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Key Points

  • The RTX 4090 GPU was released on October 12.
  • If you’re intending on running graphically demanding games, such as Cyberpunk 2077 or Microsoft Flight Simulator, you’ll likely appreciate the boost in FPS and visual details.
  • Power efficiency is a key differentiator when it comes to the RTX 40- series.

Some of the most powerful GPUs around are provided through the courtesy of Nvidia. With their new RTX 40- series comes a long list of improvements and added features.

Aside from DLSS Frame Generation, one of the biggest changes with the RTX 40 series comes with how the GPUs handle ray tracing.

The RTX 4090 GPU was released on October 12, and the RTX 4080 is expected on November 16. So, many gamers will naturally be wondering if upgrading to these systems is the sensible choice for them.

We’re going to answer this question right here.

What Makes the RTX 40-Series Different?

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Power efficiency is a key differentiator when it comes to the RTX 40- series. Preliminary testing shows the RTX 4080 to be around 60% faster and 30% faster than the RTX 3080 and 3090 Ti GPUs respectively, whilst operating at a lower power.

This means that the 4080 is more efficient than its predecessors even with a lower number of cores, most likely due to the Ada Lovelace architecture being such a huge improvement on the Ampere architecture used previously.

Nvidia RTX 4090 vs RTX 4080 16gb
The Nvidia RTX 4090 and RTX 4080 16GB are two of the most powerful GPUs in the RTX series.

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Coupled with DLSS Frame Generation, Nvidia‘s latest rendition of the DLSS system powered by Ada’s Optical Flow Generator, players can now play games at an even higher resolution without the accompanying decrease in performance. Frame rate is also not detrimentally affected and neither are visual details. This process will only help the RTX 40- series to be more efficient than the 30- series.

How Has Ray Tracing Changed?

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Before ray tracing was developed, games were rendered using polygons through a process called rasterization, which tended to cause inaccurate lighting effects. This problem was tackled when Nvidia introduced real-time ray tracing with their RTX 20- series in 2018.

Ray tracing is a form of graphics rendering which aims to simulate the movements and behavior of light as realistically as possible. Using algorithms to simulate how real light travels, ray tracing makes games more immersive by accurately portraying how light interacts with objects and creates shadows.

Although ray tracing was introduced with the 20- series, it has come a long way since then. This is mostly due to improvements to the RTX architecture as a whole. The ray tracing (RT) cores in the RTX 40- series are now third-generation, and specifically aim to mitigate the effects of ray-tracing workloads, reducing the strain on the system.

Performance

Performance is enhanced through the use of the Opacity Micro-Map (OMM) and Micro-Mesh engines, which are reported to allow for accelerated ray tracing for intensive workloads such as rendering textures such as fences and foliage.

Ray tracing is also improved massively with the RTX 40- series due to the addition of Shader Execution Reordering (SER). Since the GPU must execute different code paths and access data in differing patterns when simulating the light’s behavior, we see undesirable execution and data divergence.

Shaders calculate appropriate color, darkness, and light levels within a scene for all modern games, and struggling with divergence can slow their performance down. Processing the effect of almost countless rays of light interacting with different materials in a scene only increases this problem in modern games.

GPUs work most efficiently with a coherent workload, therefore SER was introduced to improve coherence by reducing both forms of divergence.

By reordering GPU threads, the GPU becomes much more efficient as groups of threads are now performing similar work. With SER, we can see shader performance being increased by up to 2X, along with an increase in frame rates by up to 25%.

Should I Upgrade to the RTX 40 Series for Ray Tracing Capabilities?

While all the technological advancements of the RTX 40- series certainly sound impressive, whether it’s worth upgrading to these systems largely depends on the playing habits of individual gamers.

If the games you’re playing don’t tend to rely heavily on ray tracing (such as Forza Horizon 5), you may not see as much of an improvement in real-world performance. Particularly if you’re running on one of the RTX 30- series.

Most of the improvements will likely be seen in slightly better frame rates rather than a huge visual difference. Forking out for an RTX 40 might simply be overkill for your needs.

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But if you’re intending on running graphically demanding games, such as Cyberpunk 2077 or Microsoft Flight Simulator, you’ll likely appreciate the boost in FPS and visual details. Even if those aren’t required for a pleasurable gaming experience.

However, considering these games are now years old, it’s very possible the majority of interested gamers have already played through them to their heart’s content and won’t gain much from boosting their card’s performance.

A New Lease of Life

While advanced ray tracing and DLSS Frame Generation won’t be coming to Nvidia’s previous GPUs anytime soon, old games may receive a new lease of life. Through the use of Nvidia’s RTX remix, a modding tool, ray tracing can be added to these older games. This is much like what was already done with Quake II and Minecraft.

This probably won’t be the focus of Nvidia’s efforts to make use of their new technology, however. We may just have to wait to see what supported games are released over the next year to really take full advantage of the newly optimized ray tracing.

Wrap Up

Realistically, whether gamers should choose the RTX 40- series mostly depends on what games they’re trying to play. If performance is subpar and their systems are struggling to run these games, then considering the RTX 40- series is a smart decision.

Otherwise, sticking with your current setup may be the best option, especially since we are likely to see more affordable RTX 40- graphics cards being released as time goes on.

If you’re dead set on an RTX, going with one of the 30- series is definitely a good investment. Prices might also go down as demand for the newer 40- series increases.

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RTX 40-Series for Improved Ray Tracing: A Worthwhile Investment? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is ray tracing?

Ray tracing is a technology which aims to mimic the way real light behaves and interacts with the environment. By using algorithms to simulate this, ray tracing makes for a more immersive and true-to-life gaming experience.

How many GPUs are there in the RTX 40 series?

Currently, there is the RTX 4090. There’s also the RTX 4080, but it’s yet to be released.

When is the next in the RTX 40 series coming out?

The RTX 4080 16GB is set for release on November 16, 2022.

What makes the RTX 40 series different to the 30 series?

The main differences in the RTX 40- series are due to the inclusion of the new and improved Ada Lovelace architecture, DLSS Frame Generation, and further optimized ray tracing through Shader Execution Reordering.

These reportedly give up to a 25% increase in frame rate, 2x to 4x increased performance compared to the RTX 3090 Ti, and up to a 2x increase in shader performance for games that rely heavily on ray tracing.

How much do the cards in the RTX 40 series cost?

The RTX 4090 retails at $1599, while the RTX 4080 is set to retail at $1199.

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