The ugly side of Nvidia: A rollercoaster ride that shows when Big Tech doesn’t get it
As most of you know, Hardware Unboxed is Steve and Tim’s YouTube channel, and both Steve and Tim have been long time TechSpot partners. To this day, our publications collaborate and share the same PC enthusiast DNA that we forged together over nearly two decades. At TechSpot, we are proud hosts of their work for written versions of their latest reviews and analysis on CPUs, GPUs and views on the PC hardware industry as a whole.
As a corporation, it’s Nvidia’s prerogative to decide on the reviewers it chooses to collaborate with. However, this and other related incidents raise serious questions around journalistic independence and what they are expecting of reviewers when they are sent products for an unbiased opinion. As an independent tech publication, we’ve spent the past 20+ years providing objective and informative content. Hardware Unboxed tech reviews are comprehensive. They’re meant to inform consumers about every aspect of a particular product, so you know exactly what you’re getting before making a purchasing decision.
In today’s dynamic graphics hardware space, with 350W flagships, hardware ray tracing, and exotic cooling solutions, there’s a wide range of data points HUB looks at. But at the end of the day, there’s only one real question every GPU buyer wants to know: how well do games run on a particular piece of hardware? Considering that 99% percent of Steam games feature raster-only rendering pipelines, rasterization performance was, is, and will be, a key point that Steve considers in GPU reviews.
Ray tracing is becoming increasingly important. AMD outfitted both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S with hardware ray accelerators, and we’ve seen remarkable ray-traced visuals in games like Spiderman: Miles Morales on PlayStation 5 and the upcoming Forza Motorsport on Xbox Series X/S. While performance isn’t really where it ought to be (even with the help DLSS), Cyberpunk 2077 delivers a jaw-dropping vision of the next-gen on PC, with RTX effects dialed all the way up.
However, most games (including almost all RTX titles) are built on raster renderers. A hypothetical graphics card with most of its die space reserved for ray tracing would run Quake II RTX great and… not much else. Ray tracing absolutely deserves a place in modern GPU reviews. But there’s simply not enough of it in enough games for any responsible reviewer to put it center-stage, in place of raster performance. It wouldn’t do justice to consumers, who will primarily be running raster workloads. This is why Nvidia’s complaint is so puzzling.
In his email to Steve, Nvidia Senior PR Manager Bryan Del Rizzo says that “Nvidia is all-in for ray tracing,” and “despite all this progress, your GPU reviews and recommendations have continued to focus singularly on rasterization performance and you have largely discounted all of the other technologies we offer gamers.” Del Rizzo goes on to state that “you do not see things the same way that we, gamers, and the rest of the industry do.”
This statement is particularly ironic and obnoxious. On Nvidia’s landing page for DLSS, the GPU manufacturer literally uses a Hardware Unboxed quote (“Extremely impressive”) to promote their AI upscaling technology. Our initial look at DLSS in Battlefield V revealed a technology that was in dire need of improvement. Two years later, we revisited DLSS 2.0 in Control and Wolfenstein Youngblood and recognized the tremendous improvement Nvidia made to this technology. Claiming HUB “doesn’t see things the same way” is disingenuous, to say the least. As an objective reviewer, it’s Steve’s responsibility to its viewers and readers to see things the way they are, which may not always coincide with the way Nvidia sees them.
Trust and objectivity are critical for any successful reviewer. Not every graphics card is a winner. Some, like the Radeon VII and the GeForce GT 1030 DDR4, were just plain awful. Not every graphics technology is a game-changer either.
Clearly, reviewers know this is no isolated incidence, but it was very arrogant of Nvidia to write an entire email explaining you could either get in line with their views, or else.
A decade ago, Nvidia’s hardware PhysX acceleration was touted as a revolution, enabling advanced destruction, fluid dynamics, and particle simulation in games like Arkham City and Metro: 2033. Back in 2010, we included PhysX benchmarks in our review of Mafia II. AnandTech, Tom’s Hardware, and other outlets also extensively covered PhysX. However, it was never made out to be more important than raster performance. There were raster benchmarks, more raster benchmarks with anti-aliasing enabled, and then a PhysX test. There’s a clear, consistent thread here from PhysX to RTX: HUB and TechSpot give GPU technologies the amount of coverage we believe they need for consumers to make an informed choice.