Techpowerup caught hardware giants MSI and Asus shipping them graphics cards that were preset for a software-based overlock mode, meaning that the cards performed better out of the box for reviewers than they would for customers.
MSI has been doing this for years, and it's not even the first time they've been caught. In 2014, an MSI spokesdroid offered an incoherent explanation for the practice, saying that the company was shipping the overclocked cards to reviewers to show off its easy software overclocking capability, which, of course, reviewers would be less likely to notice if the cards came pre-overclocked and didn't have to use the software to try it out.
The trajectory of this is to just make devices that attempt to detect whether they're being evaluated by reviewers, and, if they are, bump up their clockspeeds to levels that would make the product more failure-prone over the medium term (which would increase expensive warranty returns), but which would run fine during the review period — to recreate Dieselgate, in other words.
Welcome to the demon-haunted Internet of Things that Lie.
The "OC Mode" is just there so consumers can overclock it a little further at the push of a button, without having any knowledge of overclocking. Now if the OC mode is enabled for review samples of one company and not for the others, this means that potential customers comparing reviews will think one card performs better than the other, even if it's just 1%, people do base their buying decision on such small differences.
With the case of the GTX 1080 at hand, we started looking back at our previous reviews and were shocked to realize that this practice has been going on for years in MSI's case. It looks like ASUS has just adopted it, probably because their competitor does it, too, "so it must be ok."
MSI and ASUS Send VGA Review Samples with Higher Clocks than Retail Cards
MSI and Asus accused of sending reviewers overpowered graphics cards
[Vlad Savov/The Verge]