Tuesday, June 21st 2016

TechPowerUp Impact: MSI Issues "OC Mode by Default" BIOSes

MSI today issued its first official statement on our investigation which found that the company had a pattern of sending reviewers samples with higher clock-speeds out-of-the-box, than what retail cards offer out-of-the-box, by means of enabling a higher software overclock profile by default, which consumers otherwise had to enable using the MSI Gaming app. We had argued that this practice was deceptive and the review samples weren't 100% representative of retail cards.

The company today released corrective BIOS updates for at least two Gaming series graphics cards, the MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X, and the GTX 1070 Gaming X, which enable the "OC mode" clock-speed profile by default. These BIOS updates enable you to have "OC mode" clock speeds without you having to install the MSI Gaming app to enable them. The company, however, did not mention whether the cards that are currently under production will ship with "OC mode" out of the box, going forward. Without that assurance, this is a farcical workaround which will appease only those bold and skilled enough to update graphics card BIOSes, and not corrective action.
In its statement (quoted verbatim below), MSI argued that the company shipped review samples with "OC mode" out-of-the-box because it believes that the MSI Gaming app normally required to enable "OC mode" is "not often used in reviews." There's no satisfactory reply to the question we asked in our investigation, which was "If the OC mode is how the card is intended to be used, then why make OC mode the default for reviewers only, and not your own customers?"

MSI statement begins with a strawman argument that it clearly mentions the clock speeds for each of the three modes on the product pages of its graphics cards, on the company website. That was never in question. What was in question, was what people get out of the box. Reviewers are getting "OC Mode" enabled out of the box, consumers are not. "Gaming Mode" is the default mode (since that's what consumers are getting out of the box), and reviewers aren't testing the cards at those speeds. This, in our opinion, is the deception.

You can download the video BIOS for GTX 1080 Gaming X and GTX 1070 Gaming X, and flash it at your own risk, from the following links:
  • MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X: https://www.msi.com/Graphics-card/support/GeForce-GTX-1080-GAMING-X-8G.html#down-bios
  • MSI GTX 1070 Gaming X: https://www.msi.com/Graphics-card/support/GeForce-GTX-1070-GAMING-X-8G.html#down-bios
Official statement addressing 'OC mode' on MSI GAMING X graphics cards
MSI Review samples and MSI retail cards are identical in terms of hardware and performance. Both have the exact same performance profiles available through the MSI Gaming App. All information about these performance profiles is clearly communicated and can be found on the respective product pages. (example: https://www.msi.com/Graphics-card/GEFORCE-GTX-1070-GAMING-X-8G.html)
Retail cards are set to 'Gaming Mode' by default, which offers the best Performance per Watt, while still giving close to 'OC Mode' in-game performance. In order to enjoy the best performance and all features of MSI GAMING products, we highly recommend to use the MSI Gaming App which is available for free on MSI.com and the driver CD. The MSI Gaming App allows you to apply one of three performance profiles with a single click, instantly giving you the desired performance.

As several reviewers have stated, software like the MSI Gaming App is often not used in reviews. This is why review samples of the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 GAMING X graphics cards are set to 'OC Mode' to ensure that reviews demonstrate the same performance available through the MSI Gaming App. The award winning TWIN FROZR VI cooling is designed to handle each performance profile flawlessly, giving you the lowest noise in the industry and consistent performance so gamers can focus on their gameplay.

For those who prefer not to use the MSI Gaming App but still want to enjoy the same 'OC Mode' performance by default, we have released an alternative vBIOS with 'OC Mode' enabled by default.

