Nvidia finally revealed its 20-series of high-end graphics cards, which will bring real-time ray-tracing capabilities to standard PCs for the first time.
The key benefit of ray-tracing for ordinary PC users, as Nvidia demonstrated in a long and detailed launch last night, will be the implementation of ‘real' lighting in video games, enabling more sophisticated gaming - as soon as the sector catches up.
The first games promising to benefit from the feature include Battlefield 5, Serious Sam 4, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Metro Exodus.
The first cards available will be the Founders Editions of the GeForce RTX 2080 and GeForce RTX 2080 Ti - the two high end consumer/gaming graphics cards - for the price of $799 and $1,199 respectively. They will be available from around 20 September. A GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition should be available in October, according to Nvidia, for $599.
The $1,199 GeForce RTX 2080 TI Founders Edition will come with 11GB of fast GDDR6 video memory and a clock-speed of 1,635MHz, compared to a mere 1,545MHz that will be offered by non-Founders Edition GeForce RTX 2080 Tis.
Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang launching the company's 20-series graphics cards at Gamescon in Berlin
The $799 GeForce RTX 2080 will come with 8GB of video memory and come with a clock speed of 1,800MHz for the Founders Edition and 1,710MHz for plain vanilla 2080s.
Non-Founders Edition cards - Reference Editions - ought to cost about $100 less, Nvidia suggested, although Asus hasn't been reading the script: it revealed that its GeForce RTX 2080 will start at £889.30 in the UK, and its RTX 2080 TI will set buyers back £1,344.
Ray tracing effectively refers to the ability of a graphics card to accurately portray light - sunlight, artificial light and light from, for example, a fire in a fireplace in a game. That light might not be static, but could be the light from a torch, for example, carried by a character.
Ray tracing capabilities require an immense amount of mathematical compute power to accurately portray light, especially as the light source shifts, and are one of the reasons why high-end graphics cards for creative professionals cost so much.
In Nvidia's launch last night, the company demonstrated the difference that ray tracing capabilities should bring to games with, say, sunlight coming through a window being more accurately portrayed, enabling more atmospheric and realistic games to be produced. The ray tracing feature will plug-in to Microsoft's DirectX Raytracing (DXR) API.
The ray-tracing feature was trailed in March when Nvidia first unveiled its RTX technology, and revealed that tools to take advantage of it had gone into early access in the company's GameWorks suite of development tools. Engines and other game developer tools supporting RTX include the Unreal Engine, Unity, Frostbite and Allegorithmic.
The 20-series graphics cards from Nvidia represent another big challenge to its main rival AMD, which has struggled to keep up with Nvidia in recent years.
It's Vega high-end graphics cards couldn't quite match the 10-series when they were launched last year, with the most expensive cards requiring liquid cooling. And AMD has indicated that it won't be making any big graphics card launches this year, either.
Intel, meanwhile, is planning to launch its own line of discrete graphics cards in 2020.
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