The Ray-tracing Magic of NVIDIA’s RTX 2060 Laptops

NVIDIA's revolutionary work with ray-tracing transports us to the future of video game graphics.

NVIDIA RTX Gaming Laptop

This article is sponsored by NVIDIA.

When it comes to immersive, realistic graphics in PC gaming, ray-tracing is the new frontier, and no other tech company is leading that charge like NVIDIA. With its new line of GeForce RTX GPUs, powered by Turing GPU architecture, NVIDIA is bringing players the most advanced, high-end graphics currently on the market.

What is ray-tracing and why does it matter? Simply put, graphics cards with ray-tracing capabilities can render life-like lighting, reflections, and shadows like never before.

This might sound like a minuscule feature until you notice the difference between ray-traced environments and those that aren’t. Standard graphics just can’t match the realism of real-time ray-tracing.

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Just check out this tech demo video showcasing the power of ray-tracing to see what we mean:

Of course, revolutionary gaming tech often comes at a price. Top-of-the-line gaming rigs and laptops with advanced graphics can cost players thousands of dollars, making innovations like ray-tracing an investment. Fortunately, NVIDIA has made jumping into the ray-tracing revolution easier than ever with its line of RTX gaming laptops.

Not only has NVIDIA partnered with leading PC manufacturers to produce the first ray-tracing gaming laptops, powered by RTX GPUs, but it’s doing it in an affordable, attractive package. To date, NVIDIA’s partners have released over 40 new GeForce RTX laptops, many of which cost much less than the competition while boasting the ray-tracing capabilities they do not.

Den of Geek already runs the powerful, top-of-the-line GeForce RTX 2080 Ti GPU in our official gaming PC, allowing us to bring you the latest games at the highest graphical fidelity, so it shouldn’t come as a shocker that we were dying to test out one of NVIDIA’s RTX laptops. NVIDIA was kind enough to hook us up with the sleek and compact Lenovo Legion Y740 15” gaming laptop, fitted with an RTX 2060 GPU, which currently retails for $1,399.99.

We used recent titles Control, Metro Exodus, and Battlefield V as well as the brand-new Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to test out what our RTX 2060 laptop could do in terms of immersive ray-tracing. After hours of shooting our way through all of these beautifully rendered games, we came away really impressed with our laptop’s performance.

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Ray-tracing is basically a necessity on PC if you want to really immerse yourself in the fast-paced combat of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Ray-tracing makes all of the difference when it comes to tense, close quarters combat, such as when you’re making your way down a tight hallway where the enemy could pop out of a corner at any second, as they did during the intense “Clean House” mission. Tasked with taking down a terrorist cell inside a multi-story house, we made our way from floor to floor, neutralizing armed assailants, immersed by the realistic shadows being cast by the RTX 2060’s lighting effects.

The GPU can intelligently render shadows based on the shape and distance of the object or figure casting the shadow as well as the light source. For example, the RTX 2060 can render real-world accurate shadows dynamically based on whether a light bulb is the light source or if you’re shining a flashlight. It also casts shadows with hard or soft edges depending on how far away an object or figure is from said light source. The result is a more realistic atmosphere drawing you deeper into the high-intensity gameplay of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.

In fact, after playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare on an RTX 2060 laptop, we’d be hard-pressed to try it on hardware without ray-tracing. This is truly the ultimate way to play Call of Duty going forward.

The beautiful Control, with its endless hallways and reflective surfaces (janitor Ahti really puts his back into cleaning the Oldest House), is an absolute graphical feast on the RTX 2060. This action-adventure game set in a twisting and shifting secret government building is perhaps the best example of how ray-tracing can dramatically enhance illumination, shadows, and reflections across an environment.

The RTX 2060 can correctly reflect the exact shape and color of an object as well as produce the reflection at the correct angle at which it would be reflected in the real world. But most impressive is the way Control running on the RTX 2060 can dynamically create reflections, such as when allies and enemies are moving around you. Just imagine how much more immersive the experience of playing Control is when the Oldest House correctly reflects the people and objects inside of it.

From the bright reflection of fires on the carcasses of vehicles in the desert to the way your dirt- and blood-covered face reflects off of the icy surfaces of Norway, Battlefield V is also a great way to get a taste of the RTX 2060’s reflection capabilities. The “Under No Flag” and “Nordlys” campaigns are particularly good missions in which to spot these ray-traced reflections at work. 

While Metro Exodus’ gritty, post-apocalyptic world might be known for its endless, gray winter, the RTX 2060 makes lighting a pivotal element of the experience, especially in terms of the tone of the story. The lighting effects we might have once taken for granted suddenly become tools with which to depict the mood of a scene. NVIDIA and 4A Games worked together to implement ray-traced “global illumination” into the game, which allowed the developers to use lighting to set the mood of scenes throughout the experience.

From the opening moments of the game, environmental storytelling through global illumination is on display, as you make your way through an abandoned tunnel full of monsters. Before you even encounter one of the killer beasts, you’re sucked in by the spooky lighting, which is especially unnerving when you’re all alone with limited resources.

In the past, cutting edge graphics have come with a major barrier to entry (price), but NVIDIA’s RTX 2060 laptops allows both PC gaming enthusiasts and newcomers the chance to finally experience what top-of-the-line visuals truly look like at an affordable price point. Certainly, after seeing just how much ray-tracing adds to the realism of games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Control, it’ll be very difficult to give up our own RTX laptop.

John Saavedra is Games Editor at Den of Geek. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @johnsjr9 and make sure to check him out on Twitch.