AMD RX 7900 XTX: ray tracing in 14 games with mixed results
AMD’s recently launched RX 7900 XTX has received a warm reception, mainly on the back of the value it offers compared to Nvidia’s competing RTX 4080. One area where Nvidia still has a lead, though, is ray tracing. AMD is lacking in the ray tracing department, but the RX 7900 XTX has made some big strides compared to the previous generation.
- RX 7900 XTX ray tracing, tested in 14 games
- Bring on the upscaling
- RX 7900 XTX ray tracing: worth it?
In the last-gen battle, ray tracing was a non-option on most AMD GPUs. Nvidia still clearly has a lead, but I wanted to look deeper into the ray tracing experience on AMD’s latest generation. It’s a massive improvement compared to last-gen cards, even if there are still some significant hurdles for Team Red.
RX 7900 XTX ray tracing, tested in 14 games
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
Instead of a head-to-head with Nvidia, I focused on the experience of actually owning an AMD graphics card. If you want the best ray tracing performance, Nvidia is still the way to go. Instead of the standard suite of benchmarks, I jumped into my Steam library and downloaded a little over a dozen ray tracing games, acting as if I just bought a new AMD GPU and wanted to see how it would perform.
I avoided using in-game benchmarks, as well, relying instead on actually playing the game. The goal here was to capture the experience of owning the RX 7900 XTX and what you can expect when turning on ray tracing. Before that, though, we need to look at raw performance.
Without ray tracing, the RX 7900 XTX can handle basically anything you can throw at it. Even in a game as demanding as Cyberpunk 2077, you’re looking at above 60 frames per second (fps). In a lot of games, you’re looking at above 100 fps, and that’s with maxed-out settings at native 4K.
Ray tracing changes that dynamic a lot. Overall, you can comfortably reach above 30 fps in most games with ray tracing turned on, with some titles like Doom Eternal and Resident Evil Village showing excellent frame rates. Other titles suffer, though.
Cyberpunk 2077 produces less than 20 fps, which is unplayable, and Portal RTX couldn’t run anywhere near a playable frame rate. In fact, I had to turn Portal RTX down to Low settings, despite staying committed to Ultra settings for the other games. That’s a good illustration of why Portal RTX is the most demanding game I’ve tested.
Ray tracing is demanding, so I’m less concerned with the average frame rates here. The more pressing issue was the variety of software bugs I encountered. In particular, The Ascent showed massive stuttering even after rebooting the game several times. You can see in the chart below that on one run, the game fully locked up for several seconds. And I was using the latest AMD driver.
Similarly, The Witcher 3‘s next-gen update resulted in a couple of hard crashes during testing. Originally, I planned to include Warhammer 40,000 Darktide as part of my test suite, but that game showed a nasty bug where turning ray tracing on would remove all the textures from the game world.
Admittedly, The Witcher 3, Warhammer 40,000 Darktide, and The Ascent are all buggy games. I don’t want to place the blame strictly on AMD here. The vast majority of titles I tested worked just fine without any bugs, but these issues are still important to point out if you plan on buying an RX 7900 XTX.
Bring on the upscaling
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
If you plan to turn on ray tracing, you should enable upscaling, as well. AMD provides its FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) feature for that, which is a bit mixed. FSR 2, which you’ll find in games like Marvel’s Spider-Man and Dying Light 2 is a treat. However, the much more common FSR 1 is lacking when it comes to image quality, despite impressive performance gains.
Let’s get performance out of the way first. FSR balances the scales a lot when you turn on ray tracing. The unplayable Cyberpunk 2077 jumps up to nearly 60 fps, and games like Ghostrunner climb to nearly 100 fps. The only outlier here is Portal RTX.
You can see a few games don’t benefit much from upscaling, though. Resident Evil Village was playable without upscaling, and it only sees a minor jump. The one that stings is Marvel’s Spider-Man. That game has a nasty CPU bottleneck, so the upscaling did very little to push the game above 60 fps.
You can also notice how many fewer games are in this chart compared to the ray tracing chart above. The games I omitted here don’t support FSR. Although FSR is available in a massive number of games — some 125+ based on AMD’s last count — Nvidia’s competing Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) has broader support. Nvidia has also been very strategic in adding DLSS to games that support ray tracing. Short of Teardown, every game I tested supported DLSS, but only three-quarters supported FSR. And of those games, only four supported FSR 2.
