AMD Navi graphics cards could get ray tracing as soon as December

(Image credit: Future)

AMD’s Radeon drivers have actually had ray tracing-related code present in them for a few months now, it has emerged, leading to speculation that the GPU maker could introduce support for the technology sooner rather than later – perhaps even before the end of 2019.

The references to Microsoft’s DirectX Raytracing (DXR) were uncovered by some rifling through the Radeon Adrenalin Edition 19.7.2 driver, which was released back in July.

As PC GamesN reports, this is only coming to light now following an AMD partner event over in China, where it was also confirmed that new Radeon Software is to be released in December (which is as expected).

However, some folks are now trying to put two and two together, given the already existing DXR code being present in AMD’s drivers, to come to the conclusion that one of the new features in the fresh Radeon Software will be support for DXR ray tracing.

This speculation has been fired up by tech analyst Komachi on Twitter, who picked up on the DXR reference back in July, and given a tweet from yesterday, seems to believe ray tracing will be introduced by AMD in December.

Although of course we have to treat that assertion with a very hefty serving of caution, to say the least. But the theory is that AMD could flick the switch to enable ray tracing for existing Navi graphics cards come the end of the year.

Risky business?

Except that would seemingly be something of a big risk – the last thing AMD would want to do is give their customers an inferior version of ray tracing compared to Nvidia, if the RX 5700 GPUs aren’t capable of delivering suitably palatable frame-rates with these sort of demanding bells and whistles turned on.

While it does indeed seem the case that ray tracing is incoming for Radeon cards – it’s been long rumored, and we’ve just discovered that the Navi-powered PS5 will have ray-tracing acceleration – it seems more likely that AMD would wait for the equally well-rumoured ‘Nvidia killer’ Navi GPU supposedly arriving around the middle of 2020.

It makes sense to wait for the higher-end models of Navi which will truly have the power to impress with DXR, rather than chancing an early move with perhaps less than optimal hardware as exists with Navi now.

What might be more likely to be revealed with the new Radeon Software come December, folks are theorizing, is integer scaling (as recently introduced by Nvidia, giving sharper upscaling in pixel art games like Hotline Miami) and/or the introduction of Radeon Image Sharpening for DX11 (which currently only works with DX12 games).

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).