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Fermi card on stage wasn't real

Fermi card on stage wasn't real

Nvidia has confirmed that the Fermi card held up by Jen-Hsun on stage wasn't real, but was adamant that the demos were.

On Wednesday, Nvidia CEO and President Jen-Hsun Huang showed off what was believed to be the world's first Fermi-based graphics card, but upon closer inspection, we found out that the card was indeed a mock up.

The first alarm bells started ringing while I was waiting for an interview and noticed the card being heavily guarded by one of Nvidia's PR managers. I asked if I could take a closer look and I noted that there was no GPU under the heatsink and then started to take some more detailed pictures of the card.

It wasn't until I got back to my hotel room that I realised the card wasn't real, where I noticed the PCB had been cut down to fit the shiny heatsink's dimensions. The power connectors also don't line up with the contact points on the board and there are contact points for a second DVI connector. We're sure there are quite a few more discrepancies too, but we haven't spent a great deal of time looking any closer.

When I questioned Nvidia about this, it confirmed that the board was a mock up and that we'd see product shots as soon as the board designs have been completed. The company was adamant that the demos on stage were in fact real and said that the bring up board has wires dangling from it, so it isn't a pretty sight at the moment.

Fermi card on stage wasn't real Fermi card on stage wasn't real

Being the sceptic that I am, I asked if I could see the boards used for the demos, but I was told that all of the cards had already gone back to Nvidia's labs to continue the bring up process - they want to get the cards in gamers' hands as soon as possible, after all. However, I did a bit of digging and managed to see a blurry-cam shot on a mobile phone of what my source claimed was one of the bring up boards.

It was difficult to make out any of the components, but it looked like some kind of weird explosive device based on the number of wires coming out of it. Also, while the source was happy to show me the photo, they said they couldn't give me the picture, let alone post it - we're going to have to wait and see what the real Fermi looks like.

Fermi card on stage wasn't real Fermi card on stage wasn't real

This kind of stunt isn't exactly cool, but given the early nature of the silicon, it was almost entirely expected... it was a visual aid that was convincing from a distance, but not so when you got up close and personal to it. Hopefully, Nvidia will learn from this particular lesson, but I guess it shows how excited the company is about Fermi.

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22 Comments

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1ad7 3rd October 2009, 03:08 Quote
Nvidia is the New England Patriots of the computer world. Always sneaky sneaky... makes me nervous.
LordPyrinc 3rd October 2009, 03:39 Quote
Excellent investigation work there. NVidia deserves a bit of flak for this one. They did misrepresent the product.

So NVidia expects people to believe the demo was genuine if the card doesn't really exist yet in its final, complete state?

Even better... them telling you, oh no, we cant show the ones used in the demo because we already sent them away. Regardless, of whether they are being truthful or not, it does raise suspicion.
Joeymac 3rd October 2009, 04:09 Quote
Why are they on a bed of tripe?
Tim S 3rd October 2009, 04:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by LordPyrinc
Regardless, of whether they are being truthful or not, it does raise suspicion.

Yep, it does, which is why I tried really hard to get them to let me see the bring up board. The PR team seemed very willing to show me when I asked - they said they wanted to show me it although they said if I did, I wouldn't have been allowed to take pictures. A couple of hours later, they came back to me to tell me that they couldn't show me the board because they'd already been rushed back to the lab. That's when I started doing a bit more digging around.

I'm not 100 per cent convinced, but then I don't think anyone is - the proof is going to be in the pudding when the product comes out. They were demoing a 6x speed up in double precision performance over the previous generation single GPU on early silicon at clocks much lower than what they expect to ship at (the claim in all the whitepapers is an 8x speed up clock for clock), so if it's not able to manage that kind of speed up, they'll be taken to town when we do have real hardware. It would be a very risky move for Nvidia in that respect if the demos were fake.
Elton 3rd October 2009, 05:56 Quote
Indeed, if their claims are false, then well..

Let the pants drop and the hammer fall.
NickCPC 3rd October 2009, 08:50 Quote
Hold on, this seems like this article has almost been copied (if slightly reshuffled) from here;
http://www.semiaccurate.com/2009/10/01/nvidia-fakes-fermi-boards-gtc/
published on 1st October...
Dave Lister 3rd October 2009, 08:52 Quote
I didn't think they used the real hardware for those previews anyway, if it was a game that was being previewed everyone would know that some tweeking still had to be done. I don't think hardware should be treated any differently. In the end it's just a preview of what everyone can expect in the not too distant future.
Baz 3rd October 2009, 09:24 Quote
Shenanigans!
Panos 3rd October 2009, 11:22 Quote
With all those smokes and mirrors from Nvidia, adding up the games that happened recently not supporting AA on ATI, it really makes me think. Think that NV doesn't want people buy 58xx cards, waiting until they come out with their own product in the future, buying time.

