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Warning: XFX's silent revision on the 6970

post #1 of 234
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Though I can't say I'm a regular here at Overclock.net, I'd like to take the time to warn you guys about a silent revision XFX has ported to their 6970 reference design that makes third party coolers or waterblocks unusable. They did not warn anyone or change the model number to indicate such a thing, and upon my contacting Performance-PC, NCIX and EK, nobody was aware such a revision existed either.

The short version is that XFX has made significant changes to their reference model HD-697ACN-FC, switching in cheaper SMT components, removing the BIOS switch, backplate and speakers, as well as moving screw mounting holes thus rendering waterblocks such as the EK-6970FC reference design obsolete.

Screenshots and more info in the long version ahead.

Backstory
A week ago I ordered a XFX 6970 2GB from Canadian site NCIX. I carefully checked the model number (HD697ACNFC) and proceeded to order an EK-6970FC block (the black acetal version meant for reference designs). The photos on the site also reflected a reference PCB (AMD logo printed just above the PCI-E connector). Both this and model number gave all indications that this was in fact, a reference model. I confirmed this a third time by having a look at CoolingConfigurator.com, EK's site for checking compatibility between blocks and GPU models. As you can see here, it was the correct model.

I received the card and did not bother to inspect it as I was too excited to plug it in and try my new U3011. Everything looked fine, the box I received did have HD697ACNFC printed on the outer box and UPC code, so thought nothing of it.

Incompatibility
I was anxious to get the block on the card as the fan gets quite loud during intense gaming sessions. As soon as the package with my block arrived, I emptied my loop, took the card apart and proceeded to install the thermal pads. But when I tried to mount the block, I noticed the mounting holes were too far apart under the memory chips.

I doubled checked that it was indeed a HD697ACNFC, but upon looking at the back of the PCB, I found this:


Notice the "V1.1" that appears at the end of the model number, which appears absolutely nowhere else on the packaging or card. So I looked up an image of a "real" reference design:


Compare it to my card's PCB:


You will notice:
-The use of cheaper SMT components
-The speaker is missing
-A memory power phase is missing
-There is a ceramique cap and a few inductors near the PCIe power plugs
-No BIOS switch
-No backplate

But more importantly, screw placements were altered.

I immediately went to XFX's site and opened a ticket to inquire just *** was going on. NewEgg lists a HD697ACNDC, which appeared identical to the "HD697ACNFC V1.1" I had received. I thought it could have been an error, like someone slapping the wrong sticker on the wrong PCB, and was prepared to let XFX correct it.

The next morning, I had my reply:

Quote:
Hi [Me],

The 6970 cards have gone through a revision change, and unfortunately not all the retailers have updated the images to reflect that current revision. Unfortunately that original design that you are refering to was manufactured for such a short period that we dont even have those available for RMA. If its not exactly what you were looking for your setup, unfortunately the best course of action would be to return it to the place of purchase, as again, we dont even have those original revisions in our RMA stock currently.

- Erik
In short, XFX is blaming the vendor for not updating the images to reflect the new changes. Only, these design changes are only visible UNDER the cooler, or if you look behind the PCB to check whether "V1.1" appears after the model number. I have yet to find a vendor site that lists pictures of the naked PCB.

The real issue of course, is that XFX made fundamental changes to the design of their PCB and did not tell anyone, nor did they alter their model number to indicate such a change could have happened.

The result was my situation: a 120$ waterblock, rendered obsolete, because the company altered production designs most likely to save costs, but did not believe it pertinent to warn the community.

I find it appalling that a company that prides themselves as being modder friendly would not think it relevant to warn the enthusiast community that their card will no longer accept third party coolers and blocks built for that very card. After all, the 6970 IS an enthusiast product, and it is very likely that people who buy it will seek to modify the GPU with a better cooling solution.

As it stands, there is absolutely no way for you to know what card you will be getting. The only way to verify whether you are getting a "real", original reference design, or the new V1.1 variant, is by physically inspecting the PCB. This requires opening up the box and card, therefore rendering returns more difficult. In my case, I would be subjected to a 15% restocking fee plus shipping to return the card to NCIX. All-in-all, a whopping 78$ to return a product that was misrepresented by XFX.

So what did XFX do? Nothing. They closed the ticket.

Someone on [H] suggested I PM an active XFX employee that has an account there, which I did. To his credit, he did offer a solution (which he asked me not to talk about), but it was too little too late: I had already ordered the V2 variant of the EK-6970FC block. What was the point, anyway? This was a one time fix for me... countless others stand to be taken by surprise unless XFX alerts vendors and customers, which from their attitude I doubt they will do.

My biggest problem with this entire fiasco is XFX's inability to admit their shady business practices, then trying to blame the vendor for it with a nonsensical argument (not updating product images).

Needless to say, XFX is now entering my blacklist. There are many other alternatives out there, and while none is perfect, I can't say I've ever had to endure such incompetence at the hands of EVGA, BFG or Asus.

For those who own such a card, have one coming or are thinking about ordering it, do inspect the PCB if you are thinking of ordering a block or third party cooler. Since I had already opened the block, EK didn't want to take it back, so I am now forced to sell it somewhere, no doubt at a loss.

I am really saddened by this as I thought XFX to be a reliable and trustworthy company, but obviously, this isn't the case. I was told XFX has been doing this for years on other forums, but am uncertain whether these allegations are correct or simple emotional ranting.
    
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post #2 of 234
Darn XFX at it again. Thanks for your write up of the whole situation.
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post #3 of 234
wow that sucks
they putting in cheaper components without saying anything

i wonder how much it affects OCing


why would they change the mounting holes though?
    
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post #4 of 234
Clear, concise, thoroughly detailed, I've considered XFX in the past, but this time, I won't ever be. I think sticking to the standards of asus, ati directly, sapphire, nvidia, BFG, and a few other common ones so far are still "ok" for me, but XFX is a no no now now...

- Le_Loup
    
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post #5 of 234
XFX - "still ****"
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post #6 of 234
Doesnt their RMA state that if they cant replace it, they have to give you one equal or better?
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post #7 of 234
This is a great write up. Its not someone *****in about some company, but rather, a consumer sharing information about a change that no one noticed until now.

Im sure I speak for a lot of us when I say thank you for the heads up and good job on the explanation.
post #8 of 234
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Germanian View Post
wow that sucks
they putting in cheaper components without saying anything

i wonder how much it affects OCing


why would they change the mounting holes though?
They adopted the PCB identical to what PowerColor has been using for some weeks (hence why EK designed a VERSION 2 of their block for the 6970).

Not sure about the screws, however. I am really no expert in electrical engineering.
    
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post #9 of 234
Damn that sucks. I own 3 XFX GPU's, 2 reference and 1 non reference, and they've all worked well for me. I have no intention to WC at the present time so this wont affect me.
But all this XFX shadiness worries me about my products.

Thanks for the write up.

PS: You might want to black out the serial # of your card.
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post #10 of 234
Quote:
Originally Posted by Germanian View Post
wow that sucks
they putting in cheaper components without saying anything

i wonder how much it affects OCing


why would they change the mounting holes though?
To lessen the possibility that someone will try to take advantage of the Lifetime warranty after throwing a waterblock on it and overclocking the crap out of it.

Glad to see XFX is back at it. Non-modder friendly and crap components? Awesome work XFX.

I wonder how many people will wonder why their reference SHROUDED XFX 6970s are horrible at overclocking.
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