Christmas and the January sales approach, and the fabled NVIDIA RTX 3070 super-beast graphics card is… nowhere to be seen. In fact it looks like almost no-one will be able to buy it at the stated $499 price, and until perhaps January 2022.
What of rival card-maker AMD? Well, since you were asking, they have a shiny new Radeon RX 6700 announcing any day now and shipping in January. It might even be as good as the RTX 3070 and yet available in volume. It has not been priced, but its big brother the 6800 = $649. My guess would be the Radeon RX 6700 will pitched around $499.
Yet if the aim is to use it to get a smooth real-time iRay viewport in DAZ Studio, then it’s as useless as the invisible RTX 3070. Because an AMD card just won’t run iRay.
Both cards are then pointless in different ways. In which case, what is the next step down to a “budget” RTX ray-tracing card? That’s said to be the NVIDIA RTX 2060 (not Super) at about £320-£360 inc. tax in the UK. This is apparently just enough to get a real-time WYSIWYG viewport, even with hair and large complex scenes.
Will an NVIDIA RTX 2060 also run Poser? Yes… both NVIDIA RTX and the equivalent AMD RX cards are supported in Poser 11.3 and 12, so an NVIDIA RTX card would be a safe bet, if you can actually find one at the £320-£360 price-point in January. Or better still in the sales at £299.
Possibly a big AMD release would also dip prices on the AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT, currently at around £280-£340 and more or less the price equivalent of the NVIDIA RTX 2060. The problem there for Poser appears to be that hardware-accelerated rendering requires CUDA cores, and Poser 12 needs RTX. Thus for Poser it really has to be NVIDIA.
But assuming you were a DAZ Studio user and you wanted to go to AMD at either price, and give up iRay… what are the options?
1. Use the Reality plugin. It still runs fine in both DAZ Studio and Poser, and its Lux renderer is just as good as Octane if not as fast. It’s graphics-card agnostic and indeed even runs nicely on CPUs alone. It’s still available for $50, as Reality 4.3 for DAZ Studio. Again, it doesn’t give you a real-time viewport. But, once you have it running it will run as long as Windows runs and never expire — or ask you for a monthly payment.
(While you can apparently now run Reality’s rival Octane on an AMD Mac, you can’t yet run it on AMD Windows).
2. Use the Scene Optimizer, switch the viewport to Interactive iRay and then throw CPU cores at it. It’s a myth that iRay can only run on an NVIDIA graphics card. I can run a real-time viewport in DAZ on Xeon CPUs alone, albeit for a relatively simple scene with no hair or water. Imagine what it might do with a Ryzen 9 5900X CPU.
3. Switch to Poser 11, albeit at the cost of giving up on DAZ’s G3-G8 figures (except as OBJs or billboard renders) and any dream of a real-time WYSIWYG viewport. Even if you don’t care for Blender’s Cycles renderer, which in Poser is called SuperFly, there’s always the Reality 4.3 Poser edition which should run with AMD. Or, there is if you grab the Poser 11 Pro on sale for $80 at NeoWin Deals, and Reality 4.3 for Poser for $50. Also SnarlyGribbly’s free AVfix, a tiny tweaker needed to run Reality in Poser 11.x.
4. Use DAZ Studio and Poser mostly as figure/scene exporters to Blender, and its real-time Eevee engine. But expect to spend hours either fiddling around with texture fixes or learning to do postwork on your pictures. And spend a decade of frustratingly learning Blender, and a day a week just researching and keeping up with Blender-world. It’s a lot of hassle just to get a real-time WYSIWYG viewport. But if you do go that route then the new AMD 6000 series will be what you want, for Blender 2.91. Most likely the forthcoming Radeon RX 6700. Such a 6000 series card will also run AMD’s Prorender 3 plugin for Blender.
So all-in-all, even if AMD ship millions of $299 and $499 mega-cards in January, the all-round best just-about-affordable budget card on Windows seems to be the NVIDIA RTX 2060 at about £320-£360 in the UK, sometimes seen as low as £290. And if you can afford another £200, its big brother the NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super at around £500. Or you could wait for two years and save up that price for the RTX 3070 — when it eventually ships. By that time Poser 12 support for the RTX 3070 and RTX 3090s should be quite firm (it’s a bit shaky at present, as Renderosity have not been able to get a RTX 30 series test-card) (Update: now supported).
One slight drawback of an NVIDIA RTX 20 series card for Poser users is that you then need the Poser 11.3 patch installed to support the card. But that means you lose DSON import, as the same 11.3 patch bjorked the DSON importer, and it’s not coming back in Poser 12. (Update: I’m told that DSON is now supported on all Poser 11.x version, but never will be on Poser 12).
Finally keep in mind the physical size of the card (RTX is a different size than a GTX) and if it will even fit in your PC, and if you have the right connector slots and plugs. Also check if your PC’s Power Supply Unit can run the new card as well as everything else it needs to.
Update: in early December NVIDIA launched the “RTX 3060 Ti, a $399 8GB card that outperforms the old RTX 2080 Super”. But again, it’s just price-hype like it was for the RTX 3070, and no-one can buy them except at three times the list price (£700-£850 in the UK) from a few nearly-sold-out stockists.
Update: September 2021. AMD have apparently “dropped the ball” on OpenCL development and thus the only card choice now for Poser 11 or 12 is NVIDIA with RTX and at least 8Gb of memory, ideally a new 30 series card. The same would also run DAZ iRay well, and the coming AI image makers.