By – John Williamson

nvidia 970 refund

Nvidia’s GTX 970 launch exceeded even the most ambitious expectations and added severe pressure to AMD’s r9 290 GPU given the surprisingly low price point of the 970. Significantly lower power consumption, reduced temperatures, 0db idle silent mode on certain SKUs all made the 970 an attractive proposition for the mainstream gaming market. This brought a level of concern for AMD as units struggled to move on the shelves. However, AMD were adamant that prices couldn’t be lowered on the 290, 290x or 295×2. The surplus of stock forced retailers like Scan and Overclockers UK to cut prices to better compete with the GTX 970.

The old adage of something looks too good to be true is extremely relevant here as recent reports indicate the quoted 4GBs at 224 GB/s is incorrect since 3.5GB runs at this figure whilst the remaining 0.5 operates at 1/7 of the 3.5GB memory speed. So how does this translate to real world performance? Basically, the card has two pools of memory, and any game that utilizes less than 3.5GB of VRAM will run without any problems. Newer titles such as Shadow of Mordor start to hitch and stutter because of the transition to the slower 0.5GB. For more technical information, please visit this superb PC Perspective article.

This situation is an unholy mess when you start to use these cards on higher resolutions panels. This is especially the case at 4K. Despite this, I never considered even the GTX 980 to be a 4k capable card. Some consumers, myself included, spent nearly £600 on an 970 SLI setup expecting it to perform well and utilize the entire 4GB framebuffer. Nvidia have released a canned response stating, “The GeForce GTX 970 is equipped with 4GB of dedicated graphics memory. However the 970 has a different configuration of SMs than the 980, and fewer crossbar resources to the memory system.

Memory Is The Key

To optimally manage memory traffic in this configuration, we segment graphics memory into a 3.5GB section and a 0.5GB section. The GPU has higher priority access to the 3.5GB section. When a game needs less than 3.5GB of video memory per draw command then it will only access the first partition, and 3rd party applications that measure memory usage will report 3.5GB of memory in use on GTX 970, but may report more for GTX 980 if there is more memory used by other commands. When a game requires more than 3.5GB of memory then we use both segments.

I’ve spoken with a number of customers who state the vendors have a similar attitude and refuse to accept the card under an RMA process. The purpose of this article isn’t to go into the technical detail or analyse if Nvidia’s intentions but to make a clear, direct message about consumer rights. Nvidia claim that the performance difference above 3.5GB is negligible but that doesn’t justify the unplayable stutter caused due to this manufacturing decision. I’ve tested quite a few graphically intensive games and at 1440p the hit when going above 3.6GB is absurd. Interestingly, it seems like various titles are coded to avoid anything above the 3.5GB limit.

Does Nvidia have to refund disgruntled customers by law? It depends on a number of factors and unfortunately, USA customers don’t have the consumer rights of their European counterparts. In the UK, it is technically possible under the Sale of Goods Act (1979) to demand a full refund since the product wasn’t as described. Now, the issue here is explaining how the 0.5GB of VRAM doesn’t operate at the quoted speed is nigh-on impossible. However, Nvidia has admitted that the information was wrong and the card has 56 rops and not 64. Similarly, the L2 cache is 1.75mb instead of 2.0. These clear numbers may offer a route to a legal case or bodies like Trading Standards will be more open to hear your claim.

Refunding Problems

Refunds can only be offered via the retailer and practically every major company at the moment is waiting to hear back from Nvidia to see if they will foot the bill. I do feel a lot of sympathy for these stores since the product details they acquired are from Nvidia’s official documentation and it could bankrupt some smaller outlets if they had to refund the 970s. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be the customer’s concern; if they were missold an item, they are well within their rights to push for a refund. I can imagine these companies are being inundated with requests and currently they don’t know how to proceed. Some people have dismissed the whole situation and think the media and consumers are being overly dramatic. While one person might be content with their GPU, another could feel aggrieved by the 3.5GB limit.

Frankly, it’s not about the % or fps, you cannot sell a product that isn’t as described. It’s not like this has occurred a few days after the 970 launch, it’s been some time and Nvidia have dismissed this as a communications issue between departments. While that might be true, it isn’t a viable excuse and seems like they are underestimating this grave situation. It’s obvious that Nvidia are hoping the media frenzy and public’s reaction will calm down and meander off into the distance. This isn’t going to happen, in fact it’s just getting more heated. Overclockers UK forum an 80 page thread on this and the official Geforce forums main thread has 148 pages, 2204 replies and 305,178 views with discussions about a class-action lawsuit.

