AMD, Nvidia duke it out in run-up to new Radeon 3D cards

Ahead of new AMD GPUs, AMD and Nvidia fight over pricing in e-mails.

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home | Windows PCs | Cooking (sometimes) | Woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
5 min read

The lead up to a graphics card launch always sets off a torrent of e-mails from AMD and Nvidia attempting to influence our opinion. With AMD's Radeon 6800-series graphics cards about to put Nvidia's relatively recent GeForce 400 line behind a generation, our in-box is once again host to an unsolicited flame war.

First, Nvidia sent word of the release of a curiously timed benchmark:

As a member of the ultra-secret H.A.W.X. 2 squadron, you are one of the chosen few, one of the truly elite. You will use finely honed reflexes, bleeding-edge technology and ultra-sophisticated aircraft--their existence denied by many governments--to dominate the skies.

And, in fact, you really are one of the truly elite, thanks to Ubisoft providing an early press preview of the H.A.W.X. 2 benchmark prior to its public release this Friday.

H.A.W.X. 2 has been optimized for DX11 enabled GPUs and has a number of enhancements to not only improve performance with DX11 enabled GPUs but also greatly improve the visual experience while taking to the skies.

Dutifully, AMD follows up:

It has come to our attention that you may have received an early build of a benchmark based on the upcoming Ubisoft title H.A.W.X. 2. I'm sure you are fully aware that the timing of this benchmark is not coincidental and is an attempt by our competitor to negatively influence your reviews of the AMD Radeon HD 6800 series products. We suggest you do not use this benchmark at present as it has known issues with its implementation of DirectX 11 tessellation and does not serve as a useful indicator of performance for the AMD Radeon HD 6800 series. A quick comparison of the performance data in H.A.W.X. 2, with tessellation on, and that of other games/benchmarks will demonstrate how unrepresentative H.A.W.X. 2 performance is of real world performance.

AMD has demonstrated to Ubisoft tessellation performance improvements that benefit all GPUs, but the developer has chosen not to implement them in the preview benchmark. For that reason, we are working on a driver-based solution in time for the final release of the game that improves performance without sacrificing image quality. In the meantime we recommend you hold off using the benchmark as it will not provide a useful measure of performance relative to other DirectX 11 games using tessellation.

Noted. We trust you've also contacted our compatriots at GameSpot, who perform all 3D card testing.


Next, we hear from Nvidia about a timely pricing move:

As you are likely writing about the upcoming Radeon 6800 series launch, we felt it was important that you're up to date on the latest GeForce GTX 400 series pricing.

We'd like to inform you of new suggested retail pricing (SEP) for one of our most popular GPUs, the GeForce GTX 460 1GB. The new SEP for the GTX 460 1GB is $199.99. As always, the SEP is just a suggestion and you'll likely find retail boards from our partners at multiple price points. We expect many standard boards to sell in the $180s-$190s, and OC boards to sell for $209+.

In addition to the GeForce GTX 460 1GB, we'd also like to mention new pricing on the GeForce GTX 470. The SEP of this GPU is now $259.99. The GeForce GTX 470 offers more tessellation engines than GTX 460, making it ready for the most demanding DX11 games on the market today, and just as important, the games of tomorrow.

AMD is currently positioning the $179.99 Radeon 6850 against the GeForce GTX 460 768MB, which currently has a SEP of $169.99. However, GTX 460 768MB boards can be found for as low as $159.99 online. As a result, we feel that the stock GeForce GTX 460 1GB will ultimately be the Radeon 6850's closest competitor. Priced at $239.99, the Radeon 6870 will be competing with GeForce GTX 460 1GB OC boards running at speeds in excess of 800MHz graphics clock from our partners. And for a few dollars more, users may also consider the GeForce GTX 470.

AMD's rebuttal?

As many of you have already been notified recently, Nvidia has been kind enough to provide a big price drop on the GeForce GTX 470 and a slightly smaller one on the GTX 460 1GB. These are temporary price drops and run from October 21st to November 14th as indicated in the below note sent by Nvidia to a retail customer. I'm sure you are aware of why Nvidia has timed this generous sale for right now.

Retail customer note (from French, via Google Translate): Nvidia is pleased to offer to participate in a new operation "Laser GTX Win!" Based on your inventory and sales! This takes into account your inventory and sales of these products between October 21 and November 14, 2010, and you can save:

- $ 40 GeForce GTX 470 (Stock at October 20 only products in transit) - Lower price! So your next purchase at least $ 40 to manufacturers ...

- $ 22 GeForce GTX 460 1 GB (Stock on October 20 only products in transit) - Lower price! So your next purchase of $ 22 less for manufacturers ...

Please note, this program will replace the Laser 3 (only on the GTX 470). Thank you for applying this bass from tomorrow and send us a link to our articles to come .... (URGENT)


GTX 460 1GB = 169 euro TTC

GTX470 = 219 euro TTC

Nvidia's not done, though:

Further to our e-mail last night about the GeForce GTX 460 1GB/GTX 470 price adjustment, please rest assured that our price adjustments are in fact permanent. Any claims that our pricing update is temporary are patently false.

The price adjustments we made are not temporary, and are reflective of an upcoming change in our product lineup.

We already disregard the majority of benchmarking advice from both AMD and Nvidia, so though the attempts to game the testing process are certainly disingenuous, it's a time-honored tradition in 3D card marketing, and seasoned reviewers know to tune it out. Shame on Ubisoft, however, for allowing HAWX 2 to become a pawn.

For the pricing issue, we'll simply have to wait and see how it plays out. The bigger question is whether AMD's new cards are worth Nvidia's attempts at one-upsmanship. Stay tuned.