from the picture-this dept.
In the closing months of 2018, NVIDIA finally released the long-awaited successor to the Pascal-based GeForce GTX 10 series: the GeForce RTX 20 series of video cards. Built on their new Turing architecture, these GPUs were the biggest update to NVIDIA's GPU architecture in at least half a decade, leaving almost no part of NVIDIA's architecture untouched.
So far we've looked at the GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, and RTX 2070 – and along with the highlights of Turing, we've seen that the GeForce RTX 20 series is designed on a hardware and software level to enable realtime raytracing and other new specialized features for games. While the RTX 2070 is traditionally the value-oriented enthusiast offering, NVIDIA's higher price tags this time around meant that even this part was $500 and not especially value-oriented. Instead, it would seem that the role of the enthusiast value offering is going to fall to the next member in line of the GeForce RTX 20 family. And that part is coming next week.
Launching next Tuesday, January 15th is the 4th member of the GeForce RTX family: the GeForce RTX 2060 (6GB). Based on a cut-down version of the same TU106 GPU that's in the RTX 2070, this new part shaves off some of RTX 2070's performance, but also a good deal of its price tag in the process
NVIDIA's Gamescom 2018 keynote just wrapped up, and as many have been expecting since it was announced last month, NVIDIA is getting ready to launch their next generation of GeForce hardware. Announced at the event and going on sale starting September 20th is NVIDIA's GeForce RTX 20 series, which is succeeding the current Pascal-powered GeForce GTX 10 series. Based on NVIDIA's new Turing GPU architecture and built on TSMC's 12nm "FFN" process, NVIDIA has lofty goals, looking to drive an entire paradigm shift in how games are rendered and how PC video cards are evaluated. CEO Jensen Huang has called Turing NVIDIA's most important GPU architecture since 2006's Tesla GPU architecture (G80 GPU), and from a features standpoint it's clear that he's not overstating matters.
[...] So what does Turing bring to the table? The marquee feature across the board is hybrid rendering, which combines ray tracing with traditional rasterization to exploit the strengths of both technologies. This announcement is essentially a continuation of NVIDIA's RTX announcement from earlier this year, so if you thought that announcement was a little sparse, well then here is the rest of the story.
The big change here is that NVIDIA is going to be including even more ray tracing hardware with Turing in order to offer faster and more efficient hardware ray tracing acceleration. New to the Turing architecture is what NVIDIA is calling an RT core, the underpinnings of which we aren't fully informed on at this time, but serve as dedicated ray tracing processors. These processor blocks accelerate both ray-triangle intersection checks and bounding volume hierarchy (BVH) manipulation, the latter being a very popular data structure for storing objects for ray tracing.
NVIDIA is stating that the fastest GeForce RTX part can cast 10 Billion (Giga) rays per second, which compared to the unaccelerated Pascal is a 25x improvement in ray tracing performance.
Nvidia has confirmed that the machine learning capabilities (tensor cores) of the GPU will used to smooth out problems with ray-tracing. Real-time AI denoising (4m17s) will be used to reduce the amount of samples per pixel needed to achieve photorealism.
Related: Real-time Ray-tracing at GDC 2014
Yesterday, AMD launched the Radeon VII, the first 7nm GPU. The card is intended to compete with Nvidia's RTX family of Turing-class GPUs, and it does, broadly matching the RTX 2080. It also matches the RTX 2080 on price, at $700. Because this card began life as a professional GPU intended for scientific computing and AI/ML workloads, it's unlikely that we'll see lower-end variants. That section of AMD's product stack will be filled by 7nm Navi, which arrives later this year.
Navi will be AMD's first new 7nm GPU architecture and will offer a chance to hit 'reset' on what has been, to date, the least compelling suite of GPU launches AMD and Nvidia have ever collectively kicked out the door. Nvidia has relentlessly moved its stack pricing higher while holding performance per dollar mostly constant. With the RTX 2060 and GTX 1070 Ti fairly evenly matched across a wide suite of games, the question of whether the RTX 2060 is better priced largely hinges on whether you stick to formal launch pricing for both cards or check historical data for actual price shifts.
Such comparisons are increasingly incidental, given that Pascal GPU prices are rising and cards are getting harder to find, but they aren't meaningless for people who either bought a Pascal GPU already or are willing to consider a used card. If you're an Nvidia fan already sitting on top of a high-end Pascal card, Turing doesn't offer you a great deal of performance improvement.
AMD has not covered itself in glory, either. The Radeon VII is, at least, unreservedly faster than the Vega 64. There's no equivalent last-generation GPU in AMD's stack to match it. But it also duplicates the Vega 64's overall power and noise profile, limiting the overall appeal, and it matches the RTX 2080's bad price. A 1.75x increase in price for a 1.32x increase in 4K performance isn't a great ratio even by the standards of ultra-high-end GPUs, where performance typically comes with a price penalty.