Links to the BIOS updates presented before the statement

Learn more about the MSI Gaming app: https://gaming.msi.com/article/msi-gaming-app-article
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89 Comments on TechPowerUp Impact: MSI Issues "OC Mode by Default" BIOSes

#1
CAPSLOCKSTUCK
Spaced Out Lunar Tick
Well done to the TPU review team....:nutkick:
Posted on Reply
#2
MadsMagnus
Agreed. It's nice to see you guys made an impact.
Posted on Reply
#3
Squuiid
MSI have seriously damaged their reputation with this. It was a pathetic, deceptive attempt at gaining favorable reviews for their middle of the road products.
Posted on Reply
#4
rtwjunkie
PC Gaming Enthusiast
Squuiid, post: 3476535, member: 43271"
MSI have seriously damaged their reputation with this. It was a pathetic, deceptive attempt at gaining favorable reviews for their middle of the road products.
I'm glad you keep things even-keeled and in perspective. o_O
Posted on Reply
#5
RejZoR
This is how critical journalism helps customers and keeps the level of product quality up. Gaming journalism could learn a thing or two from hardware reviewers like TPU...
Posted on Reply
#6
Random Murderer
The Anti-Midas
After having EVGA make a statement about not using these practices and MSI releasing this statement, it'll be interesting to if Asus will make a statement, and if so, how long it takes them.

RejZoR, post: 3476559, member: 1515"
This is how critical journalism helps customers and keeps the level of product quality up. Gaming journalism could learn a thing or two from hardware reviewers like TPU...
QFT.
Posted on Reply
#7
the54thvoid
I don't know where to start.

Is it more deceptive than selling a dual gfx card (of any form) that costs twice as much but often fails to deliver any extra performance based on individual game engines? Surely all Dual GPU cards from AMD and Nvidia need to ship with that warning on the box because lots of people buy dual gpu's and don't know the inherent problems.

Is it more deceptive than a brand of PC build that claims it's a gaming PC and sticks a GTX 960 in it but doesn't warn you it wont work well on a 1440p monitor?

Is it worse than a branded stick of RAM at 4000Mhz that gives no tangible benefit to 90% of users. You know, the speed is way faster than 2333Ghz so it must deliver huge performance?

I completely understand what Asus and MSI have done (now and in the past). Look at @W1zzard's reviews - he doesn't touch voltage. A lot of reviewers don't. Sure, MSI and Asus should have mentioned it to the reviewers but it's hardly a crime what they have done. Given the cards will reach the speeds once you use the bundled software (as advertised on the bloody boxes) and play around with it. Isn't that the point of buying these things? You know, I buy an overclock edition and I get to actually load the software and 'wow!' when I apply that toggle - it goes faster.

If it defaults to the OC, that reduces the 'experience' of being able to use the software to overclock.

I'm sure plenty of do-gooders will punch me down for saying this but seriously - this is an over reaction of the most melodramatic style.

Unlike a GTX 970 3.5Gb RAM argument or a 390x stock fan throttling issue that meant you actually didn't get what was advertised in the 'fairest' sense - these cards will hit those clocks when you use the bundled software.

Get some perspective people. I actually find TPU's 'crusading' position on this very pompous and highly egotistical.
Posted on Reply
#8
Ruyki
The retail cards people will be buying are the same hardware as the review sample. And all you have to do to get the performance of the review sample is do a software tweak. This whole issue should definitely be brought to attention but I'm not sure why people are making this into a serious issue when it's clearly not.
Posted on Reply
#9
mad1394
I agree that reviewers should not let companies get away with such practices but I would call that increase in clock speed tiny at best. Maybe some people were deceived into buying the "faster" MSI cards, who knows, but as to what extend their reputation is damaged by this.....I will guess not at all.
I know I will still buy MSI in the future for the build quality alone.
Posted on Reply
#10
jsfitz54
The cards should be tested at each level of performance, with the software, so that the buyer can make their own judgement call.

More work for the reviewer, yes, charge accordingly.

The reviewer should be given this info "pro forma". Then no argument.
Posted on Reply
#11
Ungari
If you go back to the 900 series where there was a physical bios switch, would anyone have a problem if the switches were set to OC Mode out of the box?
A real problem reported by some testers was a review bios version that had a slightly higher factory OC than the retail version bios OC. However, how many times have some retail stock shipped with a higher factory OC than advertised? I actually have an MSI card that was factory OC significantly higher than what the listed OC Boost specs were.
Posted on Reply
#12
vega22
the54thvoid, post: 3476570, member: 79251"
I don't know where to start.

