On Monday, Nvidia took the wraps off its new line of RTX graphics cards. The new hardware is all about ray tracing, a new technique that Nvidia has now made possible in commercial-grade equipment, and while allows your graphics card to accurately model the behavior of light in real time.
As we’ve explained, ray tracing is going to be the Next Big Thing in computer graphics, and bringing it into consumer-grade kit is a big deal. But as it currently stands, only a handful of games have even announced that they’re going to take advantage of ray tracing, and in the meantime, all the ray tracing-specific chips in Nvidia’s RTX cards won’t make them any better than the current GTX cards for playing most games.
In other words, this isn’t a must-have upgrade, at least not yet. But Nvidia’s announcement yesterday is still significant, for a completely different reason: The price of GTX 10-series cards is about to fall dramatically.
It’s a logical concept that the price of old hardware will fall when new hardware is introduced, and it’s one with a strong historical precedent for graphics cards. Take this study from ExtremeTech shortly following the launch of the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080:
The GTX 970 has fallen to as low as $239 on NewEgg, down from a pre-Pascal price of ~$320. Zotac currently has the least expensive GTX 970 on the market, but there are cards from Asus at nearly the same price. While AMD’s RX 480 is coming to market in the near-term future, the GTX 970 is still a formidable card at that price point — particularly if you’re already a Team Green fan, and especially if you already own one GTX 970 and are curious about using SLI.
Last time around, buying a GTX 980, which was about the same price as the GTX 1070, was a sucker move. But this year, buying a GTX 1080 for (hopefully!) less than a RTX 2070 might be a smart move if you’re not interested in ray-tracing.
If you’re on the lookout for a card that can play any of today’s top games in 4K at high, though, the answer is clear: wait two months, and buy a GTX 1070 for likely around $100 less than it costs today. If you’re willing to go second-hand, you could get a real steal from someone on the second-hand market.