AMD confirms RDNA 3 has "rearchitected compute units" that "enhance ray tracing"
Will AMD be able to catch up with Nvidia's ray tracing capabilities with RDNA 3
Published: 27th June 2022 | Source: AMD |
Expect a ray tracing boost from AMD's RDNA 3 graphics cards
As someone who has analysed graphics cards for some time, it is clear to me that every graphics architecture has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. In today's games, AMD's Radeon R 6950 XT wins some battles, and Nvidia's RTX 3090 Ti wins others. Sometimes, the reason behind a victory for one graphic card is clear, and in others the advantages that Radeon or Geforce offer are more mysterious. In the case of ray tracing though, there is a clear winner every time, Nvidia Geforce RTX.
While AMD's RDNA 2 architecture is strong in many areas, hardware accelerated ray tracing is an area where AMD's current-generation graphics cards are sadly deficient. This means that when ray tracing is enabled, Nvidia's current-generation GPUs often outperform their Radeon counterparts by large margins. That said, AMD has confirmed that they have been working on addressing this deficiency with RDNA 3.
A lesser reported comment from AMD's Financial Analysts Day
When AMD's David Wang discussed the company's RDNA 3 graphics architecture at their 2022 Financial Analysts Day, Wang stated that RDNA 3 would feature "rearchitected compute units" that would "enhance ray tracing capabilities". These enhanced ray tracing capabilities were not listed on AMD's RDNA 3 slides, so this comment was unnoticed by much of the gaming press.
Alongside these rearchitected compute units, RDNA 3 also boasts a "optimised graphics pipeline" that delivers "even faster clock speeds and improved power efficiency". This should enable higher levels of compute performance per compute units, as each unit will be able to complete more clock cycles in any given time. More clock cycles means more work, and more work means more performance.
Will AMD catch up with Nvidia in Ray Tracing?
While we can expect a significant boost to AMD's ray tracing performance with RDNA 3, it remains to be seen if AMD will be able to catch up with Nvidia. Nvidia aren't exactly sitting on their hands when it comes to ray tracing performance, and you can be sure that Nvidia's RTX 40 series will feature its own set of architectural enhancements.
Based on AMD's comments, we can expect more ray tracing performance per compute unit and per clock cycle with AMD's RDNA 3 graphics architecture. Beyond that, higher clock speeds should also enhanced Radeon's ray tracing performance (just like its rasterisation performance). Even so, the size of these benefits are unknown, and AMD does not expect AMD to push the gaming industry towards path tracing. With RDNA 3, AMD's still pushing a "hybrid rendering" approach.
Hybrid graphics is the future
Full on patch tracing, where an entire scene and all aspects of a game is ray traced, is not something that AMD is pushing for with RDNA 3. AMD's pushing hybrid rendering, where ray tracing is used alongside traditional rasterised graphics to deliver high performance levels while accessing the visual benefits of ray tracing. AMD is currently investing in techniques that can enable ray tracing in a more performance friendly manner, allowing gamers to get the most performance out of their graphics cards and games.
This makes clear that while AMD plans to deliver a ray tracing boost with RDNA 3, they are not promising earth shattering benefits. Hybrid rendering is the future, as we would have to wait for another console generation before the entire gaming industry pushing things to another level. AMD's techniques will benefit current-generation and next-generation GPU hardware, and all of the AMD-powered gaming systems that feature RDNA 2 graphics.
There's a reason why few games are fully path traced, and why most path traced games are modded versions of early 3D titles with simple geometry and environments. Simply put, path tracing is too demanding for most modern games at high resolutions and framerates. The future us hybrid, at least for now.