Is it more deceptive than selling a dual gfx card (of any form) that costs twice as much but often fails to deliver any extra performance based on individual game engines? Surely all Dual GPU cards from AMD and Nvidia need to ship with that warning on the box because lots of people buy dual gpu's and don't know the inherent problems.

Is it more deceptive than a brand of PC build that claims it's a gaming PC and sticks a GTX 960 in it but doesn't warn you it wont work well on a 1440p monitor?

Is it worse than a branded stick of RAM at 4000Mhz that gives no tangible benefit to 90% of users. You know, the speed is way faster than 2333Ghz so it must deliver huge performance?

I completely understand what Asus and MSI have done (now and in the past). Look at @W1zzard's reviews - he doesn't touch voltage. A lot of reviewers don't. Sure, MSI and Asus should have mentioned it to the reviewers but it's hardly a crime what they have done. Given the cards will reach the speeds once you use the bundled software (as advertised on the bloody boxes) and play around with it. Isn't that the point of buying these things? You know, I buy an overclock edition and I get to actually load the software and 'wow!' when I apply that toggle - it goes faster.

If it defaults to the OC, that reduces the 'experience' of being able to use the software to overclock.

I'm sure plenty of do-gooders will punch me down for saying this but seriously - this is an over reaction of the most melodramatic style.

Unlike a GTX 970 3.5Gb RAM argument or a 390x stock fan throttling issue that meant you actually didn't get what was advertised in the 'fairest' sense - these cards will hit those clocks when you use the bundled software.

Get some perspective people. I actually find TPU's 'crusading' position on this very pompous and highly egotistical.
if that pc with the 960 is sold showing performance figures which is not the true, out the box experience, then i agree.

your other simile are silly and not really valid.

in areas where the extra bandwidth the ram running 4ghz gets over 2.4ghz sticks the performance gains would be great. if you only game it might not be so much but because you are not the target market who sees those gains does not negate the fact they exist.

for 9 out of 10 people reading the reviews they will not look into what happened. will not look at needing extra bloatware to do what it says it does on the box. the card should do what it says on the tin, it doesnt i want my money back....

i think what msi have done about this is great. most of their target market will want the fps that mhz brings more than lower temps and noise.

i also think what bt and tpu did is great too :thumb:
Posted on Reply
#13
truth teller
what a load of bullcrap...
passing a damp cloth on the issue and now everything is ok msi? what if the bios updates borks the card, will you pay both ways shipping? ofc not.
nice pr maneuver msi, but its not enough when no admission of guilt (deceiving customers) has been issued.

really nice work tpu crew!
Posted on Reply
#14
MAXLD
Random Murderer, post: 3476560, member: 33382"
it'll be interesting to if Asus will make a statement, and if so, how long it takes them.
Asus said to PCPer:
To save media time and effort, OC mode is enabled by default as we are well aware our graphics cards will be reviewed primarily on maximum performance. And when in OC mode, we can showcase both the maximum performance and the effectiveness of our cooling solution. [I]And when in OC mode, we can showcase both the maximum performance and the effectiveness of our cooling solution.

Retail products are in “Gaming Mode” by default, which allows gamers to experience the optimal balance between performance and silent operation.[/I]

The 1 st reason is laughable, and second one makes you wonder who the hell would drop the clocks from their card around 30MHz and reach that "massive" eureka moment... "oh, hell yeah, now this, this is perfect"... Really? Even if such people exist, why would you ship the cards to the lowest common denominator (with €nthu$iast range gpus... and top performance oriented custom models)?

Now MSi tries to pull the "Watt" excuse... like someone looks at any GTX (even the older ones) and think: "man, if only this card had 30Mhz lower clocks in order to me to save money in electricity and have a micro improvement in performance per watt..."

