Nvidia’s new GPUs look amazing, but that doesn’t mean you should buy one

To the delight of the enthusiast gaming community, Nvidia finally announced its GeForce RTX 20-series GPUs at Gamescom. In many ways, these GPUs are everything we’ve all been waiting for, showcasing powerful technologies like real-time ray tracing, dedicated tensor and RT cores, and a densely packed array of transistors on the new Turing architecture. Nvidia claims these new cards, which range from $500 to $1,200, perform at six times the level of the company’s previous graphics cards.

But no matter how large the leap forward is, these new GPUs won’t matter for the majority of PC gamers. Unless you were planning on upgrading this fall anyways, there’s not a big incentive to go and pick up these cards for at least a couple of years.

Limited games

The highlight of the GeForce RTX series is its ray tracing capabilities. This highly-anticipated feature is now finally available for the first time ever on consumer graphics chips — that’s according to Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during his keynote presentation in Germany. In short, ray tracing brings real-time processing of lighting to scenes in a game, bringing cinematic effects to gameplay by showing how reflections, lights, and shadows in up to 4K resolution. Nvidia partner Electronic Arts demonstrated how ray tracing can be enabled in a game to show the reflection of a burning fire on the side of a car door in a demo of Battlefield V.  The results are noticeable and present a serious step in the journey toward photorealism.

But even if ray tracing is the holy grail of graphics technology, its impact on gamers will be more limited, at least in the beginning. The technology certainly looks promising, but the reality is that only a limited number of games will come with ray tracing support this year. 

You likely won’t notice much of a performance improvement for most real-world tasks.

Given that most of the most popular games on Steam are older titles that run fine on even hardware with moderate power, the added power of Nvidia’s RTX 20 series may be overkill. Unless you’re one of the very few people who are pushing the envelope with high frame rates in 4K resolution, a lot of the power of the RTX 20 series will be wasted. If you already own a higher-end Nvidia GTX 10 series graphics card, you likely won’t notice much of a performance improvement for most real-world tasks. That’s even truer if you primarily play competitive-style games where detailed shadows, lights, and reflections aren’t game-changers.

Over time, as developers add support for ray tracing, the content may grow. But like a technology like DirectX 12, don’t expect Nvidia’s vision to be fully realized at the onset. We’re talking years here — not months.

Virtual reality is still not fully a reality

Another benefit that Nvidia was promoting with the RTX GPU is better support for virtual reality. The company is pushing the VirtualLink standard that allows VR headsets to connect to the PC with just a single USB-C cable. This will lead to a simpler experience out of the box for users looking to adopt VR, but it’s always possible that not all manufacturers will support this feature.

NVIDIA Unveils GeForce RTX, World’s First Real-Time Ray Tracing GPUs
Nvidia

In a report from CNET, it’s pointed out that even though all cards with the Turing architecture have the new VirtualLink specification, that doesn’t mean manufacturers will actually provide the USB-C and DisplayPort 1.4 port for 8K video.

Gamers who purchase the RTX cards are buying into Nvidia’s vision for the future of graphics.

To take advantage full advantage of this, you’ll need to invest in a new VR headset that supports VirtualLink and wait for 8K VR content to arrive. Not only is that a far-off proposal, VR itself is still in its infancy. While it’s a use case for high-end hardware, most of the statistics show that interest in VR isn’t exploding the way it was supposed to.

Again, it’s a technology that has the potential to pay off in the long haul. As for now, you’re paying for something you probably won’t use.

Waiting may be worth it

When the new cards arrive, you may be able to find some deals on Nvidia’s GTX series, and that may be a better investment over the next few years unless you’re ready to upgrade all your peripherals to take advantage of all the advancements of the RTX cards. That means a new 4K gaming monitor, new VR headsets that support VirtualLink, and purchase new limited number of game titles that come with support for ray tracing.

At this time, gamers who purchase the RTX cards are buying into Nvidia’s vision for the future of graphics. But that future hasn’t arrived yet, and you’re making an investment up front for something that won’t immediately pay off. And given that this is the first generation of the consumer RTX card, you’re really making a blind purchase before seeing any real-world benchmarks and reviews. We still don’t even know how many tensor cores are on these RTX cards.

If you are already planning for an upgrade or a new system, it might not be a bad idea to pick one of these up. But for most people, the RTX 20 series will be overkill.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Self-balancing skates, tiny tripods, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

HDMI 2.0b is a whole lot more than just a connection to your TV

HDMI 2.0b is the backbone for many of the latest updates in 4K UHD technology. And while a new cable standard can often involve a bunch of changes for consumers, that is not the case this time around.
Computing

Release of Nvidia's RTX 2080 Ti GPUs will be delayed by a week

Nvidia's new RTX 2000 series graphics cards are impressive pieces of hardware, with some amazing advancements and some rather high price tags to match. Here's everything you need to know about Nvidia's new top-tier cards.
Computing

No games will support ray tracing when Nvidia RTX graphics cards launch

Nvidia's new RTX graphics cards won't have much use for those RT cores on launch day, as no games will support ray tracing for at least a month after they officially start shipping out to consumers.
Home Theater

The best Dolby Atmos movies for your home theater sound as good as they look

If you've got your hands on some sweet Dolby Atmos gear, the next step is to find films that take advantage of it. These are our picks in every genre for the best Dolby Atmos movies currently available on Blu-ray and streaming services.
Computing

Don't buy a new router, fix your Wi-Fi with these quick tips

Don't panic when your Wi-Fi goes down. Instead, fix it. These simple solutions to the most common Wi-Fi Problems will get you back online at high speed in no time (hopefully) without buying a new router.
Mobile

This orange puck keeps you online in any country, with one hidden catch

Staying connected on your travels can be a challenge and sometimes results in hefty cell phone bills you could do without. We tried out the Skyroam Solis, a global Wi-Fi hotspot and power bank billed as the perfect solution.
Computing

Our favorite gaming desktops make the latest consoles look pathetic

PC gaming doesn't always come cheap, but it doesn't have to be extortionate either. In this guide we've put together a list of the best gaming PCs you can buy, with everything from the big and flashy, to the super compact.
Computing

These 15-inch laptops are both powerhouses, but which should you buy?

The Asus ZenBook Pro 15 UX580 offers an innovative twist on the tried-and-true touchpad: the LCD-equipped ScreenPad. That's not all that Asus has up its sleeve, but is it all enough to compete?
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation. Updated meta…
Computing

Microsoft may go back to black with 2018 Surface Pro and Surface Laptop

Microsoft may be adding black as a color option to its refreshed Surface Laptop and Surface Pro models on October 2nd. Rumors of the new color along with an image of the black Surface Laptop popped up over the weekend.
Computing

Microsoft could debut transparent Surface Dial sequel at October event

Microsoft's upcoming October Surface event could show off more than just laptops. A new FCC filing suggests Microsoft may also debut a new Surface Dial device, potentially with a transparent center.
Deals

The best laptop deals for September 2018

Whether you're getting ready for a new school year, shopping for a special student, or just need a new computer, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going, from discounted MacBooks to an on-the-go gaming PC.
Deals

Black Friday 2018: When it happens and where to find the best deals

Black Friday is the biggest shopping holiday of the year, and it will be here before you know it. If you can't wait until November 23 to start formulating a shopping plan, we've got you covered.