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Nvidia kills mobile GPU overclocking in latest driver update, irate customers up in arms

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Nvidia’s mobile Maxwell parts have won significant enthusiast acclaim since launch thanks to excellent performance and relatively low power consumption. Boutique builders and enthusiasts alike also tend to enjoy pushing the envelope, and Maxwell’s manufacturing characteristics apparently make it eminently suited to overclocking. Now, apparently, Nvidia is cracking down on these options with a driver update that removes the overclocking features that apparently some vendors sold to customers.

As DailyTech points out, part of what makes this driver update problematic is that system manufacturers actively advertise their hardware as having overclock support baked in to mobile products. Asus, MSI, Dell (Alienware) and Sager have apparently all sold models with overclocking as a core feature, as shown in the copy below.


Nvidia apparently cut off the overclocking feature with its 347.09 driver and kept it off with the 347.52 driver released last week. Mobile customers have been demanding answers in the company forums, with Nvidia finally weighing in to tell its users that this feature had previously only been available because of a “bug” and that its removal constituted a return to proper function rather than any removal of capability.

Under normal circumstances, I’d call this a simple case of Nvidia adjusting a capability whether users like it or not, but the fact that multiple vendors explicitly advertised and sold hardware based on overclocking complicates matters. It’s not clear if Asus or the other manufacturing charged extra for factory overclocked hardware or if they simply shipped the systems with higher stock speeds, but we know that OEMs typically do put a price premium on the feature.

To date, Nvidia has not responded formally or indicated if it will reconsider its stance on overclocking. The company isn’t currently under much competitive pressure to do so — it dominates the high-end GPU market, and while AMD is rumored to have a new set of cards coming in 2015, it’s not clear when those cards will launch or what the mobile flavors will look like. For now, mobile Maxwell has a lock on the enthusiast space. Some customers are claiming that they’re angry enough to quit using Team Green, but performance has a persausive siren song all its own, and the performance impact of disabling overclocking is going to be in the 5-10% range for the majority of users. If customers can prove they paid extra for the feature, that could open the door to potential claims against the OEMs themselves.

For Nvidia, this surge of attention on their mobile overclocking is a likely-unwelcome follow-up to concerns about the GTX 970’s memory allocation and the confusion and allegations swarming around mobile G-Sync. While none of these are knock-out blows, they continue to rile segments of the enthusiast community.

Recommended article: Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.
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