The only thing in common between them, and the only reason we see, is to boost software/app usage by the buyers. So to make people use their software they came up with this scheme that puts some profiles with a few Mhz between them and there you go: "Unlock extra potential with with our app". When it's actually: "the card performs X but we lowered the clocks by default. Get our app to make it run like it should".
But then again, why aren't both making sure reviewers are aware of this, reviewing this, and making sure they focus this feature? Instead of sending the review cards tampered with top clocks (and fan profiles) by a different bios, making no reference of it. Because it would be bad rep if reviewers said the actual fact ("to reach the full warranted performance of this card, you have to install their app")?

Sure is a small difference, but this is not clear for the costumer. He sees the reviews, obviously thinks the card will have the top clocks "out of the box" (as expected), puts the drivers, doesn't bother with the app (maybe because he doesn't want more software clutter than necessary, or has bugs with it), and then the card isn't actually working at full.
And recommending users (that discard the "app") mess with their card bios in order to use them at full announced, and warranted, potential / clocks / profiles (as they paid for them), is quite ridiculous.

Again, not about the actual minor performance loss, is about the principle of all this and lack of information or effort to make reviewers inform the buyers how the card actually works. If the info is included and the reviewers ignore it then it's bad work by them. If the card is tampered with other bios and specially sent to reviewers (and without bothering to include the info and/or clear warnings about such details), then it's the brand to blame for misinformation. And in this case we have two of them doing the same thing at the same time.
Posted on Reply
#15
RejZoR
mad1394, post: 3476590, member: 85645"
I agree that reviewers should not let companies get away with such practices but I would call that increase in clock speed tiny at best. Maybe some people were deceived into buying the "faster" MSI cards, who knows, but as to what extend their reputation is damaged by this.....I will guess not at all.
I know I will still buy MSI in the future for the build quality alone.
It's principle and nothing else. Today it's 30 MHz, tomorrow it'll be 150 MHz. Just no. Never be forgiving. They exist solely to make money. And they never EVER give you anything for free. YOU (as a customer) don't owe companies ANYTHING. That's why being critical is important, even if it's "just" because of 30MHz difference.
Posted on Reply
#16
jaggerwild
the54thvoid, post: 3476570, member: 79251"
I don't know where to start.

Is it more deceptive than selling a dual gfx card (of any form) that costs twice as much but often fails to deliver any extra performance based on individual game engines? Surely all Dual GPU cards from AMD and Nvidia need to ship with that warning on the box because lots of people buy dual gpu's and don't know the inherent problems.

Is it more deceptive than a brand of PC build that claims it's a gaming PC and sticks a GTX 960 in it but doesn't warn you it wont work well on a 1440p monitor?

Is it worse than a branded stick of RAM at 4000Mhz that gives no tangible benefit to 90% of users. You know, the speed is way faster than 2333Ghz so it must deliver huge performance?

I completely understand what Asus and MSI have done (now and in the past). Look at @W1zzard's reviews - he doesn't touch voltage. A lot of reviewers don't. Sure, MSI and Asus should have mentioned it to the reviewers but it's hardly a crime what they have done. Given the cards will reach the speeds once you use the bundled software (as advertised on the bloody boxes) and play around with it. Isn't that the point of buying these things? You know, I buy an overclock edition and I get to actually load the software and 'wow!' when I apply that toggle - it goes faster.

If it defaults to the OC, that reduces the 'experience' of being able to use the software to overclock.

I'm sure plenty of do-gooders will punch me down for saying this but seriously - this is an over reaction of the most melodramatic style.

Unlike a GTX 970 3.5Gb RAM argument or a 390x stock fan throttling issue that meant you actually didn't get what was advertised in the 'fairest' sense - these cards will hit those clocks when you use the bundled software.

