Updated: AMD Radeon RX 6000 Series To Support Microsoft DXR And Vulkan Raytracing Only For Games

Radeon RX 6800
NVIDIA has supported real-time ray tracing in games for over two years now, starting first with the GeForce RTX 20 Series (Turing), and now with it current-generation GeForce RTX 30 Series (Ampere). AMD is just starting to get into the mix with the [not yet released] Radeon RX 6000 Series, and we're now getting an idea of how it ray tracing support will factor in with the cards.

According to an AMD representative speaking to AdoredTV, the Radeon RX 6000 will only support ray tracing using industry-backed standards, and that means existing APIs like Microsoft DirectX Raytracing (DXR) and Vulkan Raytracing. The AMD statement reads:

AMD will support all ray tracing titles using industry-based standards, including the Microsoft DXR API and the upcoming Vulkan raytracing API. Games making of use of proprietary raytracing APIs and extensions will not be supported.

In other words, we don't expect AMD to be supporting NVIDIA-backed ray tracing extensions that you would find in pet projects like Quake II RTX or games like Wolfenstein: Youngblood. However, AMD has every opportunity to use the same extensions — as they are not locked to NVIDIA hardware — and even Intel is considering backing them for its Xe graphics architecture. However, AMD's Radeon RX 6000 graphics cards should have no trouble running Microsoft DXR titles including games like Fortnite, Cyberpunk 2077, Watch Dogs: Legion, and about a dozen others games.

At this point, we've not seen any meaningful and official performance numbers from AMD on ray tracing performance for the Radeon RX 6000 family. AMD might simply want to hold its cards close to the vest, or perhaps performance with its RT hardware isn't quite up to snuff yet given that this is the company's first-generation offering (after all, NVIDIA has had two years to optimize its drivers). Whatever the case, we'll definitely be putting the cards through the paces with ray tracing titles once we get them in our labs.

AMD's Radeon RX 6000 family will consist of the Radeon RX 6800, Radeon RX 6800 XT, and Radeon RX 6900 XT priced at $579, $649, and $999 respectively. The former two graphics cards will ship on November 18th, while the latter will ship on December 8th. Whether AMD will have the same supplies issues that NVIDIA has encountered with its recent three launches -- GeForce RTX 3080, GeForce RTX 3090, GeForce RTX 3070 -- remains to be seen.

Updated 11/6/2020
NVIDIA reached out to offer more insight on its ray tracing support for the Vulkan API, and industry standard APIs in general. The following is a statement from our NVIDIA contact and spokeperson:

We support the use of industry standard APIs, such as DXR and the upcoming Vulkan Ray Tracing extension. Ahead of the release of the official Vulkan Ray Tracing extension, NVIDIA has enabled Vulkan developers to implement ray tracing via an NVIDIA extension. This is standard practice and complementary to adding new features to the Khronos Group’s Vulkan API.

    • This is good for GeForce gamers – They get ray traced games to play and have been enjoying Vulkan games with ray tracing for months. We had the ability to do that for our customers and we did.
    • It is good for developers – They get to experiment/learn with ray tracing in Vulkan.
    • Good for the Vulkan Working Group at Khronos – they get developer feedback, and NVIDIA contributed their extension as a starting point to create the industry standard API.
    • Is good for all gamers, as it contributes to the adoption of Vulkan as an industry standard API.