Nvidia is bad-mouthing its competition in an attempt to persuade graphics card retailers from stocking rival products, if what purports to be a secret Nvidia presentation, leaked onto the Web, is to be believed.
The presentation focuses on the recently released Kyro 2 graphics chip. STMicroelectronics announced volume production of the part earlier this month, and said that board maker Guillemot would be offering it under its Hercules brand.
Kyro 2 is a licensed version of Imagination Technologies' PowerVR graphics accelerator. And that's one of the many problems Nvidia appears to have with it. Kyro 2 is "designed by committee with an unproven record", the presentation claims.
We're not sure we'd agree with that. The PowerVR family has been highly rated in the past - it was chosen by Sega for the Dreamcast console - and STMicro is a proven chip maker, though we note Nvidia drags up its ill-fated 6x86 and Transputer products in an attempt to suggest it isn't.
The Nvidia document also claims the Kyro 2 only supports 2x AGP, which is incorrect - according to Imagination, it supports 4x - but most of what the document alleges is true - sort of. Essentially, it spins the data to suggest flaws and failings with Kyro 2 and stress the superiority of its own GeForce 2 MX part.
So, it says Kyro 2 is simply a "beefed up" version of its predecessor. That's certainly true - the two chips are functionally identical, but fabbed at 0.18 micron and clocked to a higher speed, 175MHz. But given that the Kyro 2 is a budget-priced part - Hercules boards cost $149 - aimed at the mass market, not the high-end, that doesn't matter.
Another case in point: Nvidia notes Kyro 2's lack of a hardware transform and lighting engine, and lists a stack of titles that "use" that method of acceleration. Sure they do, but they also work perfectly well without it, and, as we've said, since Kyro 2 isn't intended to be a cutting edge graphics chip, lack of hardware T&L support isn't exactly an issue.
Nvidia also cites negative comments from well-known hardware review sites, such as Anandtech and Sharky Extreme. An old trick this, as the positive comments from the same reviews appearing on the STMicro and Hercules Web sites show.
Says the presentation: "Buying Kyro 2 is a risk – and when cards and PCs get returned it damages your finances and your reputation." The latter part of the sentence is certainly true, and the Nvidia clearly hopes that the reader will associate Kyro 2 with just such a loss of reputation. But you'll note that it's careful not to say so explicitly.
There is an issue with full DirectX 8 support, but that applies to almost all graphics chips out there, including some of Nvidia's own. So it seems a tad unfair to single out Kyro 2 for attention. Ditto for how well is accelerates future games - that's always an issue, whatever card you possess.
You can find a full point-by-point rebuttal of the presentation's claims here.
All of this shows that, if the document is genuine, Nvidia is worried about this low-cost competitor. But, as it itself points out, Nvidia and GeForce are rather better-known brands than Kyro, though Hercules is well known (which is probably why the presentation refers to Guillemot and not its board brand).
Of course, Nvidia has every right to point out why its products are better than a rival's, but it's rather poor to rely on dissing them directly, and the company does seem to have overstepped the mark a bit here. Particularly since its market lead is hardly threatened by the rival part. As one reader put it: "Nvidia gets more like Intel every day." ®