The ugly side of Nvidia: A rollercoaster ride that shows when Big Tech doesn't get it

ArjunKL

Posts: 13   +12
Staff member
Editor's take: In a tersely-worded email, Nvidia told Hardware Unboxed (and by extension TechSpot) that it would no longer be providing them with GeForce Founders Edition review units. The stated reason? Spending too little time focusing on RTX ray tracing, as opposed to raster performance. Hardware Unboxed, apparently, did "not see things the same way that we (Nvidia), gamers, and the rest of the industry do."

As most of you know, Hardware Unboxed is Steve and Tim's YouTube channel, and both Steve and Tim have been long time TechSpot partners. To this day, our publications collaborate and share the same PC enthusiast DNA that we forged together over nearly two decades. At TechSpot, we are proud hosts of their work for written versions of their latest reviews and analysis on CPUs, GPUs and views on the PC hardware industry as a whole.

As a corporation, it's Nvidia's prerogative to decide on the reviewers it chooses to collaborate with. However, this and other related incidents raise serious questions around journalistic independence and what they are expecting of reviewers when they are sent products for an unbiased opinion. As an independent tech publication, we've spent the past 20+ years providing objective and informative content. Hardware Unboxed tech reviews are comprehensive. They're meant to inform consumers about every aspect of a particular product, so you know exactly what you're getting before making a purchasing decision.

In today's dynamic graphics hardware space, with 350W flagships, hardware ray tracing, and exotic cooling solutions, there's a wide range of data points HUB looks at. But at the end of the day, there's only one real question every GPU buyer wants to know: how well do games run on a particular piece of hardware? Considering that 99% percent of Steam games feature raster-only rendering pipelines, rasterization performance was, is, and will be, a key point that Steve considers in GPU reviews.

Ray tracing is becoming increasingly important. AMD outfitted both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S with hardware ray accelerators, and we've seen remarkable ray-traced visuals in games like Spiderman: Miles Morales on PlayStation 5 and the upcoming Forza Motorsport on Xbox Series X/S. While performance isn't really where it ought to be (even with the help DLSS), Cyberpunk 2077 delivers a jaw-dropping vision of the next-gen on PC, with RTX effects dialed all the way up.

However, most games (including almost all RTX titles) are built on raster renderers. A hypothetical graphics card with most of its die space reserved for ray tracing would run Quake II RTX great and... not much else. Ray tracing absolutely deserves a place in modern GPU reviews. But there's simply not enough of it in enough games for any responsible reviewer to put it center-stage, in place of raster performance. It wouldn't do justice to consumers, who will primarily be running raster workloads. This is why Nvidia's complaint is so puzzling.

In his email to Steve, Nvidia Senior PR Manager Bryan Del Rizzo says that "Nvidia is all-in for ray tracing," and "despite all this progress, your GPU reviews and recommendations have continued to focus singularly on rasterization performance and you have largely discounted all of the other technologies we offer gamers." Del Rizzo goes on to state that "you do not see things the same way that we, gamers, and the rest of the industry do."

This statement is particularly ironic and obnoxious. On Nvidia's landing page for DLSS, the GPU manufacturer literally uses a Hardware Unboxed quote ("Extremely impressive") to promote their AI upscaling technology. Our initial look at DLSS in Battlefield V revealed a technology that was in dire need of improvement. Two years later, we revisited DLSS 2.0 in Control and Wolfenstein Youngblood and recognized the tremendous improvement Nvidia made to this technology. Claiming HUB "doesn't see things the same way" is disingenuous, to say the least. As an objective reviewer, it's Steve's responsibility to its viewers and readers to see things the way they are, which may not always coincide with the way Nvidia sees them.

Trust and objectivity are critical for any successful reviewer. Not every graphics card is a winner. Some, like the Radeon VII and the GeForce GT 1030 DDR4, were just plain awful. Not every graphics technology is a game-changer either.

Clearly, reviewers know this is no isolated incidence, but it was very arrogant of Nvidia to write an entire email explaining you could either get in line with their views, or else.

A decade ago, Nvidia's hardware PhysX acceleration was touted as a revolution, enabling advanced destruction, fluid dynamics, and particle simulation in games like Arkham City and Metro: 2033. Back in 2010, we included PhysX benchmarks in our review of Mafia II. AnandTech, Tom's Hardware, and other outlets also extensively covered PhysX. However, it was never made out to be more important than raster performance. There were raster benchmarks, more raster benchmarks with anti-aliasing enabled, and then a PhysX test. There's a clear, consistent thread here from PhysX to RTX: HUB and TechSpot give GPU technologies the amount of coverage we believe they need for consumers to make an informed choice.