As mentioned, FSR 1 and FSR 2 are very different. FSR 2 is available in around 45 games right now, but a long list of titles is stuck using FSR 1. That list includes popular titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Ghost Runner, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, among others.
Raw ray tracing performance on the RX 7900 XTX is solid, but it’s the hit-or-miss support for FSR and, in particular, FSR 2, that puts a damper on ray tracing with AMD’s latest GPUs. There are definitely highlights like Dying Light 2, but they’re few and far between.
RX 7900 XTX ray tracing: worth it?
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends
After running dozens of benchmarks, it’s hard to say that ray tracing is a selling point of the RX 7900 XTX. It’s a lot more possible than it was in the previous generation, and you can achieve solid performance with a few compromises in other areas. AMD is at least competing on the ray tracing front now.
The major problem is AMD’s ecosystem that surrounds ray tracing. Portal RTX is a prime example of that. Even with upscaling turned on at the lowest graphics preset, the RX 7900 XTX wasn’t able to crack 20 fps. Compare that to the RTX 4080. Due to the unique frame generation capabilities of DLSS 3, that card can reach nearly 90 fps with all of the settings maxed out. Most of that extra performance comes on the back of Nvidia’s software ecosystem. In raw performance, the RX 7900 XTX and RTX 4080 are nearly identical, showcasing how important features like DLSS 3 are.
That doesn’t mean the RX 7900 XTX is down and out. In fact, in the most demanding games I tested, ray tracing had the smallest impact. Cyberpunk 2077 and The Witcher 3 show a slight boost to depth, but I really noticed the effects of ray tracing in Dying Light 2, Doom Eternal, and Resident Evil Village — and the RX 7900 XTX performed excellently in all of those games.
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What GPUs Have Ray-Tracing?
Those who build gaming PCs often wonder about ray-tracing. Getting a game is convenient, but GPUs are an expensive investment, and you’ll need to make the right choice. While the selections right now aren’t the largest, you still have several to choose from.
Look no further if you’re wondering what current GPUs have ray-tracing capabilities. Aside from NVIDIA’s RTX cards and high-end AMD Radeon RX cards, you have some surprising options. Read on to find out more.
What Is Ray-Tracing?
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- GPUs That Support Ray-Tracing
- The Differences Between All Categories
- RTX Series
- Radeon RX Series
- Other GPUs
- The Best Options
- The Future of Ray-Tracing GPUs
- Bright Future
Ray-tracing isn’t brand-new technology in the gaming industry, though it took until around 2018 for GPUs to implement it efficiently. Before the release of NVIDIA’s RTX GPUs, it wasn’t worth using because your card couldn’t handle it very well.
You can think of ray-tracing as a way to enhance the lighting, though there are many ways to do so. Diffused lighting is a sought-after ray-tracing method that involves rays of light bouncing off surfaces and then reflecting onto others. This image is incredibly realistic, as it mimics how light works in real life.
Many games also apply ray-tracing to shadows and environmental effects to further improve the image, creating an image that significantly enhances immersion, but the differences may not be that obvious without a “before and after” screenshot side-by-side. It may be subtle, but ray-tracing makes games beautiful.
Ray-Tracing in Games
Ray-tracing can work alongside other effects to improve image quality or optimize performance. Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) is another common term when looking at ray-tracing GPUs. This technology is designed to lessen your GPU load while maintaining a crisp image.
With DLSS, your computer upscales the video signal and applies anti-aliasing to a lower resolution instead of rendering everything at 4K, for example. Therefore, you can spare more power for ray-tracing and higher graphics settings without missing out on performance.
DLSS comes in 1.0, 2.0, and 2.1 versions. Some games use the older version, while many modern AAA titles can use the other two. Due to popular demand, some games are scheduled for upgrades to DLSS 2.0.
As the kit’s demanding, we don’t recommend playing games at 4K resolution when enabling ray-tracing. The best performance is around 1080p or 2K since cards today struggle to render games at native 4K with DirectX Ray-tracing.
Currently, 4K 120 with ray-tracing is impossible, as an RTX 3090 already struggles to reach 80FPS at 1080p. This holy grail of gaming will only arrive after years of development.
As mentioned, your games can apply ray-tracing on several parts of the image, but that’s not standard. Many games enhance shadows, global illumination, or reflections only. Too much would overload the GPUs, and that’s something you don’t want.
A benefit of getting a current-generation ray-tracing-ready GPU is that they’re also powerful for intensive gaming. Even if your games don’t support ray-tracing, you can still enjoy Ultra or High graphics.
