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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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  • silverblue - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    No. They already got roasted for doing it last time. Also, the 6870 Black Edition is an official AMD product that hasn't been shoved down Ryan's throat. So, whereas before all things may not have been exactly equal, they are now.

    The presence of the 6950 1GB in the 560 Ti review is quite natural as the 6950 2GB was already there, and besides which, until you overload that memory, the 6950 1GB performs pretty much the same as its 2GB brother, albeit a tiny bit faster in places - it's not cheating to include it as it's not an overclocked card. There's no other way you can handle it except to have the two AMD cards in separate articles to each other and not mention the 6950 1GB in the 560 Ti review (hardly sensible - we already knew it'd be almost identical to the 2GB variant), or not review the 6870 Black Edition at all. Also, think of the time it must've taken Ryan to handle these reviews - certainly doesn't take a day or so to do.

    With overclocked cards, the situation is that the standard product is reviewed and, usually, the 3rd party offerings are reviewed together in a separate article in short order. I fully expect this to happen as it's normal for a site like Anandtech to do so.

    If your beef is with the 6870 Black Edition, please remember that, as stated in the review, AMD fully intended it to be the 560 Ti's true competition, and that the 6950 1GB was due out in February. When it became apparent that the 6870 wasn't the answer, they released the 6950 1GB early. There's no sense in scrapping all those 6870 Black Editions, of which there has to be thousands, so AMD have not only brought out two cards at the same time, but offered two viable alternatives to nVidia's one. The only thing that AMD will suffer is lack of availability for those 6950s for the time being which is only natural for an accelerated launch, plus nVidia will undoubtedly lose some sales so well done on that.
    Reply
  • ritalinkid18 - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Well said, GeorgeH...well said....

    QUOTE:
    "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
  • medi01 - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I won't talk about cherry picked oced 460, but "forgetting iPhone in the pocket" on comparison pics where it would look very pale (much lower contrast) is quite remarkable. Reply
  • sebanab - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Dude give it a rest!
    Plus it's only fair that both makers got the same treatment...
    Reply
  • Menetlaus - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Dude, this isn't the GTX560 Ti launch article. This is a picture of the market as you or I can go out and buy cards.

    I agree that the whole OC'd GTX460 "issue" was total bovine excrement from fanboys complaining that their poor nVidia was being compared to existing, non-reference cards that were wildly available at the time of the 460's launch.

    That being said, the launch article for the GTX560Ti is one article down and contains nothing but reference cards in an effort to keep the whiners quiet.
    Reply
  • SandmanWN - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Dudes, whatever. (You guys started it)
    The 460 article wasn't even about the 460. It was brought into the fray during an AMD release article. The only bovine excrement came from the drool of Nvidia fanboys that had the ridiculous notion that a cherry picked overclocked card delivered by Nvidia was allowed into a reference card release article for AMD. Which clearly drew red flags from those readers with common sense.

    And not only that but the the writer couldn't even finish the friggin article the way he wanted to because he was spending his time doodling around with the Nvidia card. That was complete BS.

    We tried to give some pointers on how it should have been handled.
    1) Reference vs reference on product release articles.
    2) Follow up articles with overclocked cards vs overclocked cards.

    It was a real simple freaking concept.
    Reply
  • Parhel - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Exactly. Nobody said that Anandtech shouldn't review OC'ed cards. The point was that OC'ed cards hand selected by AMD or Nvidia shouldn't be included in the launch article for their competitors new architecture. Had this card been included in the GTX 560 article, their would have been the same uproar as before. Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Yes, but there's a big difference between a majorly overclocked 3rd party card promoted by nVidia and a slightly overclocked original AMD card. I can see your point, though. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    I haven't read this article yet (just finished the GTX 560Ti but wanted to say thank you for putting this article up. As many of us had asked for you properly kept the launch article about the card being launched and comparisons to stock cards, but in this article you are comparing other offerings including OC'd cards.

    That's the way it's meant to be done and I thank you.
    Reply
  • Parhel - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Seconded. Reply

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