Image: Sauli Lepola, Flickr

Not quite ‘the way its meant to be played’

Nvidia is one of the most beloved and largest companies in the tech industry. The Santa Clara based company shaped the way in which gamer get to experience their games by introducing the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) to the mainstream public. Since the GeForce 256 product line, in 1999, the PC gaming market has been reshaped forever.

It’s been almost three years since the release of the GeForce GTX 10 Series. Gamers worldwide have been preparing for an upgrade and the hype was great for the next generation of graphics cards. Finally, Nvidia launched their brand-new GeForce RTX 20 Series with the RTX 2080, on September 20, 2018, followed by the RTX 2080 Ti, on September 27, and the Mid-Range RTX 2070, on October 17. After numerous rumours in early December, the company also confirmed the upcoming, enthusiast grade RTX Titan. The latter has been confirmed to have a launch price of £2399 and is likely to have a release date in Q1 of 2019.

Nvidia’s interest in SLI has been constantly decreasing since the GeForce 600 generation

Tech specs include: the brand-new Turing Architecture, CUDA Compute Capability 7.5, Tensor cores, Display Port 1.4a, GPU Boost 4, NVLink and Virtual Link VR and GDDR6 video memory of 11 GB, or 24 GB for the Titan. The video memory will scale with NVLink, meaning that two RTX Titan cards will provide 48 GB of graphics memory at speeds of 100 GB/s. This allows for 4k images at 120Hz, 5K at 60 Hz or 8K resolutions and will be done through the new RTX NVLink bridge, which ships for $79. According to the Nvidia Data Center: “NVLink is a great advance to enable eight GPUs in a single server, and accelerate performance beyond PCIe.”. Officially, 3-way or 4-way Scalable Link Interface (or SLI) setups are not compatible.

Unfortunately, Nvidia’s interest in SLI has been constantly decreasing since the GeForce 600 generation. The RTX 20 line only maintains SLI compatibility for the RTX 2080 and higher, thus slowly removing what was one of Nvidia’s main attractions in 2008.

The company announced a series of brand-new features that would serve as selling points for its new cards. An example, and perhaps the most interesting one, is real-time Ray Tracing; This, as it was shown at the 2018 Gamescom demos for Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, represents Nvidia’s response to the rasterization process, which has been used for conventional 3D rendering since the early days of Doom. More specifically, instead of using a mesh of polygons, in order to depict a 3D model on a 2D screen, the new RTX graphics cards can calculate the colour of the pixels from each ray of light, even when that ray comes from an object not shown on the screen, thus creating more realistic day-time and night-time maps.

Video games will potentially include ‘AI based enhancements’, like “Text2speech systems”

The company aims to make several big steps regarding Artificial Intelligence through Deep Learning Super-Sampling Feature (DLSS), which improves both anti-aliasing and frame rate, as a result of a ‘constant learning process’ conducted by the graphics card. This, according to Nvidia, is a huge step forward for game developers, as video games will potentially include ‘AI based enhancements’, like “Text2speech systems”, “NPC chat bots” and “Boss fights that aren’t pre-scripted”.

However, the value of these products may be questioned when taking into consideration the small number of games that support the newly announced features. 21 games have been confirmed to make use of Ray Tracing, out of which 12 are available to play right now and even less of those are triple A titles (i.e. Battlefield V or Hitman 2). Also, only 25 upcoming DLSS titles have been reported on the official Nvidia website. In addition to that, as of November 2018, the average price on Amazon (one of UK’s largest tech retailers) for an RTX 2080 Ti is £1075, £765 for an RTX 2080 and £565 for an RTX 2070; This is an approximate price growth of 56% compared to the current prices of brand-new GTX 10 series cards and the benchmarks do not justify these price points.

21 games have been confirmed to make use of Ray Tracing, out of which 12 are available to play right now and even less of those are triple A titles

On top of that, the launch of the RTX cards has also been affected by an EVGA RTX 2080 Ti, allegedly, catching fire on November 15th. According to a Hard Forums post, an RTX 2080 Ti burst into flames, despite it not being used for a GPU intensive task. The same day, Nvidia confirmed the issue after a high number of users reporting the same issue. The following post was added by a company employee on the GeForce forums: “Limited test escapes from early boards caused the issues some customers have experienced with RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition. We stand ready to help any customers who are experiencing problems.”

Furthermore, it has been rumoured that AMD’s FreeSync works on GeForce cards, as long as the system also has an AMD FreeSync compatible GPU or APU. However, on September 30, an update from Tech Report stated that the tear-free gameplay from FreeSync displays, connected to Nvidia GFXs, may be a result of Windows 10’s Desktop Window Manager affecting games in borderless windowed mode.

And last, but certainly not least, at the market’s open on November 16, Nasdaq Composite fell more than one percent. Meanwhile, Nvidia’s stock prices fell to $164.43 by the end of the same day, after a period which the company has described as a “crypto hangover’: a decreased interest in cryptomining, following a bitcoin bubble, combined with inflated prices for brand new GPUs and with a high supply of affordable, second hand GTX 10 series graphics cards.

As of December 10, the Nasdaq price for an Nvidia stock is of $151.86. Ultimately, despite the hype, Nvidia took a hit in 2018 after numerous incidents surrounding their latest product line, their collaboration with video game developers and their post-cryptomining-spree financial situation.

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