Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanks Blizzard

Thanks to Blizzard for helping me deal with ATI sucking.

I used to be a full supporter of ATI, not a fanboi I never got in to arguments about them with people but I only ever bought ATI video cards for my own machines, and even swapped cards around at work so my main machine would have an ATI instead of the Nvidia it came with.

But now, now I'm having trouble. Doubly bad since ATI / AMD are the same company and I'm having trouble with AMD too. I've been a supporter of AMD since around the x64 introduction, I like underdogs with clearly good products and I don't like Intel so it seemed to work out well. I didn't expect AMD to get smoked repeatedly by Intel - and certainly didn't expect my AMD stock to have lost me money.

Now ATI is really trying my patience. Yesterday I spent over an hour on the phone with Apple support because my x1900 died. Again. I'm not the only person either, there are close to 400 posts in the related thread on Blizzards forums. The quick background is: the x1900 is one of the 'upgrade' options for Mac Pros. Around March Blizzard made some tweaks in World of Warcraft to make use of certain x1900 features for better performance. This worked the card out much more, exposing a problem in them. People were frying their card left and right - whether the first rev x1900 was poorly designed, the cooling system poorly designed, or what who knows. Overriding the computer-controlled fan speeds would help, but that is not a sustainable option, aside from not being how the system should work it is also loud and annoying to have the fans cranked all the way up. (BTW, the problems surface as anything from missing textures, to broken geometry [polygon vertices that are off the screen], and eventually hard locks that require a power reset)

My first x1900 broke 6 months after I got my Mac Pro. At that time I was in the first wave of people having problems so Apple didn't really have an understanding of the issue. It took a -long- time (hours over days) to convince them to send me a replacement card without bringing my machine in for troubleshooting. This second failure, interestingly enough also about 6 months after the card was installed, went much more smoothly thanks to Blizzard working with Apple on their ATI issue and making an "Apple internal knowledge base article" on the problem and what to do about it. This doesn't just affect Macs, there was a Dell user complaining too, but since the x1900 is the 'card of choice' in the Mac Pro for gaming (the default card is lame, the ATI is the good upgrade, the Nvidia is thousands of dollars and is more for 3D workstation use) the population of problematic cards is high in the Mac Pro world.

This time I started off with the 'here is a KB number, read it and then we'll talk'. This timeline was:

35 minutes – finally got to talk to someone, the computer kept saying the wait was '15 minutes'... took a few minutes to get him to load up the internal kb article. Finally read it and then put on hold to do something (maybe he was re-reading it, asking for help, I dunno)
43 minutes – the guy came back, gave me a case number and transferred to a ‘product specialist’ (which means more being on hold)
1:05 – still on hold...
1:22 – Finally got a product specialist on the phone, sent the internal kb number again after a few minutes of answer the same questions...
1:29 – while filling out the ‘form’ for the replacement, she noticed the machine was out of warranty and I have no apple care so had to do something to work around that then went back to collecting shipping info and credit card if I don’t return the defective one
1:36 – All done!

Hopefully the card that shows up is the new revision... if this one fails 6 months after I get it, I'm going to give up and buy something more current.

1 comment:

DogKiller said...

ATI also makes the graphics chips in the Xbox360, and they die evey 6 months.