There are very few things in computer hardware that I am almost completely ignorant of how it works and why. I will freely admit that video cards fall into that category once they get past a certain point of being a basic video card.
Way back in the dark ages of video cards… Matrox had some awesome cards that either installed easily (drivers) or was a fight to the end. Once you got that baby running you had one hell of a video card for the day.
It could also break your spirit by just deciding to not work every so often. Matrox not only broke my will with video cards, it completely erased any desire to know anything about them.
I was to the point of the average automobile driver. I knew what the motor did. I knew a few things I could do when the motor didn’t do anything… but usually opening the hood and touching this and that with a perplexed look never fixed anything.
When I got into digital 3D... video cards became a necessary evil. Or maybe I should say basic knowledge of certain aspects of these cards became important to keep up with but even then after you get past the video tech that is important to my usage… it became black magic.
As digital grunts, we already must know about a lot of things and my plate was just too crowded to keep a close tab on video card technology. Besides… today you just plug them and download an up to date driver.
So, when I was told an RTX was on its way for review I quickly jumped onto Google and starting schooling myself on what the RTX was all about.
Wow, it’s about all kinds of stuff. Turing technology and things that go bump in the night… or at least inside your computer. In fact, it is stuffed full of so much technology it made my head spin.
There were papers, benchmarks, explainers, fanboys, and doubters. Pretty graphics that showed a lot and said little. Amazing flowcharts that -- were I in the flowchart business -- would’ve knocked my socks off.
But alas… I’m not in the flowchart business. All I want to do is read about real-world usage and compare it to what I already have, an aging GTX 980 and a year old GTX 1080. Both rather expensive for their respective times.
There are plenty of places to get technical info, so I came up with a scenario in which to test the card. First spending a week or so with it on my VR computer which has both the Vive and Rift for gaming and VR based testing.
After this, I would put the card into another computer that I do my digital work with and try it out with my 3D applications like 3DS Max, iClone, Substance Painter, and ZBrush. Real world attempts at usage testing instead of benchmarks.
The Testbed PC. The Titan installed. The Titan vs the GTX 980.
This brings me to where we are now with the VR game testing phase.
The first headset I tried was the Oculus Rift and to be honest… I wasn’t that impressed initially.
It was much smoother no doubt. By that I mean everything just worked better. Everything flowed more naturally from transitions to game input.
The thing is… the Rift is already a bit smoother and graphics a bit brighter than they are on my Vive HMD. The more I played and went through menus the more I noticed these improvements to the experience. That is really the only way I can describe it on the Rift.
It was a better experience than the older cards by a long shot.
After a few days of Rift testing, I switched to the Vive and, man, oh man, did RTX make a difference!
Immediately I noticed very marked improvements in the lighting and overall clarity of any scene or location. Text was vastly improved. I no longer had to squint to read it. It was the difference in day and night.
In games that were almost two years old, I was noticing details I had never seen before. It was like everything was new again.
There actually was a small sense of wonder because of the stark difference in the 980 to the Titan.
For example, in Iron Wolf VR, one of my favorite VR games, I noticed so many details that I just stood in each room looking around at what I had missed.
Night mode was not just feasible now. It was fun. Things were so smooth it improved my gameplay quite a bit.
The smooth gameplay even got me through a horde in Arizona Sunshine. I had been stuck facing this God-forsaken horde for almost as long as the game has been published… two years ago. Yet it only took two attempts to get past the horde and one was burned relearning the game!
Oh hell yes!!! I may be a couple of years late to the party, but I was past that freakin’ horde and having a blast until… you guessed it… I hit the next horde! Those goons will have to wait though as I had to move on to other games and apps.
As of this writing, I have to say the RTX has improved the VR experience enough to get me excited again about VR gaming.
But… and this is the million-dollar question… is it $2500 worth of improvement? Is the new Turing Technology worth its asking price?
Only you can answer that question.
In defense of Nvidia, the tech is great, the card is great, the experience is great, but, in hindsight, they overestimated the market. Particularly when you consider the slide in crypto mining. At its MSRP of $2500 (US), the tech giant simply overpriced it and took out most of the buying market in doing so.
This writer would not have one to write about were it not furnished for the review. In fact, the desktop it went into was a decent i7 that cost around $1500 (US) and that is a top line desktop… the HP Omen.
Again… everything just “works” better with the card. Amazingly better but the price puts it out of reach of the average home-based digital artist and just about anyone else.
The next part of this review will be after extensive usage in a digital work environment. I will be taking it out of the Omen and installing it into a Dell with the same specs for animation and render work. In particular, I will be using it for real-time work in iClone so keep an eye out for that.
To this point, the RTX is everything Nvidia said it would be. There have been no disappointments in its performance so far.
The fun part is over, and the digital work starts. It will be interesting to see if the RTX brings more value to itself in digital 3D production.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.