It's even more trouble (and out of touch, as JayZTwoCents describes it), when Del Rizzo alludes to how Hardware Unboxed and other outlets "benefit" from GPU review units, in contrast to customers. Del Rizzo states the obvious here, that customers "don't get free GPUs, they work hard for their money." Setting aside the fact that HUB's detailed reviews often take several days and weeks to put together, this statement misses the forest for the trees. Yes, most review outlets get units from hardware vendors. But they get these on the understanding that their reviews will reach hundreds of thousands of potential customers, who are looking for trusted information.

It'd be hard to assess exactly how many people purchased a GeForce RTX graphics card after watching one of HUB's several RTX reviews -- between TechSpot and HUB combined, we estimate in the thousands -- but it's certainly worth more than the cost of a single graphics card. But, ultimately, that's not what's at play here...

Attacking press freedom is always a lose-lose-lose scenario: reviewers, customers, and businesses are all impacted negatively. Shortly after Steve went public with Nvidia's email, he's seen overwhelming support from the tech community. Not just fans of Hardware Unboxed, or viewers and readers, but numerous tech outlets who understand that this is not just about Steve or Hardware Unboxed, but it's about principle.

Clearly, reviewers know this is no isolated incidence, but it was very arrogant of Nvidia to write an entire email explaining you could either get in line with their views, or else. This could have happened to any other outlet. In fact, it has happened to many of them already, but either to a lesser extent or handled in a way that Nvidia (or any other big tech company) simply played the part of ignoring the reviewer without ever giving them any explanation.

Less than 48 hours later, Steve received the good news.

Nvidia apologized and walked everything back. Great news indeed, but let's be clear this wouldn't have happened if not for the support of the community at large and key people in the tech space that have such an enormous influence that it was too much for Nvidia to ignore. Linus from LinusTechTips (his angry rant on the WAN Show embedded above is pure gold) and Steve from Gamers Nexus, were two of those persons.

Our own Steve Walton (HUB) was the one living this whole situation close to his chest for the past few days and he's expected to upload a video soon with his recount (now live).

Things really don't need to be this hard. At the end of the day, reviewers, customers (and "the rest of the industry") all want the same things. We want Nvidia, AMD, Intel (and heck, even Apple!) to produce great hardware that can do justice to the next generation of games and computing. There is so much to look forward to in the coming years.

We're going to continue to take a broad, holistic view so that every technology that we cover gets its fair space. As Nvidia said, consumers work hard for their money. We just want to make sure you know what you're spending it on.

Permalink to story.

 

tembew

Posts: 7   +6
The relationship you guys have with companies is interesting. That you get to complain about not being given products. Not saying its good or bad but it's a bit different in other cases, even in the tech world I think. I doubt people who review laptops and tablets and phones can complain like that if a company doesn't send them hardware. They aren't making you review it a certain way. You can get it yourself and do whatever you want. But they've gotten themselves locked into this relationship with the reviewers where these outrage situations can arise.

It might stem from how the consumers of those products are.

Plus I'm still butthurt about reviewers getting free hardware. Companies should find random users and send them hardware if they commit to posting detailed reviews/performance statistics and pictures with system used. Pick me!
 

redhat

Posts: 170   +216
I am pretty happy that the community and other reviewers stand by Steve and hope that one day they make a project to protect free journalism from ugly greedy companies.

Btw, I have 9800 GT FE 👽in the shelve ready to ship in case you have such dilemma once again, so dont worry you are not alone, we stand by you
 
"not see things the same way that we (Nvidia), gamers, and the rest of the industry do." Sorry, nVidia, you can only speak on your behalf. Gamers and the rest of the industry never appointed you to speak on their behalf.
And to HUB, the fact that this happened is the very proof that you are doing something right. Keep up with the good work!
 

GNelson

Posts: 16   +23
Sorry, but I will not spend my dollars ever on a company that thinks this way. Who do they think they are pushing media and us around like this. I read and watch reviews to spend my cash in an informed method, DUH Nvidia! You have crossed that line once again and we the people who buy will just simply think longer and harder about spending with you. Oh, and your board partners must be so happy, NOT!

IN a word.....*****S!
 

SeekerJBP

Posts: 11   +10
Honestly, I wish you would focus on ray tracing more. Not everyone plays games with these cards... some of us creative types would like to know how things compare using something more than Blender which sucks at speedy renders of any real quality. Maya, Daz3D, 3D Studio, etc. users need good cards too... and are often willing to buy the high end because it saves an hour or ten per frame of rendering time.

I have one test render I use to compare cards. With a GTX 1050Ti it takes about 1.9 hours per frame (of a 30 second, 30 FPS video). How much improvement would I get from a RTX 3090? These are the questions I would like answered.

Tongue in cheek conclusion... this is TechSpot, not GameSpot. I personally would like more focus on the technology advantages, not just the gamer advantages.
 

