When One Counter Isn’t Enough

Early on the week of January 17th, AMD sent out the customary email letting the press know of some recent changes to AMD’s product lineup. AMD’s partners were launching their factory overclocked cards, and AMD like a proud papa had to let the world know and was happily mailing out cigars (sample cards) in the process. Meanwhile on the horizon AMD would be working with their partners to launch the Radeon HD 6950 1GB in mid-February for around $269-279. The final piece of news was that AMD was posting their Catalyst 11.1a Hotfix drivers for the press to preview ahead of a January 26th launch.

The fact of the matter is that these kinds of announcements are routine, and also very transparent. Given the timing of the arrival of AMD’s sample hardware and the launch date of the new Catalyst driver it was clear this was meant to garner attention at the same time as NVIDIA’s launch of the GTX 560 Ti. This isn’t meant to be damning for any party – this is just the way the GPU industry operates. NVIDIA did something very similar for the Radeon HD 6800 series launch, shipping the EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1GB FTW to us unannounced while we were returning from AMD's press confernece.

If this is how things actually happened however, we wouldn’t be telling this story. For competitive reasons AMD and NVIDIA like to withhold performance and pricing information from everyone as long as possible so that the other party doesn’t get it. Meanwhile the other party is doing everything they can to get that information as soon as possible, so that they have as much time as possible for any counters of their own.

AMD's First GTX 560 Ti Competitor: The XFX Raden HD 6870 Black Edition

On the morning of Thursday the 20th I was awoken by FedEx, who was delivering a priority overnight package from AMD. At the same time I received an email from AMD announcing that the 6950 1GB was sampling to the press immediately, and that we were under NDA until January 25th.

Something had changed at AMD.

I don’t believe we’ll ever know the full details about what AMD was doing that week – some stories are simply never meant to be told – but it quickly became clear that AMD had to make a very sudden change of plans. On Monday the message from AMD was that the 6870OC was their immediate GTX 560 Ti competitor, and here 3 days later the message had suddenly changed to the 6950 1GB being their GTX 560 Ti competitor.

There are a million different reasons why this could be, but I believe it’s because in that intervening period AMD got access to reliable GTX 560 Ti performance data - if not the price too. If they did have that data then they would quickly see that the GTX 560 Ti was 10-15% faster than the 6870OC, reducing the 6870OC from a competitor to a price spoiler at best. The 6870OC could not and would not work as AMD’s GTX 560 Ti challenger.

The final piece of the puzzle only came together yesterday afternoon, when AMD announced that the 6950 1GB’s retail launch was getting pushed up from mid-February to January 24th, or in other words yesterday. The 6950 1GB was to be available immediately for $259 – over half a month sooner than expected, and for roughly $20 less than AMD first said it would be.

Based on the performance of the GTX 560 Ti, the 6870OC, and the 6950 1GB, the only reasonable explanation we have at this time is that early last week AMD did an about-face and put everything in to launching the 6950 1GB ahead of schedule. Whatever motivated this about-face and however they managed to do it, all indications are that they managed to get Sapphire and XFX to manufacture a steady supply of 1GB cards in order for Newegg to have them up for sale Monday afternoon.

Index Meet The Radeon HD 6950 1GB and XFX Radeon HD 6870 Black Edition
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  • sinPiEqualsZero - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    The market speaks louder than needlessly outraged readers. Like it not, overclocked cards will continue to be produced. In order to be responsible journalists, they have to include them in order to evaluate their value to the consumer.

    He also made clear that AMD was bumping up the launch at little notice. I think you are making much ado about nothing and will see plenty of factory-OC'd cards in the near future.
    Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    It's not about not liking benchmarks of overclocked cards. As I stated, I didn't agree with the whining about GTX460 OC as well. I think it's legitimate to include OCed models. But if you do it, then do it for both sides. Especially after such a drama and a strict decision by the writer not to do it. That is the point. Reply
  • britjh22 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    In the original 68xx review, the site got flack for including a highly overclocked GTX 460, at NVIDIA's asking.

    This time, they review the GTX 560 Ti against stock clocked rivals. In a separate article they present ATI's competitive reaction to the GTX 560 launch. I think Anandtech and Ryan handled this correctly. They analyze and present the GTX 560 as a reflection of what NVIDIA has done, and produce a separate article where they focus on the GPU ecosystem as a whole.

    In this way I think it looks a lot less like they kowtowed to a vendor's requests, and in fact show how targeted and thought out AMD/ATI's launch is. In a market this closely matched for performance and price, and with vendors offering customized versions of AMD/NVIDIA products, it's hugely complicated.

    Well done Anandtech for today's articles, they definitely made my lunch hour more enjoyable.
    Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    "They analyze and present the GTX 560 as a reflection of what NVIDIA has done, and produce a separate article where they focus on the GPU ecosystem as a whole."

    Well if they did that, why didn't they include the OCed GTX560 Ti as well? Consider the fact that there are likely going to be a lot of oveclocked GTX560s as with the GTX460 card. That isn't part of the GPU ecosystem?
    Reply
  • britjh22 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    The card just launched, it's very possible they don't have one, or didn't have the time to put that through the test suite with all the other things coming off NDA today. As a news source it's more sound for them to be able to have timely coverage, even if they have to revisit something they didn't have time for in the original article.

    It sounds like most tech blogs were up very late compiling, testing, and writing for these launch articles. Most people are content with waiting a week for the entire picture to become clear, and if not, well that is the price for early adoptership.

    80/20 rule.
    Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    You may be right that they didn't have any OCed GTX560s. However while there are many more review sites that did receive them, I kinda doubt that a site with such a big name as AnandTech wouldn't receive any. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    We do in fact have one: an MSI Twin Frozr II (880MHz core). You'll see it later this week, as we didn't have time to pull it in to our review on top of everything else that was going on today. Reply
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Just tell him to quite his whinning .. jk But for the love of god it's not a big deal. I'm just glad we get the objective tests that we do, As opposed to taking a shot in the dark when buying cards. Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    agree 100%

    this was totally about an AMD market reaction, and both cards reviewed are varients of other cards previously released by AMD.
    absolutely no foul.
    Reply
  • 3DVagabond - Sunday, January 30, 2011 - link

    Completely different scenario. This is a review of 2 AMD cards. This is not the review of the GTX-560 with the inclusion of a highly overclocked card that was put in at AMD's request/insistence, as was the case with the GTX460 FTW. Add to that there was also input from nVidia what cards of theirs to NOT include for comparison in the 6870 review and even benchmarks they wanted AMD cards tested with (HAWX2). Again, not even close to the same scenario. Reply

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