FAQ: What You Need to Know About Ray Tracing

Ray tracing is a relatively new feature in gaming making lighting and graphics look more realistic than ever before.

With that being said there are many unanswered questions about this feature that can be relatively short to answer so I have compiled some of the most popular questions in this article.

If you aren’t sure exactly what ray tracing is or how it works I have also written an in-depth article on what ray tracing is and how it works. This will go into detail about how it functions and how it makes your game feel hyper-realistic.

Is Ray Tracing Heavy on Your CPU?

Ray tracing should not be heavy on your CPU. Why? The reason is that ray tracing uses RT cores (ray tracing cores) in the GPU. The GPU is responsible for any graphics on your screen, so your CPU doesn’t really affect how ray tracing works.

The only thing your CPU helps with is everything in the backend. Such as the geometry of how the light reflects off of objects, but the GPU does the reflecting of objects.

If you have a bullet flying through the air the CPU will calculate where the light and shadows need to be reflected, but in the end, your GPU is what needs to process it on your screen.

Does Ray Tracing Use a lot of RAM and VRAM?

Ray tracing has the majority of its stress on the GPU. However, it will also have a small impact on the amount of RAM used. Even though it is not a significant amount here are a few different ways ray tracing can affect your system’s RAM.

  • Textures and Assets: Ray tracing can sometimes create high-resolution textures that are created by realistic lighting. Loading these textures will use a small bit of your system RAMs memory.
  • BVH Structures: BVH or Bounding Volume Hierarchies are data structures that are used to optimize ray-object intersection tests. BVH can use a good amount of memory depending on what is happening on your screen and the complexity of it.
  • Frame Buffers: Ray tracing may require additional frame buffers to store information about light paths, reflections, refractions, etc. These buffers can increase RAM usage.
  • Software Implementation: Some ray tracing implementations, especially those not fully optimized for real-time rendering (like offline rendering or CGI), might use more system memory.
  • Resolution: The resolution at which ray tracing is performed can also impact RAM usage. Higher resolutions mean more pixels to trace rays through, leading to more data to store in memory.

It is also important to tell the difference between system RAM and VRAM.

System RAM is the main memory component of your computer. Even though ray tracing can increase RAM usage a little bit from what we mentioned above. Most games that implement real-time ray tracing tend to minimize this RAM usage as much as possible.

VRAM on the other hand is Video memory that is built into your graphics card and because of this ray tracing will have a big impact on the amount of VRAM your computer uses. VRAM is what renders basically everything on your screen, which includes the lighting and effects of everything that has to do with ray tracing.

This is why you can see that modern GPUs that are made for higher ray tracing performance will have a significantly higher amount of VRAM than older GPUs.

Do GTX Graphics Cards Support Ray Tracing?

Technically, GTX cards in the 10 and 16 series offer ray tracing support, but this is only to the minimum effect.

GTX cards do not come equipped with RT cores, which is what makes real-time ray tracing possible. However, Nvidia gave these specific GTX models the ability to experience these ray tracing features in another way.

This is called DirectX ray tracing (DXR).

However, even with this feature you will only get to experience the minimal effect of what ray tracing is actually capable of, and some games will be unplayable because your GPU won’t be able to keep up.

So, if you are someone who wants to dip their toes into the world of ray tracing then this might be something you are interested in.

Is Ray Tracing Nvidia Exclusive?

Ray tracing is not Nvidia exclusive. However, Nvidia was the first company to implement the real time ray tracing experience on there RTX series GPUs.

Although AMD was late to the show, they have proven themselves in being able to ray tracing games on there GPUs.

This also doesn’t mean one brand is better than one overall because it actually depends on what technolgoy the game developers want to support more.

Some games ray tracing work better on AMD and some work better on Nvidia. It just depends what games you enjoy playing the most.

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