EVGA Wants You To Know They Don't Cheat On Video Card Reviews

While all everyone was wrapped up in E3 and the excitement around New Video Games, there was a ton of drama in the tech world when it came to graphics cards.

EVGA has since come out and taken a stance on the matter, declaring to all consumers that "What You See Is What You Get". But what exactly is going on?

When you go to the EVGA website, you're presented with this nice looking picture. Here's what it looks like, so we can all get on the same page.

"EVGA was one of the first graphics card companies to offer overclocked graphics cards, and since day one EVGA always delivered the exact same products to reviewers as well as customers," the site says. "EVGA does not 'fake' reviews or send out products with 'tweaked' clockspeeds to reviewers. With EVGA Superclocked, FTW and Classified graphics cards, what you see is what you get."

Confused as to what the hell EVGA is talking about? Put simply, it's a dig at allegations levelled against rival manufacturers ASUS and MSI over samples of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 and 1080 that have been sent to reviewers.

TechPowerUp and Hardware.fr were the first two websites to unveil the controversy, and it basically works like this.

When a manufacturer ships a card, they often ship software with that card allowing users to control the clock speeds of the GPU, memory and so forth. That software often has presets users can choose to automatically overclock to certain speeds: one where the fans run at the reference speed as dictated by AMD or NVIDIA, one for the settings advertised on the box, and a higher setting for people looking to get some extra performance out of their card.

The ASUS GTX 1080 Strix sent out to reviewers has two such profiles (standard and overclocked), while the MSI card has three (the reference-speed Silent mode, the default Gaming preset and the high performance OC mode).

What the sites discovered was that their cards were set to the higher performance preset modes from the box, rather than their standard defaults. And if you don't install the software that comes on the CD — and given that those drivers are typically out of date and the software often doesn't have any functionality that can't be achieved with third-party software — you won't know the difference.

Here's how TechPowerUp put it.

To select between the modes, you're expected to install the MSI Gaming software from the driver DVD, and use that software to apply clock speeds of your desired mode. Turns out, that while the retail cards (the cards you find in the stores) run in "Gaming mode" out of the box, the review samples MSI has been sending out, run at "OC mode" out of the box. If the OC mode is how the card is intended to be used, then why make OC mode the default for reviewers only, and not your own customers?
...
Now if the OC mode is enabled for review samples of one company and not for the others, this means that potential customers comparing reviews will think one card performs better than the other, even if it's just 1%, people do base their buying decision on such small differences.

As you can imagine, the entire tech world got instantly put on notice — and they all started checking the cards they'd received. Tweaktown discovered that their GTX 1070 card from MSI was achieving boost clock speeds more than 200MHz beyond the quoted specifications for MSI's OC mode.

As far as ASUS and MSI are concerned, however, they've done nothing wrong. ASUS released a statement over the weekend Australian time saying that the cards were set to maximum performance from the off "to save media time and effort".

Retail products are in “Gaming Mode” by default, which allows gamers to experience the optimal balance between performance and silent operation. We encourage end-users to try GPU Tweak II and adjust between the available modes, to find the best mode according to personal needs or preferences.
For both the press samples and retail cards, all these modes can be selected through the GPU Tweak II software. There are no differences between the samples we sent out to media and the retail channels in terms of hardware and performance.

MSI hasn't released a statement to date, although it's not hard to imagine them taking the same tack. (And why wouldn't you, when you can sit back and let ASUS cop all the flak?) But there are a few things to consider.

First things first. While the clock speeds listed here can be achieved by literally anyone who purchases the software, why didn't ASUS and MSI tell reviewers they had gone to the effort of saving them a little bit of time?

But you've got to also ask how this wasn't noticed before. While most reviewers don't go to the trouble of installing the software on the CD, plenty also use tools like EVGA Precision X or GPU-Z. The latter, in particular, tells you precisely how much memory a card has, how fast it's running, what the bus interface is, whether SLI is enabled, what the texture fillrate is, the size of the GPU die ... basically everything.

It might be a case of the reviewers simply being inundated, which is more understandable than you'd think. And it might not be an insidious move on the part of the manufacturers.

But the reality of PC gaming is that one or two frames does make a difference when it comes to purchasing decisions. Let's say you're going to buy a new GPU, and you're not much of a tech enthusiast. You want to play something like Battlefield 1 or Overwatch. If you don't know the difference between two brands, and you read several reviews that say Brand X gets you slightly more frames in both games than Brand Y, which card are you going to buy?

Brand X, obviously.

So that's the low-down on the latest drama in the world of video cards, and EVGA's attempt at a bit of mischievous, or opportunist, marketing. At the end of the day we're still not dealing with clock speeds that you wouldn't be able to achieve yourself.

But then again, we're also talking about cards that can cost over a thousand dollars. And some people don't want to fiddle with tech when it costs that much.

Just some food for thought.

Update (1:58 PM): MSI has now released an official statement.