Get some perspective people. I actually find TPU's 'crusading' position on this very pompous and highly egotistical.
But your not POMPUS EGOTISTICAL LOLZ! 5K plus posts all BOOKS NO BODY READS!
Posted on Reply
#17
Ungari
MAXLD, post: 3476610, member: 41348"
Now MSi tries to pull the "Watt" excuse... like someone looks at any GTX (even the older ones) and think: "man, if only this card had 30Mhz lower clocks in order to me to save money in electricity and have a micro improvement in performance per watt..."
Due to UN Agenda 21 low power consumption is a huge focus for these companies and the whole reason for the Gaming Mode setting is to show the best performance per watt, or else there would just be Silent mode and OC Mode.
Posted on Reply
#18
Dippyskoodlez
Shipping a bios and requiring software is bullshit simply because not everyone uses cards under Windows.

Fuck any company that attempts to justify this behavior.

MSI is now right behind ASUS on my list of shit tier vendors.
Posted on Reply
#19
Shambles1980
Easy fix.
Ship everything in gaming mode. and dont send review samples to reviewers who dont use the software.


see this as a non issue my self. but if it makes a story i guess.
Posted on Reply
#20
AsRock
TPU addict
MSI Issues "OC Mode by Default" BIOSes
How ever take no responsibility if it screws up.

Meh as always they can take a long run on a short pier.
Posted on Reply
#21
EarthDog
Glad they did this, but wow are people making something out of nothing.
Posted on Reply
#22
Mussels
Moderprator
If i bought a GPU based on reviews and found it had differing clock speeds in reality, i would automatically assume i had been sent the wrong GPU.

This is purely going to confuse customers - average joe does not buy a GTX 1080
Posted on Reply
#23
Ungari
So many are looking for something nefarious here, but if the same OC Mode clocks are available to the public by enabling it there is nothing foul about wanting reviewers to test the OC Mode because that's what they would have done had it been a toggle switch.
Posted on Reply
#24
Rockarola
the54thvoid, post: 3476570, member: 79251"
I don't know where to start.

Is it more deceptive than selling a dual gfx card (of any form) that costs twice as much but often fails to deliver any extra performance based on individual game engines? Surely all Dual GPU cards from AMD and Nvidia need to ship with that warning on the box because lots of people buy dual gpu's and don't know the inherent problems.

Is it more deceptive than a brand of PC build that claims it's a gaming PC and sticks a GTX 960 in it but doesn't warn you it wont work well on a 1440p monitor?

Is it worse than a branded stick of RAM at 4000Mhz that gives no tangible benefit to 90% of users. You know, the speed is way faster than 2333Ghz so it must deliver huge performance?

I completely understand what Asus and MSI have done (now and in the past). Look at @W1zzard's reviews - he doesn't touch voltage. A lot of reviewers don't. Sure, MSI and Asus should have mentioned it to the reviewers but it's hardly a crime what they have done. Given the cards will reach the speeds once you use the bundled software (as advertised on the bloody boxes) and play around with it. Isn't that the point of buying these things? You know, I buy an overclock edition and I get to actually load the software and 'wow!' when I apply that toggle - it goes faster.

If it defaults to the OC, that reduces the 'experience' of being able to use the software to overclock.

I'm sure plenty of do-gooders will punch me down for saying this but seriously - this is an over reaction of the most melodramatic style.

Unlike a GTX 970 3.5Gb RAM argument or a 390x stock fan throttling issue that meant you actually didn't get what was advertised in the 'fairest' sense - these cards will hit those clocks when you use the bundled software.

Get some perspective people. I actually find TPU's 'crusading' position on this very pompous and highly egotistical.
Oh, so they should get away with little crimes, because it's not worth getting worked up about?
Do you think it would stop there?
This is what critical journalism is all about, raising hell when nobody else does. You don't think it's important, yet both ASUS and MSI thinks it's important enough for a press release...being caught out now, means that they'll think twice in the future.
Posted on Reply
#25
Prima.Vera
I wonder why nobody screamed since 3 years ago when they released the 780Ti using EXACTLY the same practice...
Posted on Reply
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