Crytek’s spectacular ray-tracing showcase, “Neon Noir,” was recently made available to the public. The tech demo is particularly interesting because it deploys ray-tracing without the use of hardware acceleration. This is an important point because Nvidia has been touting the RTCores as one of the key features of the RTX 20 series Turing cards. Jensen and Co have claimed that these hardware components are essential to enable real-time ray-tracing.
While on paper the RTCores do help accelerate the process significantly by fast-tracking the BVH part of it, they’re not essential per se. What we’ve found (having played multiple RTX enabled games) is that the answer’s more complicated: ray-tracing is intensive, period. And certain high-end effects tank performance even on cards like the beastly GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. What Neon Noir shows, though, is that smart optimization can allow ray-traced effects to run solely on compute, with great performance.
Neon Noir uses Crytek’s sparse voxel GI tech to enable ray-traced reflections on nearby objects. The most obvious compromise they make is that distant objects and rougher materials continue to utilize cube-mapped reflections. Although on having a closer look, fully ray-traced games like Control look significantly better, the performance impact is massive.
Crytek’s Noir benchmark achieves somewhat similar quality while taking a fraction of the performance hit, essentially bringing ray-tracing to the masses.
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Motherboard: ASRock X570 Taichi
Memory: 16GB DDR4 @ 3600MHz
HDD: WD Black 4TB
PSU: Corsair HX1000iTest-Bench
We ran Neon Noir’s benchmark with ultra ray-tracing settings at 1080p and 1440p, and here are the results in terms of the average FPS. At 4K things got dicey, so we didn’t include those.
Although there’s not hardware-level acceleration involved here, NVIDIA’s RTX 2070 Super performs much better, maintaining a lead of almost 20 FPS (average) at 1080p and 14 FPS at 1440p. I suspect that NVIDIA has optimized its drivers for BVH (or ray-tracing in general) which is why the performance gap between the Radeon and GeForce cards is so wide.
We’ll keep an eye out for more ray-tracing benchmarks that don’t require NVIDIA’s RTCore and see how they perform on AMD’s Navi cards. Stay tuned!