Nvidia Actually Listens To Its Customers, Will Again Let Them Use The Expensive Hardware They Own As They See Fit

from the it's-not-a-bug-it's-a-feature dept

Graphics card powerhouse Nvidia hasn’t been having very much fun lately. First, the company took an Internet wide beating from gamers after selling a 4 GB graphics card (the GTX 970) that wasn’t really a 4 GB graphics card, resulting in the $300+ purchase choking on high-end resolutions (or when using, say, Oculus Rift). After months of complaints and a false advertising suit, the company finally took to its official blog to acknowledge that the company “failed to communicate” its graphics card’s limitations to the marketing department and “externally to reviewers at launch.” Yeah, whoops a daisy.

Perhaps a bigger deal was Nvidia’s December decision to roll out mobile graphics card drivers that prevented paying customers from overclocking the cards they own. The ability for consumers to do as they see fit with their own hardware, Nvidia claimed at the time, was a bug in the company’s driver software that needed to be removed for the safety of the consumer (read: Nvidia got tired of processing returns and calls from idiots who didn’t understand things pushed to work harder get hotter than ever when in confined spaces).

The good news is that after being absolutely pummeled in the media for weeks, Nvidia has issued a statement in its forums saying that the company has had a change of heart and will reintroduce the “bug”:

“As you know, we are constantly tuning and optimizing the performance of your GeForce PC.

We obsess over every possible optimization so that you can enjoy a perfectly stable machine that balances game, thermal, power, and acoustic performance. Still, many of you enjoy pushing the system even further with overclocking. Our recent driver update disabled overclocking on some GTX notebooks. We heard from many of you that you would like this feature enabled again. So, we will again be enabling overclocking in our upcoming driver release next month for those affected notebooks.

If you are eager to regain this capability right away, you can also revert back to 344.75.”

While it’s certainly great to see Nvidia listen to customer feedback, you’d think that after years of catering to the obsessively-anal gaming community, Nvidia would know better than to keep making the same PR mistakes. When you cater the lion’s share of your business to technical enthusiasts capable of fact-checking your performance claims and PR fluff down to the millisecond, your marketing bullshit leash is notably shorter. It’s not entirely clear why Nvidia needs to be reminded of this every few months, but you’d think this lesson would ultimately find its way to the company’s central processor and take up permanent residence in system memory.

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Comments on “Nvidia Actually Listens To Its Customers, Will Again Let Them Use The Expensive Hardware They Own As They See Fit”

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13 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I had a similar problem with Radeon. It was several games and they all had strange graphic anomalies. They never even fixed the issue. I found a third party that had released a patch that fix the problems. It was unusual and I can’t give you who it was since it was 14 years ago and I don’t remember. Nvidia on the other hand, at least will eventually do something about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Eh, I don’t know. A company paying enough attention to notice when a user figures out and fixes a problem, and caring enough to implement the fix themselves isn’t something to sneer at, even if they do take all the credit for themselves. The usual alternative is a company either not paying enough attention when their customers figure out how to fix problems, or not caring enough to incorporate the fix into official releases.

Hell, ideally Nvidia would make their drivers open source so that things like that could happen more often.

Rekrul says:

Re: Re: Re:

Eh, I don’t know. A company paying enough attention to notice when a user figures out and fixes a problem, and caring enough to implement the fix themselves isn’t something to sneer at, even if they do take all the credit for themselves.

IIRC the user said the problem was easy to fix. Apparently it was just some setting that was being applied incorrectly. The kind of thing the Nvidia programmers should have been able to easily correct.

My own experiences with older Nvidia products have occasionally been frustrating. On my old Win98 system, I had a relatively low-end GeForce card. It wasn’t top of the line, but it was technically sufficient for the games I was running. The drivers were another story…

Thief Gold – First time I tried to run it, every time I went in the water and looked down, the view (but not the HUD) went blank. I had to downgrade the drivers a couple versions to get it to be playable. Newer drivers eventually stopped blanking the view, but there would be a very noticeable color change when looking down underwater and some textures that should have been clear where solid.

No One Lives Forever & Aliens vs. Predator 2 – Running either game with the latest drivers resulted in white NPCs and misplaced textures. Grass for walls, road signs for floors, wooden boards for cars, etc. I had to downgrade to an older version to fix this.

No One Lives Forever II – Not as messed up as the first game, but some ground textures would randomly appear/disappear depending on the viewing angle or use of the flashlight. I actually had to downgrade to an even earlier version of the drivers to fix all the problems. Let that sink in for a second; NOLF2 was newer than the first game, but I had to use an older driver to make it work correctly!

Test Drive 4 or 5 (I don’t remember which) – Invisible road textures and invisible cars. Never got it working correctly.

DB (profile) says:

To correct the record here.

The cards sold do have the full 4GB of memory. Due to an odd structure of the crossbar, only 3.5GB of that gets full bandwidth. The driver software uses the odd 0.5GB for structures that aren’t accessed as frequently.

This isn’t usually a performance issue, although once you know about the structure you can construct scenarios where you can demonstrate a slowdown.

There is a second, mostly separate issue where a description of the internal hardware used the wrong numbers. The marketing material apparently used the ‘pre-fuse’ counts, which assumed that the chip has no flaws. Real-life chips have flaws. The bad units are disabled, ‘fused’ out. If too many don’t work, the chip is thrown out. If all work, they sell the chip in a premium.

Both of these issues are taken into account in the published performance figures and benchmarks. To use the ubiquitous automotive analogy, this is like marketing material claiming a 2.5 liter engine when when the actual size is 2.45L. As long as the 0-100KMH time and other performance metrics are accurate, a driver will never know. Only the guys that are going to modify the engine internals are ever going to see it.

(BTW, most ‘2.5L’ engines are really 2.4xL engines. An actual 2.5L engine pays a higher tax rate in some countries, so the design stays safely under that breakpoint.)

As usual, expect the class action lawyers to settle for a few million in their pockets and $2 coupons for end users that take 20 minutes to register. The benchmarks are accurate, and the mistaken unit counts were in ancillary marketing material not on the box or main ads, so there is only the thinnest legal case. The real impact is likely to be reputation and PR.

BernardoVerda says:

Re: Re:

To correct the record here.

The cards sold do have the full 4GB of memory. Due to an odd structure of the crossbar, only 3.5GB of that gets full bandwidth. The driver software uses the odd 0.5GB for structures that aren’t accessed as frequently.

That’s not an entirely exculpatory clarification…
In other words a half GB was only partially usable.
If I bought a house advertised to have four bathrooms — but one of those bathrooms turned out to be just an outhouse in the back garden, I’d feel quite put upon.

Anonymous Coward says:

When I built my last computer, I refused to buy a Nvidia for it. Both the past actions of this company and how it treats its customers as well as it’s demand that it’s proprietary drivers be used were the determining factors. I went with AMD who has no problem with open source drivers needed for many applications.

Nvidia can suck it up, they’ve worked hard to earn their reputation.

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