The Nvidia RTX 3060 and Minecraft perfectly showcase that mindblowing ray-tracing can be affordable – or will be, once you can find one


Back to ray tracing Minecraft on the Nvidia RTX 3060 reminds me that this technology is the real new generation.

Whether ray tracing is “the future”, whatever that really means, is not really up for debate anymore, as far as I’m concerned. When I first saw Nvidia’s real-time ray tracing demos I was blown away, but assumed it was a workstation-style demo that wouldn’t be implemented in real-time games for many years. Soon after, it was available in video games, albeit in a less efficient form, and only on the most powerful graphics cards. It was still impressive, the spirit. It was, for me, the next generation – but it was expensive.

Finally, we have the impression of getting there. I have spent the last few weeks playing with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, the entry-level video card that supports all the latest features – and it costs just $ 330 / £ 300.

Or, you know – it should cost that. We all know right now that there is a dire shortage of chips in the world, and the scum of scalpers is grabbing every GPU they can get their hands on, while unscrupulous retailers are inflating the prices. or force people to buy cards as part of a PC. It’s a shame, and I hope it will be over soon, but it’s also important, I think, to keep track of what’s good on the market and how worthwhile to set up price alerts. and others for these new cards. So let me talk a bit about my experiences with the RTX 3060.

The 3060 is the latest and arguably the last entry into Nvidia’s 30-series base lineup, fitting in just below the 3060 Ti, which we reviewed in December of last year. There’s a moderate price difference between the two (the 3060 Ti costs $ 70 more, at $ 400), and there’s also a performance difference that roughly matches that price difference. Ultimately, the 3060 and 3060 Ti both offer great value for their price ranges – and the new 3060 really brings the MSRP down into very reasonable territory. These prices are now lower than next gen consoles (with the exception of the weaker Xbox Series S), making a PC upgrade potentially more palatable than even upgrading to the latest box from Sony or from Microsoft – and performance is something to be excited about.

At a basic level, these are really just great graphics cards in their price bracket. The 3060 compares favorably with its two direct predecessors, happily outperforming the RTX 2060 and offering a more than acceptable increase in performance over the popular 2-generation old GTX 1060.

This last note is important – if you skip over to the Steam hardware survey, it shows that the GTX 1060 remains an extremely popular GPU, used by almost 10% of survey respondents. This type of card sits in a more justifiable price bracket, hence its dominance – and now we have an appealing tracking that costs $ 330 while still offering real-time ray tracing, breakthrough performance and all the other stuff. keys. RTX features. Of course, if you’ve got the cash in your pocket, the RTX 3080 is the top of the line to have – but the 3060 and its Ti variant are great “sweet spot” cards.

One of the best ways to demonstrate the potential of this map is with Minecraft. It’s a simple looking game, sure, but as I explained the last time I tried the ray traced version of Minecraft, in its early days that simplicity made it a great place to experiment. these RTX features. In many ways, Minecraft is more deeply changed by the addition of ray tracing than photo-realistic games like Battlefield or Metro Exodus.

Above is one of my favorite Minecraft photos I took in RTX. This comes from the Colosseum, one of the showcase worlds that Nvidia has put together to show off what their ray tracing solution can do for gaming. I love this shot because of its simplicity: a stairwell that ascends and exits in the daylight, which descends the stairs, the light bouncing and dynamic shadows cast on the path. Now here’s the same image with ray tracing turned off:

It’s basically a different game, right? This sort of thing is also confirmed throughout the Minecraft experience. Cave exploration is suddenly more atmospheric – and, to be honest, formidable – as light and shadows play on the blocky geometry of the world. Outdoors, whether in a village, in the open air or under the canopy of a forest, the sunlight filters in interesting ways and the realistic shadows give the whole world a much greater sense of presence.

This is why Minecraft is such a good choice. All sharp edges and flat surfaces are well suited for ray tracing and even better suited for creating sharp shadows in real time. Nvidia seems to know this – along with Minecraft’s status as one of the greatest games in the world – as the company continues to bank more and more behind Minecraft RTX.

This month, the company released five new worlds created in partnership with Minecraft pros, each designed as a small, closed adventure or a mind-blowing demonstration of how the game looks with these RTX features enabled. In addition, performance and rendering are regularly improved. In many ways, Minecraft is a test bed for the continuous improvement of this technology.

The RTX 3060 and its slightly bloated sibling may not have been designed for 4K (2160p), but they are solid 1080p cards with good 1440p potential, with better performance than the previous generation cards all. by incorporating the latest technology that unlocks ray tracing and DLSS, both essential for getting the most bang for your buck.

What’s surprising is that you can get this level of ray tracing performance while still maintaining a solid 1080p or 1440p frame rate at this price point. It’s all thanks to DLSS, or deep learning super sampling, which is basically a very smart solution to rendering games at a lower resolution and then using a trained artificial intelligence algorithm to populate the games.

The result is that you can make a much lower resolution initial output look pretty much native once it’s scaled to your target resolution and presented to the screen – and like ray tracing, DLSS is being improved and upgraded all the time. Minecraft now supports version 2.0, as do other great ray tracing games like Control, Fortnite, and Cyberpunk 2077. That’s why these cheaper maps can do what they do at the level they do – it’s about reducing the initial render resolution to get that frame rate increasing even with realtime ray tracing lighting and shadows, and then covering the resolution gap with very smart scaling.

Most will probably never notice what is going on behind the scenes. DLSS, like ray tracing, needs to be implemented directly into games by developers – but it is seeing high adoption, and those who implement ray tracing in particular see why it is a necessity. On the console side, AMD-powered Microsoft and Sony are both apparently working on versions of this technology – but the PC is, as always, ahead.

The ray tracing and DLSS tasks that are offloaded to RT cores are what makes the 3060 such a tasty proposition: it can give you these features without too much compromise – and it’s perfect for those who want the upgrade. GPU level to give gaming visuals an oomph but not yet ready to upgrade from a 1080p or 1440p monitor. The only problem now, of course, is the absolute impossibility of buying one. Hoping that the supply problem is resolved soon enough …

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