GPU is on an apology tour

Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There’s no better way to reverse bad press than a sincere apology tour. GPUs are currently on a quest to win back the goodwill of PC gamers with better specs, better prices, and some cool new branding.

Most obviously, we can see this with Nvidia’s RTX 40 series Super GPUs, but AMD is also getting in on the action with the RX 7600 XT. Nvidia and AMD responded to the disappointing year GPUs have had, and in the process, they proved that enough dissatisfaction can take the GPU market to a better place.

Apology tour

Two RTX 4070 Ti Super graphics cards are placed next to each other.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

We have four new GPUs to start 2024 — AMD has the RX 7600 RTX 4070 Super, RTX 4070 Ti Super, and RTX 4080 Super. Each is a clear attempt to correct the errors of the base version of these cards. This is the common thread, and at least Nvidia has been involved in the past. The acclaimed RTX 20 series GPUs underwent a Super refresh less than a year after their release.

The RX 7600 However, the biggest changes come to the RTX 4070 Ti Super and RTX 4080 Super.

The base RTX 4070 Ti is one of the weakest GPUs Nvidia has released this generation. The Super Model does a few things to normalize it. Most notably, it gets the full AD103 GPU treatment we saw in the RTX 4080, as well as the higher core count and 16 GB GDDR6X memory we saw in the RTX 4080. Memory and core count are the two biggest complaints. about the RTX 4070 Ti when it launched with a price tag of $800.

The RTX 4080 Super is in a different position. We don’t have a review yet, but based on the specs and Nvidia’s own performance claims, I suspect it will be nearly identical to the base RTX 4080 in terms of performance. The big change here is that Nvidia slashed the price from $1,200 to $1,000. And of course, that’s the biggest complaint about the base RTX 4080 — not that the GPU is bad, just that it’s too expensive.

Radeon logo on RX 7600 XT graphics card.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Keep going? We see updated GPUs all the time. It would be even stranger if… No check out the refresh of mid-generation graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia. The big difference this time was the excitement. Mid-gen refreshes are usually released in secret. We get cards like the RTX 3080 12GB and RX 6950 XT. They were announced and released during the holiday months in AMD and Nvidia’s attempt to maximize the lifespan of their silicon before the next generation drops.

That’s a far cry from what we saw this time. Nvidia and AMD attended one of their biggest events of the year, CES, to announce new GPUs, and Nvidia even released new Founder’s Edition models that sport new color schemes and branding. This isn’t just a mid-generation refresh where board partners can use updated silicon on their old coolers – it’s a statement.

And that statement is an apology. Of course, the billion-dollar company makes no apologies for its products, but its recent batch of GPUs is an attempt to win back some of the goodwill lost over the past year. The RTX 4070 Ti was universally criticized, the RTX 4080 was too expensive for what it offered, and while the RX 7600 was a decent if unimpressive GPU, it only turned out that way due to a last-minute price cut days before launch.

Damage control

RX 7900 XTX installed on the test bench.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Indeed, the marketing this time is different. As with most mid-gen refreshes, I suspect Nvidia and AMD don’t expect to sell many new GPUs.

We’ve already seen some of this in action on the RX 7600 XT, RTX 4070 Super, and RTX 4070 Ti Super, which some say Sales data is dubious indeed, not selling as well as the base version. Some YouTube hardware leakers have even suggested sales of the RTX 4070 Super was a “disaster.” I see similar claims for most GPU launches, but it makes sense that these updated versions didn’t sell as well as the base models.

That doesn’t seem to be the goal here. The goal seems to be to rewrite last year’s narrative in PC gaming. Two common threads throughout the last year are that GPUs are not equipped with enough VRAM and GPU prices are too high. Almost every graphics card released last year was criticized for its VRAM capacity or price, and usually both, from the RTX 4060, to the RX 7700 XT, to flagship products like the RX 7900 XT. The only exception I can think of is the AMD RX 7800 XT.

This is something that PC gamers are interested in, and it’s no surprise. It’s hard to forget when Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said that GPU price drops were “a story of the past”, or when games like The Last of Us Part One And Hogwarts Legacy released in poor condition, only to address performance issues with VRAM limitations. I wrote about how last year was one of the worst times to be a PC gamer, and that was largely due to GPU releases.

Voting

Nvidia logo on the RTX 4070 Super.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

It’s great to know that Nvidia and AMD are trying to make up for some of last year’s lackluster releases, but what can we take from this? Yes, something works. It’s impossible to say whether the GPU sales are poor, or whether Nvidia and AMD are paying attention to user feedback, or whether it’s something else entirely. But that doesn’t really matter. Clearly, AMD and Nvidia felt the need to fix the problems we saw with last year’s GPUs.

There’s an important reminder here about the dynamic between the company selling the product and the customer buying it. Too far in one direction, and the company doesn’t make as much money as it could. Too far from each other and ill will arise among the customer base, which can lead to a decline in sales.

After all, it takes two people to drive the ship. There’s an old adage about voting with your wallet, but it’s more than that. Large enough resistance to decisions that many people disagree with can drive different decisions in the future, and we’re seeing some of that happening right now — however small the decision.

Ultimately, we can only evaluate the products we have at any given time. Right now, Nvidia and AMD are trying to get back into the favour, and are doing a decent — albeit imperfect — job. We’ll have to see how long the journey takes.

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