GPUs That Support Ray-Tracing
Aside from the GPUs that started the ray-tracing revolution, the NVIDIA RTS series, two more categories support the technology. The strongest AMD Radeon RX models will also allow you to turn the option on, but there are caveats. Some older NVIDIA GPUs can also run ray-tracing, though at an inferior level.
Here are three lists of GPUs that have ray-tracing.
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 SUPER
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090
- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3090 Ti
Next are the AMD GPUs.
- AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT
- AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT
- AMD Radeon RX 6800
- AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT
- AMD Radeon RX 6900 XT
Finally, you have the older NVIDIA GPUs that have software-level DXR.
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660
- NVIDIA Titan Xp (2017)
- NVIDIA Titan X (2016)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Ti
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
The Differences Between All Categories
Having three categories means there are differences in ray-tracing performance and types. The RTX series has the best ray-tracing GPUs right now, and the Radeon RX cards fall behind in second place. NVIDIA’s non-RTX cards listed above are the worst regarding ray-tracing performance.
As a whole, the NVIDIA RTX 2000 and 3000 series will have the best results, even on laptop versions. Since NVIDIA is on its second generation of ray-tracing-ready GPUs, the company has made many improvements, and the 3000 series of graphics cards are quite powerful.
These GPUs use hardware-level ray-tracing, which is the ideal way. NVIDIA implements RT cores that handle the feature itself. These cores are dedicated to ray-tracing only and won’t be used for other functions.
Many of NVIDIA’s RTX GPUs are compatible with DLSS, so they tend to outperform AMD’s products.
Radeon RX Series
The Radeon RX series is AMD’s entrant in the GPU war and is the company’s first generation of ray-tracing-ready GPUs. While capable of ray-tracing, these GPUs pale in comparison to those its competitor sells. Even the RTX 2080 runs better than the RX 6900 XT.
AMD uses Ray Accelerators to handle ray-tracing, but these cores aren’t specialized components. Your system will also use them for other purposes, which lowers overall ray-tracing performance.
Fortunately, the Radeon RX series isn’t entirely without merit, as they boast high clock speeds and more. In early 2022, the company released FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR), its answer to DLSS. While not as powerful, AMD is already aiming to catch up with NVIDIA.
Due to the lack of cores, GPUs don’t inherently support ray-tracing at launch. It was only after the introduction of the RTX GPUs that NVIDIA released new drivers for these older cards.
Today, these GPUs can run a limited form of ray-tracing, but we don’t recommend buying these cards to enjoy the technology. By using software-based ray-tracing, these older cards can achieve a fraction of what an RTX card can do. We only recommend using the feature on these GPUs if you already own a computer that has one installed.
For example, you gain better performance and value with an RTX 3080. The effects with older cards are poor even compared to AMD’s Radeon RX GPUs.
The Best Options
Currently, all of the NVIDIA RTX cards above the 3060 are excellent for ray-tracing or high-end gaming in general. These GPUs have all the VRAM and speeds to run games at consistent framerates, even with ray-tracing turned on. To play at 4K60, you’ll need anything above an RTX 3080.
For AMD fans, we recommend the Radeon RX 6800 XT and 6900 XT. These two are fast GPUs that handle ray-tracing well. The lower-end models aren’t terrible, but they won’t reach the graphics settings hardcore gamers want.
One problem is that many games are optimized to work with NVIDIA’s ray-tracing hardware and software. Very few titles today are made for AMD GPUs, so more often than not, you’re going to get an RTX GPU.
The Future of Ray-Tracing GPUs
NVIDIA’s next generation of GPUs is the RTX 4000 series, of which you can expect an incredible performance boost. These new cards will have NVIDIA Reflex and DLSS features that improve performance. While highly anticipated, rumors suggest that these cards require new power supplies.
AMD isn’t far behind, as its Radeon RX 7000 series will come with RNDA 3 architecture, slated to provide impressive boosts. Of course, AMD isn’t content with its current ray-tracing situation, so you can rest assured that the company will learn from its mistakes. Their GPUs have been known for speed, and many are excited to see what these new GPUs bring to the table.
In a surprising turn of events, Intel has entered the GPU market with its upcoming Arc Alchemist GPUs. There’s not much concrete information available right now, but the community agrees that some models will have ray-tracing capabilities.