Rumors and leaks have suggested that Nvidia will release a Turing-based GPU called the GTX 1660 Ti (which has also been referred to as "1160"), with a lower price but missing the dedicated ray-tracing cores of the RTX 2000-series. AMD is expected to release "7nm" Navi GPUs sometime during 2019.
Related: AMD Returns to the Datacenter, Set to Launch "7nm" Radeon Instinct GPUs for Machine Learning in 2018
Nvidia Announces RTX 2080 Ti, 2080, and 2070 GPUs, Claims 25x Increase in Ray-Tracing Performance
AMD Announces "7nm" Vega GPUs for the Enterprise Market
Nvidia Announces RTX 2060 GPU
AMD Announces Radeon VII GPU, Teases Third-Generation Ryzen CPU
AMD Responds to Radeon VII Short Supply Rumors
When NVIDIA put their plans for their consumer Turing video cards into motion, the company bet big, and in more ways than one. In the first sense, NVIDIA dedicated whole logical blocks to brand-new graphics and compute features – ray tracing and tensor core compute – and they would need to sell developers and consumers alike on the value of these features, something that is no easy task. In the second sense however, NVIDIA also bet big on GPU die size: these new features would take up a lot of space on the 12nm FinFET process they'd be using.
The end result is that all of the Turing chips we've seen thus far, from TU102 to TU106, are monsters in size; even TU106 is 445mm2, never mind the flagship TU102. And while the full economic consequences that go with that decision are NVIDIA's to bear, for the first year or so of Turing's life, all of that die space that is driving up NVIDIA's costs isn't going to contribute to improving NVIDIA's performance in traditional games; it's a value-added feature. Which is all workable for NVIDIA in the high-end market where they are unchallenged and can essentially dictate video card prices, but it's another matter entirely once you start approaching the mid-range, where the AMD competition is alive and well.
Consequently, in preparing for their cheaper, sub-$300 Turing cards, NVIDIA had to make a decision: do they keep the RT and tensor cores in order to offer these features across the line – at a literal cost to both consumers and NVIDIA – or do they drop these features in order to make a leaner, more competitive chip? As it turns out, NVIDIA has opted for the latter, producing a new Turing GPU that is leaner and meaner than anything that's come before it, but also very different from its predecessors for this reason.
That GPU is TU116, and it's part of what will undoubtedly become a new sub-family of Turing GPUs for NVIDIA as the company starts rolling out Turing into the lower half of the video card market. Kicking things off in turn for this new GPU is NVIDIA's latest video card, the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. Launching today at $279, it's destined to replace NVIDIA's GTX 1060 6GB in the market and is NVIDIA's new challenger for the mainstream video card market.
Compared to the RTX 2060 Founders Edition, GTX 1660 Ti has fewer CUDA[*] cores, lower memory clock, and the same amount of VRAM (6 GB), but it has higher core/boost clocks and lower TDP (120 W vs. 160 W). GTX 1660 Ti has roughly 85% the performance of the RTX 2060, at 80% the MSRP ($279 vs. $349).
NVIDIA is launching a mid-generation kicker for their mid-to-high-end video card lineup in the form of their GeForce RTX 20 series Super cards. Based on the same family of Turing GPUs as the original GeForce RTX 20 series cards, these new Super cards – all suffixed Super, appropriately enough – come with new configurations and new clockspeeds. They are, essentially, NVIDIA's 2019 card family for the $399+ video card market.
When they are released on July 9th, the GeForce RTX 20 series Super cards are going to be sharing store shelves with the rest of the GeForce RTX 20 series cards. Some cards like the RTX 2080 and RTX 2070 are set to go away, while other cards like the RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2060 will remain on the market as-is. In practice, it's probably best to think of the new cards as NVIDIA executing as either a price cut or a spec bump – depending on if you see the glass as half-empty or half-full – all without meaningfully changing their price tiers.
In terms of performance, the RTX 2060 and RTX 2070 Super cards aren't going to bring anything new to the table. In fact if we're being blunt, the RTX 2070 Super is basically a slightly slower RTX 2080, and the RTX 2060 Super may as well be the RTX 2070. So instead, what has changed is the price that these performance levels are available at, and ultimately the performance-per-dollar ratios in parts of NVIDIA's lineup. The performance of NVIDIA's former $699 and $499 cards will now be available for $499 and $399, respectively. This leaves the vanilla RTX 2060 to hold the line at $349, and the upcoming RTX 2080 Super to fill the $699 spot. Which means if you're in the $400-$700 market for video cards, your options are about to get noticeably faster.