It’s my own personal opinion that Nvidia should offer a refund, swap for GTX 980 or a free upgrade to Nvidia’s next line of GPUs. Game codes, small partial refunds and similar incentives are not going to wash with people who are getting increasingly angry. Nvidia, your reputation is in tatters already, the best thing to do is act now, apologize and try to rebuild trust with the gaming community. Yes, it’s going to cost you a lot of money to recall/replace the cards, but it might be the better option than simply brushing the issue off and making people AMD customers for the rest of their lives.

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  • stika

    And this is why I’m happy I bought an ATI

    • John Williamson

      It’s a complicated issue, and there’s a lot of semantics about has the card being missold, or does make a real difference? Then again, if customers want a refund, I believe in a consumer-led society, they should get it.

      • JMO

        Is it really that complicated?

        I suppose, as you say, it depends on how your are looking at the issue.

        From a technical standpoint, sure there can be some debate about the impact of the actual vs advertised specifications, the sum of which will vary from user to user.

        From a purely legal standpoint however, it seems pretty cut and dry. Nvidia have engaged in false and deceptive marketing. Whether it was intentional or not is really beside the point.

        Consumers have rights and Nvidia is soon going to feel them being exercised.

        • John Williamson

          Oh I agree with you completely. Nvidia and some retailers are refusing using the line, “rops were never advertised and it’s still got 4GB of VRAM” This is a total cop-out since you can’t expect customers to know the inner workings of GPUs. The competition uses 4GB VRAM in one fast pool, so there’s no reason to expect this one to be different. I do expect an update about this soon, and EVGA have confirmed they will allow refunds, or a step programme to the 980. Hopefully others will follow.

    • AdamAmes

      Since my start into the PC gaming world in 1999, I have always bought Nvidia. I tried a few times with ATI, but I had terrible driver and performance issues.

      Honestly, I have no idea why companies who find themselves in trouble almost always seem to throw even more gasoline on the fire by double talking and poor PR moves.

      All they had to do was face the music, fix the problem and be done with it. Now, it seems they may end up losing a lot of business.

  • mei

    maybe it doesn’t matter if a refund is right by law, or even morally but they should look at it as a opportunity, nvidia has alot of loyal fans, and they have good products, i feel they need to shake the image of being a huge money grabbing robot!

    thats always going to be off-putting to some people! ><

    • AdamAmes

      The problem, I believe, is that companies today do not care about their image. They see this as a minor setback and feel people will just forget. It is very similar to game developers and publishers who constantly release broken games and still get enough business to stay profitable.

  • RyviusRan

    I purchased 2 Gigabyte G1 GTX 970s and thought the stuttering I was getting in Shadow of Mordor and Skyrim was because of a driver issue but now that I know it’s because of slow vRAM I am quite mad.
    I dropped 720USD on these cards and they don’t perform how they were promised.
    The retailer Tigerdirect and also Gigabyte both denied my refund for the time being.
    The value of both of my cards have dropped so even if I try to sell them on Amazon or Ebay I will lose out on a lot of money especially since I have to pay a fee to either website.
    I’ve been a loyal Nvidia customer for almost 15 years and now I may switch over to AMD.

    • John Williamson

      I got those cards too and I’m not in the habit of dropping so much money on PC parts, I expect them to be as described as last quite a few years. Heck, my old GPU lasted me for 6 years. The most disappointing aspect for me is Nvidia’s attitude as it’s quite patronizing. To them they don’t see it as a huge issue, but for 1440p and sli users, the stuttering and vram hit is atrocious. I wouldn’t give up yet, retailers are pushing Nvida hard to get refunds for people.

    • AdamAmes

      I am sorry about to hear that. I would be extremely angry if I had spent that kind of money on a product which does not work as advertised.

      I hope you get some resolution soon.

    • clayjn

      Same here, they over clock well but going up into 1440 or 4k gaming and they hit a wall. @Gigabyte they need to a reasonable step up program to the 980’s.