Nvidia RTX vs GTX: What Are The Key Differences? Which to Buy?

Graphics cards, and PC components in general, are fraught with suffixes and numbers that can be hard to dissect for the average consumer. I was talking to my father just last week and he asked what “number” of GPU manufacturers were making now. Being that the different numbers mean different things to certain brands, answering such a question was difficult. The non-linear naming scheme of GPUs even within the same brand can be incredibly confusing and can make it difficult to pick the right card. 

Nvidia’s flagship GPUs used to have “GTX” before their numbered titles. This was true until very recently with the release of RTX cards that outperform the older GTX varieties. This guide will give a quick overview of the differences between the two acronyms. You’ll also find some pointers for which ones to buy for your next build. However, you can check out our complete budget and task-based build guide right here for all components.


What is GTX? 

GTX stands for “Giga Texel Shader eXtreme.” This suffix was used to mark the top-of-the-line cards with GTX technology. This tech allowed for more realistic lighting and effects in games. Think of it as the precursor to the more advanced RTX technology present in newer generation GPUs. 

But GTX wasn’t done away with right away. While RTX was going through the regular growing pains of being a new feature, GTX cards were still being released. This overlap period happened during the 1600 series of GPUs. While these cards aren’t nearly as popular today, the 900, 1000, and 1600 series GTX cards are still used in more budget-oriented builds. 

Before you go out and buy one, it is worth considering that this dated technology comes with significant drawbacks compared to RTX cards. It’s difficult to recommend buying anything earlier than the GTX 1600 series for most serious builds. To see why GTX cards don’t offer the best performance per dollar, it’s best to look at what RTX does for games.


What is RTX?

RTX stands for “Ray Tracing Texel eXtreme.” Essentially, this beefed-up successor of GTX allows for hyper-realistic lighting that is done through a complex process where particles are simulated in real-time. It makes games look fantastic and even more realistic than what was possible in previous generations. 

While RTX-ready GPUs are still tough to get your hands on at the time of writing this review, these cards will be incredible values when stocks level out a bit. Ray tracing technology is getting more affordable with each new generation, which lowers the performance value of older GTX cards significantly. 

Mid-tier RTX cards like the 3060 and 3060ti are excellent values if they can be purchased at MSRP. They are significantly better in terms of raw performance when compared to their GTX counterparts like the GTX 1660 or 1660ti. 

RTX cards also possess Deep Learning Supersampling 2.0 or DLSS 2.0. This new technology allows for increased game performance at visual fidelity without using as many system resources. We have a full breakdown of this impressive technology that you can read right here.

As more games become compatible with RTX and DLSS 2.0, the further GTX GPUs will be pushed towards disuse and obsolescence. If you can buy one, an RTX card will last much longer and be more likely to run modern titles.


Summary

While GTX GPUs still have their place in the market, they are quickly becoming less viable options with each passing year. This is especially true for more demanding AAA titles. Though you can get away with a GTX card for older games, e-sports, and indie titles. Just know that you won’t be getting the most modern suite of features and that an upgrade may be needed sooner rather than later.


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