We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

AMD’s had DirectX Raytracing code in GPU drivers since July this year

The 'DXR Active' string seems like a misnomer as it's not, y'know, active

AMD 7nm Navi GPU

AMD may not yet be a card-carrying member of the Microsoft DirectX Raytracing fan club in terms of supporting the super-pretties on its Radeon GPUs, but according to some driver diving from earlier this year there has been a DXR Active string in its software since the July AMD Radeon Adrenalin Edition 19.7.2 drivers for the Gears 5 beta.

It’s only resurfaced now as a few images from AMD’s China partner summit event have been shared on Weibo. The images suggest that attendees may have heard some details about the new Radeon software released coming in December, and there has been some speculation online as to whether the “New features launching in Dec 2019” might have something to do with ray tracing support for AMD’s GPUs and Microsoft’s API.

At the end of each year AMD launches a major new revision of its Radeon software, introducing new and updated features into the mix. As with anything AMD-related these days, a few photographed slides unleashed online has led to a lot of speculation about what might be coming in the 2019 update.

Twitter tech analyst, Komachi, was early to the AMD DXR party back in July, as it became clear that there was a latent entry in the drivers that referenced the Microsoft API. But contrary to its title wasn’t actually active. Certain .dll files reference the Raytracing Pipeline, with the AmdTraceRay codes talking about intersections and triangles, all that good ray tracing shizzle.

AMD Navi Radeon RX 5700-series

Except that, as yet, AMD hasn’t enabled the software support for DirectX Raytracing that would allow Radeon GPUs to at least attempt to run compatible visual features in the handful of games currently running them. Nvidia, for its part, has unleashed DXR onto practically all its modern graphics cards, whether they have to rely on software or dedicated hardware for their ray tracing calculations.

Now Komachi seems to be expecting DXR to be one of the new features added into the Radeon Adrenalin 2019 software refresh, presumably so its Navi GPUs, and anything with the raw graphical oomph, can attempt to showcase them some rays.

There had been some suggestion in the past that, while Navi wouldn’t explicitly support DXR, and wouldn’t be advertised as doing so at launch, it would eventually have it patched in via software. With the PlayStation 5 having recently been confirmed as having both AMD Navi GPU architecture inside it, and dedicated ray tracing hardware, speculation is mounting as to what the future of AMD’s ray tracing support on PC is going to look like.

AMD ray tracing vision

Personally, I’m not convinced we’ll see AMD bring DXR-support to anything Radeon related until it has the hardware to back it up. That would mean waiting for either the RDNA 2 GPUs next year, with potentially the big Navi 20-series silicon, or the ephemeral Navi 12 chip with the RTX 2080-level performance we’ve been promised by the Radeon faithful.

Realistically hoping AMD would enable software support for the RX 5700 XT when it would reduce compatible games to an effective slideshow seems destined never to happen. Enabling slower performance on its GPUs, however pretty that slideshow might be, isn’t something the red team would likely want to do.