In the world of CPUs and GPUs, it’s not often that you see competitors directly sniping at each other. Sometimes some veiled digs will pop up during the launch of a product or some other event, but by and large that part of the tech industry tends to be pretty civil.
But for whatever reason, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang sat down for an interview and threw that playbook out entirely.
Rather than simply pointing to the superior performance of the Geforce RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti – particularly the latter, which will go unchallenged as the king of gaming GPUs for the forseeable future – Huang described AMD’s new GPU as “lousy” with no new features:
“The performance is lousy and there’s nothing new … [there’s] no ray tracing, no AI. It’s 7nm with HBM memory that barely keeps up with a 2080. And if we turn on DLSS we’ll crush it. And if we turn on ray tracing we’ll crush it.
It’s worth noting that AMD has confirmed repeatedly that they are working on ray tracing. The company revealed last year that they had an open source implementation of ray tracing in Radeon Rays, which was previously called AMD FireRays.
Still, it’s a moot point right now given so few games using any form of real-time ray tracing anyway. That’s likely to change over the next year, by which time the gaming ecosystem will have more games that can take advantage of specialist chipsets and cores on GPUs.
But Huang’s low opinion of AMD wasn’t limited to the Radeon 7. After suggesting that the new GPU launch was “underwhelming”, he went on to describe the AMD FreeSync technology as completely non-functional, even with AMD hardware:
[FreeSync] was never proven to work. As you know, we invented the area of adaptive sync. The truth is most of the FreeSync monitors do not work. They do not even work with AMD’s graphics cards.
While AMD users – and Xbox One gamers using variable refresh rate on certain monitors and TVs – would disagree, Huang’s view is firmly rooted in the certification tests Nvidia does when working with monitors. When the company announced that it would begin supporting the VESA Adaptive Sync standard, which is more or less what AMD’s FreeSync monitors use (over DisplayPort), it noted that there would be a string of monitors that it deemed “G-Sync Compatible”.
If a monitor isn’t capable of meeting those requirements – and the company hasn’t outlined precisely all of what those requirements are, although some are obvious like making sure there aren’t any obvious artifacing or banding issues then, as far as Nvidia is concerned, the variable refresh rate/adaptive sync doesn’t work.
“We believe that you have to test it to promise that it works,” Huang added.
Obviously AMD and FreeSync owners would disagree. The technology does work – the VESA standard is proof of that – but the two companies are shooting at different sets of goalposts.
Huang also saved some barbs for Intel, describing their graphics team as “basically AMD’s”. You can read the interview in its entirety here. It’s not the first time the Nvidia CEO has had a dig at competitors before, but he usually does so with less savagery. And while he does have a point about the Radeon 7 lacking forward-facing features like specialist cores for AI and ray-tracing technology, the real question is: does the first generation of 7nm AMD cards need those features, when Nvidia is pushing the future forward, or does it make more sense to add those features in 18 to 24 months?
That wasn’t the case today, for whatever reason. The CEO’s annoyance isn’t likely to last particularly long, though: at the time of writing AMD stock is down by 2.7% to $US20.19 on the NASDAQ, while Nvidia shares climbed by almost 2% to $US142.58.