core 2.90GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Ti MSI Ventus 2X 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [8 votes]
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i7-10700F 8-Core 2.9GHz GeForce GTX 970 Gigabyte G1 Gaming 4GB Edition 16GB
100% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i5-11400F 6-Core 2.6GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-3770 4-Core 3.4GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Super 4GB 16GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Core i7-4770K 4-Core 3.5GHz GeForce GTX 980 4GB 32GB
66.6667% Yes [3 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 5800H 8-Core 3.2GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]