Nvidia fakes Fermi boards at GPU Technology Conference

Jen-Hsun says one thing, pictures prove another

Note: Updates at bottom of story

WHAT DO YOU DO when you have a major conference planned to introduce a card, but you don’t have a card? You fake it, and Nvidia did just that.

In a really pathetic display, Nvidia actually faked the introduction of its latest video card, because it simply doesn’t have boards to show. Why? Because it didn’t get enough parts to properly bring them up, much less make demo boards. Why do we say they are faked? If you look at the pictures, it is painfully obvious that Fermi cards don’t exist. Well, painful if you happen to be Dear Leader who waved fakes around and hopes to get away with it, but hilarious if you are anyone not working at Nvidia.

Lets go through this in pictures, shall we? Please note, none of the pictures are ours, and since you can find them on many other sites, they are likely Nvidia PR material. Since the company seems to have forgotten to mail us a copy, we will point to the ones at PC Watch.

Fermi GPU closeup

Fermi chip heat spreader closeup

The first one is from the always great PC Watch, specifically here, but we cropped it a bit for size. Some things to note on it. First is that the second set of digits on the first line says 0935A1. A1 is for first silicon, something that, when coupled with a direct quote from Jen-Hsun of, “You are currently looking at a few day old silicon” (from here select the video “See video of Jen-Hsun Huang announcing Fermi”) kind of blows the whole ‘silicon in Santa Clara last spring’ story out of the water. I wonder if anyone will retract that, or just change the article retroactively?

To make matters worse, the other digits are a date code, 0935 means 2009, work week 35. If Nvidia starts its work week on the first full week of the year like everyone else, that would put WW35 at August 28 to September 5, 2009. Where have I heard that date before? Oh yeah, here.

Last but not least, you have the funniest part, the number seven hand written on the GPU. While this isn’t proof of anything, normally when you have small lots of samples, you write numbers on them to identify which one is which as an aid to debugging. Where did we hear that number seven again? Oh yeah, here again.

Here is a free tip to Nvidia PR, when you go after people who are right to try and undermine their credibility, at least be correct, or close to it. You were neither this time. Another tip, coach your messengers better, or at least have them read the article you are attacking. Poor showing guys. Did Intel hire away your best attack dogs along with your engineers?

Fermi end plate

‘Fermi’ end plate closeup

The next one is also from PC Watch, specifically here, again cropped to emphasize detail. Notice how the end plate vents on the second slot are blocked off? That gives a lot of cooling, eh? You really want to have early samples well cooled so you get good data off of them, and also so you don’t damage 14.3% of your chips at once.

Then there are the screws. Notice that the three screws that hold the end plate on are, well, generic wood screws. Large flat head phillips screws. Home Depot grade screws that don’t even sit flush. If a card is real, you hold it on with the bolts on either side of the DVI connector. Go look at any GPU you have, do you see wood screws that don’t mount flush or DVI flanking bolts?

ATI DVI mounting

5870 on top of a 4890, both real

As you can see from the picture above of my Radeon HD5870 sitting on my HD4890, the end plate is more than capable of being held on without wood screws. It mounts to the PCB via a bolt or two, sometimes solder, and the soldered down DVI pins that go through the PCB VIAs.

Fermi back end plate

The back of the ‘Fermi’ endplate

If you look at the back of the fake Fermi, above cropped from PC Watch here, you can see that the expected DVI connector wires are not there, just solder filled holes. No stubs, no tool marks from where they would be cut out. Basically, the DVI port isn’t connected to anything with solder, so they had to use screws on the plate.

Compare and contrast this to the 4890 and 5870 above, which, unlike the Fermi, are real. Also, note that the second SLI connector is half covered by the shroud. I wonder how much bandwidth that adds? Nvidia’s comedy team strikes again, as long as your initials are not JHH. If they are, you look pretty silly in front of thousands of people. In fact, if you look at the video, you can see the wood screws. You can also see them in the well watermarked photo on Fudzilla here, but I doubt Nvidia will be so happy when it realizes that the word is out.

If you look at the back of the card below, taken from the same PC Watch pic as the last one, again cropped, the hilarity continues. The card has two power connectors, one on the end, the other on the top of the card, bottom of the picture.

Fermi power plugs back

‘Fermi’ power connectors and back of the board

Look closely, the 8-pin connector on the end doesn’t line up with the 8-pin solder joints, they are 90 degrees off, and there are two extra heavy duty solder through holes right up to the back edge of the PCB. Those lead to… well, not the power connector. PCIe specs make the pins on the 8-pin connector far too deep for it to be them. In fact, it can’t really run to anything, since the 8-pin connectors would block it.

