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Demystifying Nvidia‘s Graphics Cards: A Complete GTX vs RTX Comparison

If you‘re a PC gamer, you‘ve probably asked yourself this question – should I buy a GeForce GTX or RTX graphics card? Both are solid options, but each generation of Nvidia GPUs has key differences that matter. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dive into everything you need to know about GTX vs RTX to decide which one is best for your needs and budget. You‘ll be a GPU expert in no time!

What Are GTX and RTX Graphics Cards?

First, let‘s quickly demystify what we mean by GTX and RTX.

GTX stands for "Giga Texel Shader eXtreme" and represents Nvidia‘s older generation of gaming graphics cards. The GTX lineup first launched in 2008 and includes popular models like the GTX 1060, GTX 1070, and GTX 1080 which were released between 2016 and 2018.

RTX stands for "Ray Tracing Texel eXtreme" and is Nvidia‘s brand for their latest generation of GPUs capable of real-time ray tracing and AI-enhanced graphics. The first RTX cards arrived in 2018 led by the RTX 2060, RTX 2070, and RTX 2080. RTX 30-series cards like the mighty RTX 3080 came out in 2020.

So in a nutshell:

  • GTX = Nvidia‘s older traditional gaming cards
  • RTX = Nvidia‘s newest gaming cards with ray tracing

Next, we‘ll see how the underlying technology inside these GPUs generations leads to major performance differences.

GTX vs RTX Architectural Changes

The biggest improvements with RTX cards come down to major architectural changes compared to GTX models.

Nvidia developed a new building block for their GPUs called the Turing SM for the RTX 2000 series. This improved on the old Pascal SM found in GTX 1000 cards in a few key ways:

  • Concurrent Floating Point and Integer Operations– Turing SMs can do both at the same time, while Pascal had to switch between the two. This accelerates performance in games and applications.

  • Independent Thread Scheduling – The scheduler is moved from the software driver to the hardware, which improves multi-threaded performance.

  • Larger L1 Cache – RTX Turing GPUs have 50% more L1 cache per core than the GTX Pascal generation, allowing for faster access to frequently used data.

The RTX 3000 series then built on Turing‘s foundation with the Ampere architecture. This 2nd generation RTX design added even more CUDA cores and boosted clock speeds for dramatic gains in rasterization performance.

For example, the RTX 3080 can achieve nearly 2x the FPS of the older GTX 1080 Ti in traditional gaming. It‘s a huge generational leap!

Dedicated Ray Tracing and AI Cores

The other big change with RTX cards is the addition of dedicated ray tracing (RT) cores and tensor cores designed specifically for AI-enhanced graphics:

  • RT Cores – Hardware built explicitly to calculate ray intersections and render complex lighting and reflections in real-time. Older GTX cards can technically do ray tracing through shaders, but at significant performance penalties.

  • Tensor Cores – Designed to rapidly process neural network matrix calculations ideal for deep learning. This allows AI algorithms like DLSS 2.0 to boost frame rates beyond what would otherwise be possible.

For example, in Control with maxed out ray tracing enabled at 4K resolution:

  • GTX 1080 Ti – Not playable at 13 FPS
  • RTX 2080 Super – 55 FPS
  • RTX 3080 – 78 FPS

So if you want to experience ray tracing or utilize AI-enhanced graphics, an RTX card is a must-have upgrade.

GTX vs RTX Gaming Performance

Now let‘s compare some real-world gaming benchmarks between GTX and RTX graphics cards from the same generation.

GTX 1080 Ti vs RTX 2080

Graphics Card FPS @ 1080p FPS @ 1440p FPS @ 4K
GTX 1080 Ti 129 FPS 110 FPS 56 FPS
RTX 2080 138 FPS 115 FPS 61 FPS

The RTX 2080 is only marginally faster, by around 5-10% on average. The 1080 Ti was such a beast of a card in its time that it still keeps up with the RTX 2080 reasonably well.

GTX 1070 Ti vs RTX 2060

Graphics Card FPS @ 1080p FPS @ 1440p
GTX 1070 Ti 95 FPS 62 FPS
RTX 2060 126 FPS 80 FPS

Here the gap is much wider, with the RTX 2060 around 25-30% faster on average thanks to its architectural improvements. It‘s a more meaningful upgrade over the 10-series.

Clearly, the RTX cards achieve excellent gains in traditional rasterization performance compared to their GTX counterparts. The addition of dedicated ray tracing and AI cores gives them yet another advantage.

GTX vs RTX Pricing and Value

At their launch prices, RTX graphics cards were considerably more expensive than GTX models. However, cost per frame, RTX cards delivered much better value.

For example, the RTX 2060 retailed for $350 versus the GTX 1060 at $250. But it offered nearly 40% faster speeds, making the price premium justified.

Here‘s a comparison of launch prices for some popular models:

Graphics Card Launch MSRP
GTX 1060 6GB $249
GTX 1070 $379
GTX 1080 $599
RTX 2060 $349
RTX 2070 $499
RTX 2080 $699

The good news is that street prices always fall below MSRP. And now with cryptomining demand dried up, you can find great discounts on both RTX and GTX graphics cards.

For budget cards under $300, GTX models like the 1060 and 1070 Ti are hard to beat value-wise. In the mid-range, the RTX 3060 Ti can be found around $400 with performance that beats the $1200 GTX 1080 Ti from 2017. And high-end RTX 3080 cards readily push over 100 FPS at 1440p while the GTX 1080 struggles to hit 60 FPS.

Final Thoughts – Which Should You Buy?

So in summary, newer RTX cards are the clear winners when it comes to performance and advanced graphics features. But GTX models can still be great options for budget-minded gamers.

Here are some quick tips:

  • For 1080p gaming, a used GTX 1060 or 1070 offers amazing value at under $200.

  • For 1440p gaming, step up to an RTX 3060 Ti or RTX 3070 for a nice blend of price and performance.

  • For 4K max settings, you‘ll want at least an RTX 3080 or above for smooth frame rates.

  • Only RTX cards can provide acceptable ray tracing perf and AI enhancements like DLSS.

Whichever route you go, both GTX and RTX GPUs from Nvidia deliver excellent PC gaming experiences. Identify your needs, resolution, and budget, then make the choice that‘s right for you!