Intel’s ray-tracing comes in both DirectX and Vulkan types, so you can run practically every AAA title that uses ray-tracing today. The company also has an answer for NVIDIA DLSS and AMD FSR, called Intel XeSS, which will come after the GPUs themselves. These GPUs will also come in desktop and laptop versions.
Intel’s sudden arrival has thrown the gaming community into quite a frenzy. Many can’t wait to see how products from all three companies compete and whether Intel’s attempt is successful.
Implementing ray-tracing on a large scale is only in its early stages, and many games are being released with ray-tracing support. There are fewer than 30 GPUs that support the feature, but that number is set to increase soon. The future is bright, and gamers will have more products to choose from.
Which Nvidia and AMD graphics cards support ray tracing
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Which Nvidia and AMD graphics cards support ray tracing
Ray tracing is one of the most popular features of modern graphics cards. Optimization of light tracing technology provides a more realistic picture that can be seen in games with high graphics requirements. We are talking about those video cards that already support this option.
Nvidia graphics cards with ray tracing
Since the launch of the RTX (Turing) line, Nvidia has integrated ray tracing into its products. Therefore, there are many video cards that support this option.
- RTX Series: include Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 and Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. In addition, all SUPER variants are included here.
- Pascal-GTX: Classics that support ray tracing include, of course, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB of VRAM, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.
- Turing-GTX: Of course, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti series of graphics cards that support ray tracing. Let’s not forget about the GTX 1660 SUPER.
- Titan: In the Titan series, this option is supported by Nvidia Titan X, XP and V.
- GeForce RTX 30 Series: The Nvidia has equipped all variants of the flagship RTX 30 with ray tracing. These include the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070, 3080 and 3090.
Note: On some Nvidia graphics cards, the ray tracing feature is unlocked only after installing the Geforce 425.31 driver. This applies to Titan Xp, Titan X (Pascal), Geforce GTX 1660 Ti, Geforce GTX 1660, Geforce GTX 1080 Ti, Geforce GTX 1080, Geforce GTX 1070 Ti, Geforce GTX 1070 and Geforce GTX 1060 6GB models.
AMD graphics cards with ray tracing
While Nvidia has been equipping its graphics cards with ray tracing for some time now, AMD users will have to be patient. AMD GPUs supporting this technology are just emerging.
Only the latest AMD RX 6000 series graphics cards will support ray tracing. These include AMD Radeon RX 6800, AMD RADEON RX 6800 XT and AMD RADEON RX 6900 XT. RX 6800 series went on sale in November 2020, RX 6900 — in December 2020.
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Ray tracing became available on GeForce GTX 6000 series cards released in 2004
We think ray tracing is overrated. Yes, in some scenes this technology allows you to create really impressive graphical moments, but in most cases we see the opposite effect of lower net performance and a drop in frames per second. It is believed that the reason lies much deeper and lies in the unwillingness of game developers to implement support for this technology in their engines. It would be more correct to say that you need not only to check the box, indicating that the tracing is in several scenes, but also to achieve the maximum effect from its presence. We have to admit that today developers are not interested in anything like this, because there are very few video cards with ray tracing support on the market, which means that there is simply no one to create technology engines for. It is possible that things will change soon.
As it became known, AMD engineers have released special software that allows you to implement full-fledged ray tracing on video cards starting with the Radeon HD 7000 series and GeForce GTX 6000 series. Support is provided only using the popular Vulkan API. This means that owners of all video cards released in the last 10 years can try out the new technology. The implementation was made possible thanks to the Linear Bounding Volume Hierarchy, which provides real-time tracing processing. Experts note that despite such a broad gesture on the part of developers, not everyone can use tracing.
First of all, problems are observed on budget graphics chips, the power of which is not enough to process the trace in real time. Well, in general, such an innovation does not solve AMD’s problems, because in terms of ray tracing, the current generation of graphics chips of the Radeon RX 6000 series is significantly inferior to NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3000 line. It is assumed that Lisa Su will be rehabilitated as early as 2022 thanks to the RDNA 3 architecture. How realistic all this is, we will only find out in the fall, but for now AMD is not going to give up the market without a fight, giving all owners of Radeon RX 6000 series video cards a gift in the form of a release of more advanced technology FidelityFX Super Resolution 2.0 (FSR 2.0).
Recall that this is a scaling technology that involves increasing fps in games without the need for neural networks and machine learning. In fact, the output resolution is reduced a notch, and a smart algorithm scales it back to its original position without any visible drop in image quality.