Nvidia disables overclocking for Maxwell-based laptop graphics cards with a driver update
After its tremendous success with the Maxwell architecture, Nvidia seems to have hit a rough patch. However, it's difficult to sympathize with the company, since both of their recent mishaps are entirely deliberate.
First, the company grabbed the news headlines with a GTX 970 related scandal: apparently, this graphics card's 4 GB of GDDR5 video memory is composed of the "fast" 3.5 GB and "slow" 512 MB portions, which cause the performance to fall considerably when a game is using more than 3.5 GB VRAM. While it doesn't affect the gaming performance as much as some users think and GTX 970 is still one of the best value-for-money desktop GPUs on the market, many customers felt cheated and some even returned their GTX 970s. Nvidia's main rival, AMD, was all too happy to jump on the chance of some negative publicity for its competitor and offered discounts to ex-owners of the card. None of this would have happened if Nvidia wouldn't have altered the initial specs without informing its customers or simply released the GTX 970 as a 3.5 GB card.
Now the company has caused yet another controversy. The first rumors about it started surfacing last week but we waited until an official confirmation before informing our readers. Recently, some owners of laptops with Nvidia's 900M series (GTX 965M, 970M and 980M, soon rumored to be joined by 960M, 950M and 940M) and two of the 800M series (GTX 850M and Maxwell-based 860M) graphics cards reported that a driver update (ForceWare 347.09, to be specific) has removed the ability to overclock the GPU. User who wish to retain it should not update past ForceWare 344.75. This was first reported by LaptopMedia and later confirmed by VideoCardz. Soon after, angry users swarmed Nvidia's GeForce forums, demanding an explanation. An Nvidia customer care forum moderator had this to say about the matter:
"Unfortunately GeForce notebooks were not designed to support overclocking. Overclocking is by no means a trivial feature … There was a bug introduced into our drivers which enabled some systems to overclock. This was fixed in a recent update. Our intent was not to remove features from GeForce notebooks, but rather to safeguard systems from operating outside design limits."
Basically, Nvidia claims that the overclocking was not intended to be supported on the first place. But if this was really a "bug", why did it take Nvidia so long to spot? Moreover, why disable it for all users instead of simply allowing one to unlock it with an Nvidia Control Panel setting, warning of the potential dangers and implications of such experimentation?
Unfortunately, buyers who want the best performance and energy efficiency from their laptop graphics currently have no other choice than to stick with Nvidia-based laptops, since AMD so far can't offer anything that can compete with Nvidia's Maxwell cards. Hopefully this will change with AMD's rumored soon-to-come all-new (and not just a rebrand, as with many of their recent products) architecture, but it would be beneficial for everyone if Nvidia reconsidered its current attitude towards its customers on its own and not just because people are starting to choose a competitor's product. The company has certainly cast a negative light on its recent successes without really gaining anything in the process - hopefully this will be enough to make it rethink its strategy, making this the last bit of bad news about Nvidia we'll hear for a long time.