The 6-pin connector, on the other hand, lines up with, umm, nothing. There is a potential 4-pin floppy/sound/jumper block below it, but you can clearly see there is nothing in the vias, not even solder. The 6-pin connector connects to nothing, and nothing is holding it in. Except glue. Notice the connector is black and the hole below it shows white. The only real question now is, Elmers or glue stick?

To make matters worse, the mounting holes for the 8-pin connector, which should be between the 6-pin and 8-pin fakes if the card was real, are empty. Piss-poor fake job guys. Go read your fanboi forums, they do a better job, and work for much cheaper than your ‘geniuses’.

The two solder connections under the 8-pin connector on the end of the card are likely connected to a 6-pin connector that normally is next to where the 8-pin on top was before it was removed. The problem here is that there are two solder holes, four are missing, almost like they ran off the end of the card and were chopped off.

But that would mean the PCB was crudely cut off with base power tools, not even proper PCB making equipment, in order to fake Fermi. If you don’t even look all that closely, you will see two barcode stickers on the bottom side of the card end. They are literally cut in half, about what you would expect if Dear Leader came down and ordered a crude fake. That is unfair, he would never order workers to make a crude fake, he would order a high quality fake, and Nvidia engineering would deliver a crude one.

You should also note that the mounting holes for the 6-pin connector are so close to the edge of the PCB that they would offer no real mechanical support and simply crack if used. No engineer would do that, they would make a longer board. And they did. And Nvidia chopped it off to fake Fermi. Several other bits look oddly truncated as well.

The chips arrived when I said they did, in the number I said they did. Nvidia didn’t like this, so it used Fudo, who I honestly have the highest respect for, in a way that trashed his reputation. It has been trying to do this for a long time, and sadly, it looks to be getting close to success.

The board has wood screws crudely driven through it. The vents on the end plate are blocked. The DVI connector is not soldered to anything, The SLI connectors are somewhat covered by a heat shield. The 8-pin power connector is connected to nothing. The 6-pin connector is connected to the PCB with glue, not pins and solder. The board is crudely chopped off with power tools. The 8-pin connector that should be there is not. The 6-pin connector that should be there is cut. The mounting holes are too close to the edge. There are also likely many more flaws, but this should be enough to prove a point.

In the end, what you have here is a faked Fermi board. Jen-Hsun held up a scam card. If you watch the video here, he says, “This puppy here, is Fermi”. Bullshit.S|A

Note 1: Nvidia PR was asked to comment on the faked cards earlier this evening. Their reply was, “I’m glad you’re asking us before you write. That statement is false. The product that we displayed was an actual Fermi board. The demo ran on Fermi silicon.” We do not believe all of that statement.

Note 2: Thanks to readers Michael and Bill for emailing about this while it was being written.

Note 3: Thanks to the forum denziens, starting here, who are already on top of this story.

Note 4: Thanks to PC Watch for putting up such great pictures.

Note 5: Thanks to Nvidia for providing such great source material for articles.

Update 1: Those screws may be either wood, sheet metal screws, or machine screws. Some have suggested self-tapping sheet metal screws. Either way, they are not something that one finds on graphics cards, and you can likely get them at Home Depot. As far as we know, Home Depot does not sell the bolts typically used to secure end plates, nor does it sell  prototype graphics card kits. If you stop and think about it, that plastic that the screws go in to is not thick enough to provide any real support. Screws hold better when put into capacitors, chokes, heat pipes, heatsinks, fan components and the occasional IC.

Update 2: Nvidia seems to have come out and retroactively told everyone and their brother that the board in question was either a mockup, prototype, engineering sample or several other terms. It has tried to tell everyone on the planet that it wasn’t fake, just (insert words other than fake here). Nvidia has not to date officially notified SemiAccurate that we were correct.

Their last official comment to us on the subject, prior to publication, was, “Charlie, It sounds to me like what you’re about to write is patently false. I’ve spoken to at least four people involved in this and they are all telling me the same thing.” Nvidia has, to date, not explained why it gave SemiAccurate “patently false” information in the first place.

Update 3: When asked initially, a simple response of, “Yes it was a mockup, Jen-Hsun used non-technical language to describe the part” would have made this a non-story. Instead, it is a great story about corporate lies and public deception.

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and SemiAccurate.com. SemiAccurate.com is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of SemiAccurate.com, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate