It's so scandalous

Written by Wil Harris

February 17, 2005 | 00:00

Tags: #doom-3 #geforce-fx #gossip #half-life-2 #hl2 #john-carmack #osx #scandal #source

Companies: #ati #nvidia

Scandal. Gossip. Outrageously wicked shenanigans. Everybody loves to learn secrets, to get the inside track on what's going on. And more than anything else, everyone - especially us Brits - love to beat on the big guy.

We see so many examples of this in the tech industry it's incredible. The 'Big corporations will screw you' mindset is so irreversably set in so many tech consumers that it's amazing that anybody ever sells anything.

Sometimes, the scaremongering, the gossiping and the harsh criticism is warranted. Sometimes, it's so over the top it's laughable. Most of the time, it's the result of blinkered fan-boy bickering. The rest of the time, it's the result of under-paid hacks looking for the exclusive story that might just up their cheque for the month. Why don't we take a look at some of the 'scandals' that have rocked the industry over the last 12 months?

"Sometimes, the scaremongering, the gossiping and the harsh criticism is warranted."

Socket T

If the reports were to be believed, Socket T was going to generate a backlash the likes of which had never been seen before. Commonly known as LGA775, it's the latest chip form factor from Intel. Socket T moves the pins that connect the processor and motherboard from the former to the latter.

This was a scandal. Intel was cutting its own costs and handing motherboard makers a huge chunk of returns to process, leading to an increase in product costs. The new sockets were going to be incredibly fragile, useless for overclockers and enthusiasts. In a nutshell, Intel was going to screw us all.

However, 9 months down the line, these fears really haven't materialised. Motherboard prices aren't drastically different, and pins aren't breaking off motherboards left right and centre. The logic behind the move soon became evident - if you're going to break a pin, wouldn't you rather do it on a £90 motherboard than a £400 processor?

The real scandal has been the lacklustre performance of DDR2 in its initial offerings.

Scandal score: 2.

GeForce FX

The Nvidia FX line was the scandal that almost never was. Journalists and the public alike were so wowed by the Dawn demo and the raw power that the wool was almost permanently attached over eyes. However, early testing alerted buyers to the outrageous Dustbuster problems, and this prompted further investigation - leading to the revelations of sub-par performance.

Our own Tim Smalley recently mused on whether or not the dodgy architecture of the FX line is the cause of the infrequency of WHQL Nvidia drivers, and it's clear that the card's design was second fiddle to the competing Radeon series.

The major scandal here was that Nvidia kept talking about their product as if it was the second coming of graphics technology even when it was clear that it was pretty horrendous. Nvidia only avoid a full-blown Scandal Score by virtue of having a kick-ass comeback with the GeForce 6 series cards, which have put the ghost of FX to rest.

Scandal score: 7.


Half-Life 2 v Doom 3

There was no doubt in the minds of fans about this one. ATI used their cash to buy better scores in Half-Life 2. The delay in releasing the game was due to work done by Valve to re-engineer the Source platform to favour ATI technology. Insiders at Nvidia were telling us that they were expecting to see the game crippled for their cards before launch.

This one is another strike-out for the Scandal squad. The reasons for the HL2 delay have been well documented elsewhere, and the close scores between Nvidia and ATI cards have crushed worries of frame-tinkering.

On the flipside, the secret of ATI's poor performance in Doom 3 is no secret. Nvidia implemented a feature called UltraShadow in all their cards because John Carmack wanted it. ATI didn't. Carmack wrote lots of the shadow code in Doom to use the feature, ergo Nvidia performs better. We suspect that there is no amount of tweaking - short of implementing a similar feature - that is going to allow ATI to catch up fully in this title.

Simple architectural differences? No big scandal here.

Scandal score: 3.

"Close scores between Nvidia and ATI cards have crushed worries of frame-tinkering/"

ATI's Supply problems

Last year, ATI had real trouble shipping the X800, so the story goes. The top end parts were unavailable almost everywhere that our readers tried to pick them up. ATI, however, assured everyone that it was shipping them in decent quantities, and produced paperwork to back up their claims.

The scandal? There's little. Most analysts agree that the two points of view simply differ on what constitutes 'unavailable'. ATI was shipping the cards, but it was shipping them to people like Dell, Alienware, and other big system builders. You could get one in a new system, just not off the shelf.

To be harsh, ATI probably were being a little economical with the truth. But their point of view is certainly not the worst example of corporate blinkers we've ever seen.

Scandal score: 5.

And lastly...

bit-tech is...
  • Run by Mac fanboys
  • Just for geeky case modders

... Both of which are, of course, rubbish. Yes, a couple of us are known to swing in the direction of OSX, but we just like using a decent OS. Secondly, aside from the fact that we consider bit-tech to be a worthwhile read for anyone with an enthusiasm for cutting-edge computing, all our case modders are seriously cool dudes. Y'all.

Scandal score: So cool, we're below zero.
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