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AMD is charged with using customers as “guinea pigs” by distributing RX 7900 GPUs that aren’t complete

This could have been too good to be true. When we tested AMD’s new top GPU, the Radeon RX 7900 XTX, we were really thrilled. However, recent rumours have indicated that the new GPU may have some issues.

One of the first people to notice anything was wrong was Twitter user @uzzi38, who noticed that the RX 7900 XTX’s clock rates looked to be wildly fluctuating depending on the application being run. TechPowerUp  ran a series of tests on the card, and the operating frequency ranged from 1,594MHz to 2,994MHz while the voltage stayed below 1V (as noted in the Twitter thread below @uzzi38’s tweet).

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All these tests were conducted with the card’s default settings, so there is obviously a huge variation. A few days later, Dutch YouTuber and GPU reviewer @NadaOverbeeke discovered the card’s clock rates would randomly increase in some games, leading to an accompanying performance boost. Testing Modern Warfare 2 on the same graphics processing unit (GPU) with no changes to the settings resulted in a framerate variance of roughly 20%.

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The prognosis is not good for AMD. Simultaneously with Nadalina’s discovery, @Kepler L2 on Twitter discovered a broken shader prefetch in the RX 7900 XTX’s Navi 31 A0 hardware. Kepler concludes that this shows AMD intentionally released subpar hardware, with “A0” meaning “revision 1,” or the first version of the silicon to enter manufacturing. Consequently, the same broken prefetch may not appear in future versions of the Navi 31 GPUs.

AMD’s hasty release of RDNA 3 might end up costing it the ethical high ground in its rivalry with Nvidia.

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that we’ve been pretty hard on Nvidia as of late. Between the melted power adaptors on the RTX 4090 and the chaotic “unlaunch” of the RTX 4080 12GB (not to mention the actual RTX 4080’s lacklustre performance for the $1,199 asking price), Team Green hasn’t exactly been winning over customers.

Now AMD has entered the market with two new graphics processing units (GPUs), the RX 7900 XTX (at $999) and the RX 7900 XT (at $899), both of which are priced extremely reasonably. The XTX card’s early performance was better than expected, and it ended up outperforming the RTX 4080 in numerous benchmarks despite being $200 more expensive. Nvidia had already said that the price of GPUs will continue to climb, and both AMD and Intel had previously stated that they would be fighting against such a rise. This put us squarely in the red area.

But these latest issues with the RX 7900 XTX might erode some of the trust that AMD has earned over the previous several months. Any major tech company would look bad if they released unfinished silicon; the shader prefetch problem isn’t something that can be quickly fixed with a driver update (although AMD will eventually be able to improve the performance), and releasing newer physical revisions of the GPU won’t help anyone who has already purchased one.

Nobody knows for sure why AMD would have provided incomplete silicon. The most plausible theory is that AMD had a launch window before Christmas that it couldn’t miss. Naturally, AMD will continue to enhance the RX 7900 XTX’s performance through driver updates, with a bump in ray-tracing performance anticipated in the coming months as AMD sorts out the bugs.