What Is an RTX Graphics Card?


Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards offer the pinnacle of its consumer-facing features and performance; they even compare to some high-end professional cards. RTX cards inform buyers that they have onboard RT and Tensor cores; that’s the dedicated hardware to accelerate ray tracing and artificial intelligence calculations.



What Is RTX?

RTX is a brand name introduced by Nvidia, with its RTX 2000-series graphics cards, in 2018. The name describes the hardware itself and marks it as separate from the previous-generation, “GTX” options.


GTX cards included the beloved GTX 1080 Ti and the ultra-popular GTX 1060. They didn’t sport the RT or Tensor cores which accelerate ray tracing and AI calculations like deep learning super sampling (DLSS).


The “RT” in “RTX” is, in fact, short for “ray tracing.” That’s the card’s signature feature, which renders light in real time to create realistic, dynamic shadows and reflections. Originally, “RTX On” in a game meant that hardware-accelerated ray tracing was active. At the time, Nvidia was the only company which offered this feature on its GPUs.


Nvidia has since dropped “RTX On,” however, since other companies and hardware now offer the same features. Modern games now support ray tracing using AMD and Intel graphics cards, too, as well as alternative upscaling algorithms like AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) and Intel’s Xe Super Sampling (XeSS).





What Is the Newest RTX Card?

Although there some third-party vendors still sell aftermarket versions of Nvidia’s GTX graphics cards, only Nvidia presently sells RTX-branded graphics cards. The latest generation at the time of writing is the RTX 4000-series, which includes the RTX 4060, 4070 Super, 4080 Super, and the fastest graphics card in the world for gaming, the RTX 4090, among others.



The RTX 400 Ti is a more mid-tier, mainstream graphics card at a more affordable price than the top cards.

Nvidia



All of these graphics cards have RT and Tensor cores, giving them support for the latest generations of Nvidia’s hardware accelerated ray tracing technology, and the most advanced DLSS algorithms, including frame generation which massively boosts frame rates in supporting games.


RTX graphics cards are also some of the most popular for accelerating certain professional applications, too. Part of that is the onboard CUDA cores, which can accelerate applications like Adobe After Affects, 3DS Max, and OBS Studio, among many others. But the Tensor cores can also be used for AI workloads, and are starting to see use in upscaling video and generative AI at the local level, too.



What Are RTX Quadro Cards?

Nvidia’s RTX Quadro cards are professional-level graphics cards designed for 3D design work, 3D effects, video editing, and various other applications. They can technically play games, but they aren’t designed for it. They don’t perform particularly well for this use, especially against more specialized graphics cards like the RTX 4070 Super or RTX 4090.


Quadro cards are far faster and more capable in professional applications, however, and often sport much greater quantities of video memory.





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