Justin Duino / How-To Geek
GTX is a mostly-retired line of graphics cards by NVIDIA. It was formerly its flagship line, but it has been relegated to entry-level cards. RTX, on the other hand, is NVIDIA's current lineup of cards. RTX has ray tracing, while GTX doesn't.

NVIDIA has been making graphics cards for several years. However, there are two lineups of GPUs you’ve probably come across with: GTX and RTX. What are the differences between both?

What Does GTX Mean?

The very first graphics cards carrying the GTX branding were launched by NVIDIA in 2005, and they became increasingly common as the years went by. NVIDIA fully embraced the GTX branding by 2008, when it launched the GTX 200 series. GTX stands for “Giga Texel Shader eXtreme.”

The term “texel” (or “texture pixel”) refers to the fundamental unit of texture maps, with textures in games being comprised of arrays of texels. Having said that, this doesn’t really refer to any technical capabilities, so over the years, it just came to mean “high-end graphics card.”

NVIDIA used the GTX branding alongside GT, which was its branding for its lower-end graphics cards, for several years. The GTX lineup has had a legendary run spanning more than a decade by this point. NVIDIA has largely stopped using the GTX branding for its high-end cards since 2018, although it still releases GTX cards sparingly, such as the NVIDIA GTX 1630, released in 2022.

What Does RTX Mean?

RTX is NVIDIA’s current branding for its high-end and mid-range gaming graphics cards, which has been in use since 2018. The RTX name means “Ray Tracing Texel eXtreme,” and the main difference from GTX cards is the inclusion of ray tracing.

Ray tracing is a technique that traces the path of light rays as they bounce around a virtual scene, interacting with objects and bouncing off or passing through them. Basically, it imitates the way light behaves in real life in order to create more realistic and accurate images.

Ray tracing has greatly improved the way games look, and having real-time ray tracing in games was a major breakthrough — enough of a breakthrough to warrant NVIDIA changing its GPU branding. RTX graphics cards have dedicated RT cores or hardware accelerators dedicated solely to computing ray tracing operations efficiently.

RTX cards have these RT cores, while GTX cards don’t.

RELATED: What Is Ray Tracing?

RTX vs. GTX: Which One Should I Buy?

Nvidia RTX 3090 Ti GPU in a gaming PC
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

GTX is mostly a retired brand by this point. NVIDIA has managed to roll out its RTX tech to high-end, mid-range, and budget GPUs — just look at cards such as the RTX 3050 to see it. As such, if you’re planning to game, and you want to buy a new GPU, there’s no reason why you should look at GTX cards at all.

If you’re buying a GPU and you don’t exactly have gaming in mind, though, an argument could still be made for a GTX GPU. For one, you could buy a GTX 1630, or a GT 1030, to provide you with cheap, basic graphics for a living room or office PC. If you want to do some minor gaming, you could also check out the GTX 1650 and the GTX 1660, as they’re still decent, ray tracing-less GPUs for playing basic, not-graphics-heavy games. You can also get used ones, but we wouldn’t recommend it.

Everyone else, though, should probably aim for an RTX GPU. It’s basically NVIDIA’s current GPU brand at this point, and you don’t really have any modern non-RTX cards to consider.

Profile Photo for Arol Wright Arol Wright
Arol is a freelance news writer at How-To Geek. He's a Pharmacy student, but more importantly, an enthusiast who nerds out about everything tech-related, most notably PCs, smartphones, and other gadgets. He has also written for Android Police, MakeUseOf, and XDA Developers.
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