Graphics, Hardware

ASUS remains silent on its Crossfire driver SNAFU

 A few weeks ago, nVidia released its own document comparing the SLI-powered Alienware M17x against the Crossfire-powered ASUS W90Vp. It turned out that the test results were not exactly correct, since Crossfire was actually disabled.

The cause for the wrong scores wasn’t anything nVidia did, but is actually an actual product experience if you went and purchased the notebook. The shocking bit is the fact that ASUS opted to use a half a year old drivers [with INF file having base in Catalyst 8.6, more than a year old at that point] that of course, did not support Crossfire mode on GPUs that were released on Computex 2009. We got in touch with AMD, ASUS and nVidia and the blame game ensued. In the past few weeks, we tried to dig up the truth and after speaking with several representatives from all sides, our initial conclusion was confirmed. AMD refused to lay the blame on ASUS – but went on in politically-correct speak that ATI was the first out with mobile Catalysts and later disclosed its plans to remedy this consumer-damaging situation.

Paying $2350 for the part that features a key component that doesn’t work isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. Today, the same notebook will set you back for $2,699.99, a $350 price markup! We checked the driver download site and again, only old drivers were offered for download- plus, the support site had terrible issues with loading. During this week, we checked the support site on multiple times from two continents, and the results were? not encouraging. If you purchased this product, you were deprived of Crossfire experience and you now have to pay 350 bucks more than you had when the whole affair ensued. ASUS Tech support refers customers to use the following driver [Direct download for ATI Mobility Radeon drivers, February 2009].

Quite frankly, we’re appalled at behavior from the company who claims to have a number one spot in reliability [RESCUECOM reliability report]. But luckily, even though AMD tried to evade going head to head against its partner. In a conversation with Jay Marsden, Public Relations Manager for AMD – we learned of following: "We are currently reviewing customer requirements for ATI Mobility Catalyst drivers under Windows Vista and Windows 7, and based on feedback we will be evaluating the possibility of bringing ATI Mobility Catalyst drivers back in the months ahead."

Long story short, if ASUS or any other vendor decides to do jack when it comes to customer support, AMD has no other choice but to come forward and invest in returning the Mobility Catalysts driver downloads for aggravated customers. We were explained how the driver selection process by OEMs work, and ultimately, there is no-one but the notebook manufacturer that is in the wrong if the mess up.

What makes the whole affair sad was the fact that few years ago, nVidia was pretty pathetic when it came to mobile driver downloads, and ATI was leading the pack. However, we today see that the roles have reversed: nVidia now has mobile GeForce drivers that get regularly updated with SLI profiles for new and upcoming games, while AMD has to get back in the frame and put customers back in the first place.

Honestly, we did not expect this kind of inept behavior from ASUS, but given the management wars between ASUSTeK Computer and its OEM manufacturing brand Pegatron – we’re not surprised. The company that created netbooks suffered several radical market share drops, while unity at Acer and MSI took a lot of telecom deals from ASUS. Unfortunately, we know what is going on inside various divisions, and until the company decides to straighten themselves out, we can only hope that situations like these don’t appear on mass-produced products such as lower-cost laptops, since the consequences could be severe.

In the case of the W90 notebook, AMD will resolve the issue by putting several hundred thousand dollar investments to get the Mobile Catalyst program to work. But we refuse to accept on-the-record silence and off-the-record quotes as a business norm – if a company sales products, it has to be held responsible if the products deliberately don’t work as advertised. This goes not just for computer components, but for all goods, from needle to planes.