GettCouped

Posts: 22   +48
TechSpot Elite
"Nvidia apologized and walked everything back." Someone (or many someones) at nVidia deserve to be fired.

See people always call from someone's head and that may happen to satiate the herd mentality, but this is a corporate culture issue that starts from the top. Rather than demanding someone get fired, how about we demand there is accountability from Jensen on down to stop this toxic behavior.
 

Pongo

Posts: 6   +4
Glad they walked it back. Truly uncalled for. Every player needs to pick the card that's going to play their killer app best. If I was going mainly play Dirt 5 AMD looks better, Control and Cyberpunk (atm) go with Nvidia, etc.

Each reviewer having their own test methodology and conclusion is the best way to have an informed decision.
 

psycros

Posts: 3,613   +4,459
This is how a community pushes back against a false narrative successfully. Now we just need the entire online world to reject the censorship being instituted by Google, Twitter and the rest of the big information gatekeepers. There IS hope if we stand together.
 

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 5,290   +6,018
#1 Personally, I played through Quake II RTX and I saw NOTHING about Ray Tracing that couldn't have been accomplished using the same technology I've seen in newer games (Quake is really, really old).

#2 Ray Tracing is basically Nvidia moving the goal post so that they can advertise technology that AMD couldn't catch up with immediately - but it really doesn't make a difference in actual gameplay and barely makes much difference in visuals.

#3 My 3090 FTW3 is turned way up and playing Cyberpunk, I fail to truly see how much "better" RT makes the game. It's easily ignorable.
 

Nargg

Posts: 50   +75
This is the dark side of capitalism, when it gets so comfortable that pushing like a bully is no big deal initially. Thank goodness the community as a whole does not allow such actions. nVidia does have a history of being bullish in it's sales side of the house. Not to mention, they like to buy up small companies and kill their innovation, which is a loss for the community as a whole. Needless to say, damage has been done, and I for one will build my next machine 100% AMD.
 

QuantumPhysics

Posts: 5,290   +6,018
If Nvidia wants someone to rant and rave over their tech on their Youtube: give the cards to me!!!

This way I won't have to wait in cold and rain for releases.

 

eforce

Posts: 460   +578
This is the dark side of capitalism, when it gets so comfortable that pushing like a bully is no big deal initially. Thank goodness the community as a whole does not allow such actions. nVidia does have a history of being bullish in it's sales side of the house. Not to mention, they like to buy up small companies and kill their innovation, which is a loss for the community as a whole. Needless to say, damage has been done, and I for one will build my next machine 100% AMD.

Socialism allows such monopolies to exist in the first place, aka. Fed's money printer.
 

Brahman05

Posts: 30   +27
The relationship you guys have with companies is interesting. That you get to complain about not being given products. Not saying its good or bad but it's a bit different in other cases, even in the tech world I think. I doubt people who review laptops and tablets and phones can complain like that if a company doesn't send them hardware. They aren't making you review it a certain way. You can get it yourself and do whatever you want. But they've gotten themselves locked into this relationship with the reviewers where these outrage situations can arise.

It might stem from how the consumers of those products are.

Plus I'm still butthurt about reviewers getting free hardware. Companies should find random users and send them hardware if they commit to posting detailed reviews/performance statistics and pictures with system used. Pick me!

This is different. This is a company saying they will not seed a product unless their product is shown in a light they want. That is not a review, that is an advertisement. That is not objective but subjective. And your example does not always hold up either. For example, board partners generally ask for their versions of a gpu back sot they can either pass it on to the next review site or refurb it and actually sell it. Also, if a site like LTT or techspot ask a company for a review sample and are turned down for lame petty reasons like this then that in and of itself is a statement on its own.
 

SeekerJBP

Posts: 11   +10
#1 Personally, I played through Quake II RTX and I saw NOTHING about Ray Tracing that couldn't have been accomplished using the same technology I've seen in newer games (Quake is really, really old).

#2 Ray Tracing is basically Nvidia moving the goal post so that they can advertise technology that AMD couldn't catch up with immediately - but it really doesn't make a difference in actual gameplay and barely makes much difference in visuals.

#3 My 3090 FTW3 is turned way up and playing Cyberpunk, I fail to truly see how much "better" RT makes the game. It's easily ignorable.

In case you missed my comment, video cards are not just to game on. Ray tracing was always high end workstation level for creators, and no effort was made to bring it down to gamer level. More money in video production, plus no "minimum hardware" requirements to play back. Just a TV or a monitor.

Content creators (Think TV, movies, South Park animations all the way to Shrek type animations, and even game creators)... we use video cards too.

And not all of us can afford a Pixar type workstation. We need to build our own.