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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  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    There is no bias at Anandtech, only well documented arguments and conclusions that you're free to disagree with. If you want to abandon one of the best tech review sites on the planet in favor of one that panders to your personal delusions about the fuzziness of a multinational corporation, knock yourself out. Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    I do not want to invalidate the arguments and facts in the article. No problem there. Just that they didn't include the OCed GTX560, which is going to be a major player. Reply
  • sinPiEqualsZero - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Find me a factory-overclocked GTX 560 that is currently available in the market. Then we can have that discussion. Anandtech is testing what is currently available - something I'm not sure you understand. All of these reviews are snapshots of a moment in time.

    My searching shows one as "OC" on newegg, but no details about the core clock. That isn't a sign that the site is biased, it's called reality.
    Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    There are two already available (in Europe anyway): one from Asus and one from Gigabyte. Reply
  • omelet - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    They're working on a review for the overclocked card. I don't think they've ever released benchmarks for factory overclocks the same day that the card comes out, at least not in recent history, so it's not unexpected for them not to have included overclocked GTX 560 data yet. Wait for the 560 overclocked article in a few days. Reply
  • Melted Rabbit - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    The 850MHz GTX460 rarely ever in stock at online retailers during its lifespan, at times, the 810MHz GTX460 was even hard to find. The overclocked GTX460s that had even lower clocks were generally available. With these previous supply constraints in mind, why should any review site review another highly overclocked card like the 900MHz GTX560 Ti, when its predecessor was a low volume card created specifically to deceptively improve the perceived benchmarks and perceived value of the rest of the cards in its series?

    I have no issue with anandtech or other websites reviewing or including in reviews a 900MHz GTX560 if the variant is still readily available in four to six weeks. It would mean the card existed in reasonable quantities and was not just another Geforce 8800 Ultra card that showed up for the reviews and then was never actually in retail.

    On the other hand, the 6870 Black is a modest overclock of the 6870 from AMD, who has not had and has no supply problems with the 6870 cards.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    My personal experience is that EVGA's ~850MHz 460s have never impossible to find, although it has occasionally been difficult to find ones that weren't the less desirable external exhaust model. I've never had any difficulty finding ~810MHz cards.

    I didn't do much shopping around Christmas/New Years, though, so my experiences might not be representative of the average.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    GTX 560 cards are going to be a major player? Really? You know this how? Because your talking points memo from Nvidia marketing told you so?

    If you honestly care about 560 OC results, here's what you can say - "Hey Ryan, will you be getting a chance to test any overclocked 560's soon? How do you think they will perform?"

    Instead, here's what you went with - "OMG!! They didn't include every freaking card on the planet! BIAS! Sweet baby Jesus, I weep for the Anandtech that was!"

    The only thing really missing from this article was the inclusion of an overclocked 460, which from previous benchmarks should be very competitive for $50 less. Unfortunately the ridiculous shitstorm from the last time it was included means we can't have nice things anymore.
    Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    The Gigabyte and Asus OCed cards were available even before stock clocked cards. How is that in any way "temporary" or "uninterresting"? You are trying to downplay it really hard, but for apples-to-apples comparison, there should be the overclocked competition as well. Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Quotation marks - they do not mean what you think they mean. Nowhere on this page has anyone used either the words "temporary" or "uninteresting", nor any synonyms that I can see.

    No one is downplaying anything other than your ridiculous claim that AT and Ryan are biased because in two weeks they didn't manage to benchmark and write up every single card in the universe that might be relevant to your interests.
    Reply

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