Retesting the Radeon HD 4830: Too Few SIMDs Enabledby Derek Wilson on October 25, 2008 12:00 AM EST
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So Why DID This Happen?
We asked, and AMD answered. They did not test the review samples before they sent them out to reviewers. We can usually expect to recieve boards that have not been fully QA'd, as that can take a while, but when ever we get new boards or software companies tend to make sure that what we are getting works right. Apparently AMD was in such a rush to get reviewers parts for launch that they didn't have time to run even a basic check after the cards came back from the factory (which ever company they use to build their reference boards).
So the answer is that they were in a hurry and assumed that the correct BIOS would be installed. It wasn't and they didn't catch it.
Now, apparently there were some review samples that had the correct BIOS on them. We aren't sure who received those samples, but AMD indicated that it was based on how early the sample was sent out. Those who got later batches were more likely to have boards with the correct BIOS.
So why won't this happen in the wild? Because AMD's board partners all QA the boards they sell and because they all had a different version of the BIOS (one that functioned correctly) from the beginning.
We've been doing this for a long time, and there are times where an engineering sample or some pre-alpha something or other will have major problems. The closer it is to ready the less disastrous the testing experience tends to be. Sometimes review hardware has big issues too, perhaps with power saving optimizations or fan control. We've have stability issues on plenty of review samples.
These type of problems tend to be easily noticable, and can usually be fixed or worked around. But we tend to know what's wrong (or even that there is something wrong). In most cases these issues are taken care of before hardware makes it into the hands of end users. In this case, there shouldn't be anything for end users to worry about either.
But this is still sort of a big deal. Not because it impacts the hardware people will buy, but because it invalidates the evaluations of many of the reviews that went live on launch day. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and the diminished performance from these errant review samples could leave a false impression on those who are most likely to keep up, read, and recommend graphics hardware.
We were softer on the Radeon 4830 than on the other RV7xx hardware we've reviewed. Yes, we still saw it as a part that offers a lot of value, but the price competition from NVIDIA has been heavy and there are more powerful cards that can be had for maybe $30 more with all the mail in rebates going around.
So what do we think now that we've seen the newly flashed Radeon HD 4830 in action? Well let's take a look at the numbers first.