It’s a gripe I’m sure NVIDIA hoped would have blown over by now, but quite the opposite, as it looks like Big Green is facing a class action lawsuit.
The issue stems from how NVIDIA advertised the GTX 970 as including 4GB of RAM. While this is technically true, only 3.5GB is high speed, and that last 512MB is a separate slow bit. Whenever the card needs to access that last partition, performance suffers.
When gamers discovered the anomaly, it was hoped that there might be some kind of driver or software update to improve performance as the card utilized that last half a gig. Unfortunately, it would seem NVIDIA purposely designed the card this way, likely hamstringing it to distance performance from their top tier card the GTX 980.
No mention of the different memory system or divided RAM was made on marketing materials, and NVIDIA claims it was a mistake that advertising materials were published with incorrect specs. It doesn’t help their reputation that upon the release of this card, NVIDIA didn’t admit to the mistake until after numerous complaints from owners.
NVIDIA maintains that the different memory system, found only on the 970, has a negligible impact on performance, though it can be demonstrated that performance can degrade by as much as 80% as the card maxes out. Of course as the more expensive 980 reaches its memory limit we see no loss of performance.
Over 8000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking the FTC and the European Commission to step in and “encourage” NVIDIA to correct advertising materials. Many 970’s are still incorrectly advertised, and system software still incorrectly reports hardware, and they’re also asking for some kind of refund or “step up” upgrade program to move to the 980.
One consumer, Andrew Ostrowski, unsatisfied with NVIDIA’s response to the accusations that they purposely misled consumers as to the 970’s capabilities, filed a class action lawsuit last Thursday in California on behalf of all 970 owners. He too is requesting corrections to advertising materials, damages, and refunds. The judge overseeing this filing will decide if this lawsuit moves forward as a jury trial.
The GTX 970 is still a solid performer, I’ve been using one in my recently built video rendering workstation, but one has to wonder if this card would have been as well received initially if consumers had been made aware of the unique memory “features” found within. As I do own one of these cards, I’ll certainly be watching what happens next.
Those concerned about memory intensive GPU performance, AMD’s R9 290X can be found for similar pricing, comes in 4GB and 8GB flavors, and features a 512 bit memory bus instead of the 970’s 256 bit bus.
For those interested in a more in depth look at NVIDIA’s snafu here, Anandtech has a terrific write up on situation which delves into a lot of technical details.