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I’ve gamed on the very best graphics cards for days gone by two years. Some tips about what I’ve learned.

An Nvidia graphics card slotted into a test bench with its power cable in the foreground

(Image credit: Future)

Once we get nearer to the end of the graphics card generation, there exists a large amount of excitement around what comes next for Nvidia and AMD. I’m one among those people who’s wanting to see what Team Green and Team Red have waiting for you, especially if they are able to do more to prioritize energy efficiency and value for the client instead of go all in on power and performance that no-one even the earth are able.

Having said that, I am in a fairly privileged position in accordance with most people for the reason that I’ve actually had the opportunity to game on almost every current-gen graphics card for work, therefore I’ve learned something or two concerning the present state of the marketplace for the best graphics cards, and where in fact the technology must go within the next generation.

Ray tracing continues to be a work happening at this time

An artist and apprentice use a taut string and perspectival window to draw a foreshortened image of a lute.

A woodcut of an artist and apprentice utilizing a taut string and perspectival window to draw a foreshortened image of a lute, an analog ray tracing technique produced by Rennaissance artist Albrecht Drer. (Image credit: Public Domain)

Ray tracing is really a fascinating technology which has huge potential to generate stunning life-like scenes by mimicking just how our eyes actually perceive light, but boy howdy could it be computationally expensive.

The amount of calculations necessary to realistically light a scene instantly are enormous, and so are why real-time ray tracing was long considered practically impossible on consumer grade hardware. That’s, needless to say, until Nvidia releasing its Turing architecture with the GeForce RTX 2000-series graphics cards.

Because the first generation of consumer graphics cards with real-time ray tracing, it really is understandable that it had been a neat experimental feature, nevertheless, you really couldn’t do much with it while playing without absolutely cratering your frame rate. That is still true, once we summary the Nvidia Ampere generation of cards.

These cards are better in a position to handle real-time ray tracing, especially at lower resolutions, but you’ll still have to create a compromise between resolution and ray tracing. For instance, there is absolutely no graphics card that may effectively ray trace a scene at native 4K resolution that’s not a whole slideshow apart from the RTX 3090 Ti, that is in a position to ray trace Cyberpunk 2077 at about 24 fps with ray tracing fired up.

AMD, meanwhile, is on its first generation of graphics card hardware with real-time ray tracing, and it’s really performance is certainly where Nvidia Turing cards pretty much were when it found ray tracing performance, that is to state not awful, but nonetheless definitely first-gen tech.

Upscaling the near future

Cyberpunk 2077’s benchmark tool running at 4K on ultra setting with ultra ray tracing presets but no DLSS (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

Just how does anyone effectively play the best PC games at high resolutions with ray tracing fired up anyway if even the best gaming PC possible nowadays will struggle?

I’m glad you asked, as the true revolutionary development of recent years was not ray tracing, but graphics upscaling. Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling and AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution (and also AMD Radeon Super Resolution), have made playing PC games at high resolutions and settings with ray tracing possible.

Inside our slideshow above, you can observe the difference between native 4K with all setting and ray tracing resulted in to ultra presets and the way the game looks without DLSS, with DLSS set to quality, and DLSS set to performance. I could let you know that the difference is not actually apparent while running the benchmark or playing the overall game either.

Without upscaling, people that have Nvidia GTX 1060s and AMD RX 5700 XTs could have hardly any reason to upgrade to a fresh graphics card, honestly.

Among the best games don’t benefit from this hardware, and the ones that can still suck

Finished . about games is they are rarely concerning the incredible graphics, but are concerning the experience. The type of hardware we’re seeing now produces some very nice looking games, but if they’re poorly optimized, what’s the idea? You wind up with a Cyberpunk 2077, a casino game that launched so broken on PCs that it took a large amount of market value off the studio that managed to get, CD Projekt Red.

Meanwhile, something similar to Vampire Survivor can virtually dominate Steam though it looks like it could operate on an NES doped through to Adderall, largely since it hits at the core of why is us desire to play games to begin with: we wish them to be fun. And the truth is, its not necessary an RTX 3090 Ti to possess fun, and I believe so many folks forget that.

If Nvidia and AMD were smart, they might focus less on making leading edge graphical improvements and much more on efficiency and value, in order that those gamers who do need to get the very best graphics and performance out of a casino game can perform that without needing to spend a lot of money to take action. Gamers will be less and less in a position to purchase the best Nvidia Geforce graphics cards and the best AMD graphics cards in the years ahead, also it would honestly suck if we keep seeing an already expensive hobby get a lot more inaccessible.

John Loeffler

John (He/Him) may be the US Computing Editor at TechRadar and he could be also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently surviving in Brooklyn, NY.

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John focuses on every area of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, and also general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You could find him online on Twitter at @thisdotjohn

Currently playing: EVE Online, Elden Ring.

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