Going back to 2006-7 when NV came out with the G80, while ATI was 6 months behind reminds me that history repeats.
If ATI had hold similar strategy, G80 couldn't be such success from the moment that came out. The significant majority of the cards sold for 6 months were Nvidia because of compentition lack supporting DX10 no matter if they were any DX10 games out.

When the first MAJOR DX10 game (Crysis) came out almost a year later after the initial release of G80, they had new cards out (8800GT, 8800GTS512) to be able to play that game properly because most of the initial ones (8800GTS640/320) couldn't.

After that I'm getting an ATI in November, (have to pay the £300 fee for the divorce filling this month) not because it's bad/good but because I want it. Plain and simple.
proxess 3rd October 2009, 11:38 Quote
You should have stuck a knife to the throat of the guy with the mobile phone picture!
Omegahunter 3rd October 2009, 11:42 Quote
So what it was a dummy card, it isnt the first time a hardware company has shown a mockup of their hardware. Console makers do it all the time and no one is really bothered.
What really will count is if they can get the hardware in to our hands ( even if in small amounts ) before christmas, how fast or not it is and its final price.
docodine 3rd October 2009, 18:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by NickCPC
Hold on, this seems like this article has almost been copied (if slightly reshuffled) from here;
http://www.semiaccurate.com/2009/10/01/nvidia-fakes-fermi-boards-gtc/
published on 1st October...

Charlie's article was about 300% more anti nVidia and 500% more paranoid.
Tim S 3rd October 2009, 19:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by NickCPC
Hold on, this seems like this article has almost been copied (if slightly reshuffled) from here;
http://www.semiaccurate.com/2009/10/01/nvidia-fakes-fermi-boards-gtc/
published on 1st October...

Charlie is not at the show and has a big chip on his shoulder.
HourBeforeDawn 4th October 2009, 01:11 Quote
has nvidia ever done anything that wasnt well shady or underhanded lol oh well I guess it makes for good media overall and something entertaining to read.
ciri28 4th October 2009, 02:35 Quote
wonder if the card was a working card that was cut down to get the cover to fit?

If that is case, then it is kind of stupid since given one days time, any one with reasonable skills could have rebuilt the cover to fit the full card.
SimoomiZ 4th October 2009, 02:57 Quote
Since it's not going to be available for some time, real or not becomes pretty irrelevant The presentation was probably simply about trying to put a dampner on Ati's recent launch, as mentioned already. I don't know many who buy graphics cards on the basis of what they look like.

The revelation does undoubtably put added pressure on Nvidia over the presentation's use of performance information using a "working version". On Fermi itself, this thing could be huge for Nvidia in the compute field - ECC at all levels might be the the final hurdle cleared.
ssj12 4th October 2009, 06:07 Quote
maybe the mock-up is the size they are aiming for? doesnt seem like a bad design or size if its what they are aiming for.
Archandel 4th October 2009, 10:26 Quote
NVidia marketing 101:

1, Get a totally crappy mock up card (maybe they contracted Apple to build this one)
2, Get people around shooting photos of the card
3, Create the "Buzz" around the mock up (just check all the tech sites, every one of them has a few articles about it)
4, Isn't it funny that this "NVidia-cock-up-with-the-mock-up" coincides with the ATI Launch?

They are good at this. I just wished they're products were as good as they're marketing...
l3v1ck 4th October 2009, 23:35 Quote
Who cares whether Nvidia lied or not?
The Custom PC/Bit-Tech benchmarks will sort the wheat from the chaff when the final cards are available.
Star*Dagger 5th October 2009, 06:55 Quote
I do not think it matters since ATI is going to own the next 12 to 18 months with the 5870x2!!

Game over Nvidia, try again in 2011
l3v1ck 5th October 2009, 09:22 Quote
Do you think Nvidia will make a GX2 version of GT300, or will the hugh die size make that too expensive for people to buy?
bobwya 5th October 2009, 18:40 Quote
The real problem for Nvidia is that their new product will not be at a good price/performance/power-consumption for the average-joe gamer (who doesn't fold@home, etc.). Of course the new cards (when they really arrive) will undoubtedly shake up the supercomputer industry big-time (with support for ECC RAM, DP FP speedup, and better cache architecture/shared memory for parallel processing) @ price/performance level that has previously been unheard of. I am just sceptical that the architecture will scale to provide good gaming cards at the lower price points (vs AMD/ATI) that Nvidia appear to be claiming on AnAndTech.
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