MSI Review samples and MSI retail cards are identical in terms of hardware and performance. Both have the exact same performance profiles available through the MSI Gaming App. All information about these performance profiles is clearly communicated and can be found on the respective product pages. Retail cards are set to ‘Gaming Mode’ by default, which offers the best Performance per Watt, while still giving close to ‘OC Mode’ in-game performance. In order to enjoy the best performance and all features of MSI GAMING products, we highly recommend to use the MSI Gaming App which is available for free. The MSI Gaming App allows you to apply one of three performance profiles with a single click, instantly giving you the desired performance.
As several reviewers have stated, software like the MSI Gaming App is often not used in reviews. This is why review samples of the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 GAMING X graphics cards are set to ‘OC Mode’ to ensure that reviews demonstrate the same performance available through the MSI Gaming App. The award winning TWIN FROZR VI cooling is designed to handle each performance profile flawlessly, giving you the lowest noise in the industry and consistent performance so gamers can focus on their gameplay.


Comments

    EVGA also has pretty good warranty support as well compared to others in the industry, I had to send a card back to Gigabyte and after a lot of screwing around the card that came back was in such poor condition PCCG said they wouldn't feel right to give it back to me and instead offered me a replacement from another brand.

    EVGA have come a long way, did have a bit of a rocky start (because who trusts new brands lol) but they have really worked towards and built cool products.
    I take ALL vendor benchmarks with a grain of salt because their benchmarks are generally tailored to favor themselves as a marketing tactic, but out of all of the card vendors iv found EVGA more in touch with the gaming / enthusiast community which is major points IMHO and will be a deciding factor in purchases to come.

    Generally before I buy tech that has a greater value, I will view multiple benchmarks from multiple sources to build a baseline as everyone tests their own ways and if testing is consistent and true, results will be very reliable, but I still dont trust the dealership till i confirm with my own eyes :P

    I just managed to order an EVGA 1070 from newegg, glad I made the right choice with them and I'm happy about their warranty support. the differences between each brand probably wont impact me as much as but I'm still happy hearing that they aren't about deceiving their customers

      Likewise. $660au delivered. cant go wrong.

      The US price of a GTX 1070 is US $ 379.00.

      After the exchange rate conversion that ends up being around AU $ 510.00.

      How come these cards sell close to AU $ 800.00?

      Does shipping cost that much?

      Take the R9 390; US $ 329.00 and sells here for AU $ 449.00.

      I'm totally confused.

        There's the Founders Edition cards, which is what's immediately available at a premium, and then the baseline models which arrive afterwards.

          AU $660 delivered sounds reasonable, with the Founder's edition cards being expensive. That's still a considerable undercut on the PCCG and Mwawe prices.
          I still don't think it's worth paying the Founders Edition premium, with the current exchange rate.

            $660 door to door for a 1070 isn't a bad price. It makes the argument for a RX 480 a lot less encouraging as well.

              I'm still going to wait a bit more. I want to see the Australian price for RX 480 and also the prices for the non-founder's edition GTXs.

              My last GPU upgrade was a GTX 780 Ti. I've been waiting a long time for this generation, I think I can handle a few more weeks.

              If the RX 480 is reasonably priced in Australia (like the R9 390 in my above comment, around AU $ 350), it would still be a bargain worth looking into.

                It's funny you mention the RX 480. Stay tuned.

        US$379 plus 10% GST takes you to US$417, add another 5% or so for currency fluctuation and you get to around US$440 or AUD590

        So realistically the cards should retail here for $599.

        The founders edition (i.e. Nvidia gouging everyone that wants a card in the first couple of months) ertails for US$429, add the GST and 5% for currency fluctuation and you end up at USD495 or around AUD660
        So the founders edition should retail loacally for around $679 or so, but it is retailing for $779-799 which is at least $100 over priced.

        Newegg Australia do them for AUD$599 + freight, bringing it to about $660 which is more reasonable.

        The thing is, Nvidia screwed everyone by having the $50 and $100 more expensive 'Founders editions' and I am yet to see a non-founders edition 1080 or 1070 retail anywhere in the world for the announced USD379 or USD499 prices quoted at launch.

        It is a bit of a con ,they get the headlines, then there is nothing available at those prices.

    The truth is this has been happening for at least a decade. The first similar report I remember was actually motherboards. They bumped the FSB up slightly so instead of running at say 200MHz it was 203 or 205. Nothing huge, but it had the knock on effect of overclocking everything in the system. So they'd do a round up of six mobos and the slightly OCed one would come out on top. Happened to video cards years ago as well.

    And of course that's before you even consider the other part of review cards - they're cherry picked. Most times the manufacturer will have tested a bunch of cards and picked the one that is most overclockable or runs coolest, or most stable (basically whatever they know will be the focus of testing) and that's what gets sent to the reviewer.

    The most honest reviews would be a reviewer grabbing a random card of the shelf in a retail store and trying it.

    I don't know if it's still the case, (680). But removing the stock heatsink from an EVGA card doesn't void the warranty, it did say however that the stock cooler should be reinstalled before returning it to them. That reassurance does a lot to reduce the anxiety that comes with applying your first fullcover waterblock. Turns out it isn't that scary after all.

    I've been with EVGA for my last 3 cards now, and will be staying with them for the foreseeable future. After I had 2 different ASUS cards that kept overheating and frying themselves, one of which was the 8800 GTX (the $1000 card back then) which I had to send back twice in a year.
    Haven't had any problems with any of my EVGA ones, even with slight overclocks on them.

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