Tiny Corp decides to make both AMD and Nvidia versions of its TinyBox AI server - GeForce version is 67% more expensive

TinyBox development
(Image credit: Tiny Corp)

Tiny Corp appears to have come to a firm decision about whether it will follow its original plan of using AMD GPUs or switch to Nvidia GPUs to power its Tiny Box server. The muddled answer is that it will make both. However, the price for this compact AI-accelerating server packing six GPUs will vary hugely depending on your choice: "red for $15k and green for $25k."

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The TinyBox went public with much fanfare this February. Tiny Corp described it as an innovation that could help democratize PetaFLOPS-class performance for artificial intelligence. It was convinced of the AMD advantage at the time, explaining that the Radeon consumer-grade GPUs worked with superior 'full fabric' PCIe 4.0 x16 links and peer-to-peer interconnections necessary for large language models (unlike GeForce). Top performers like the AMD Radeon RX 7900 XTX were also much cheaper to buy and easier to find.

From its alluring sales spiel, Tiny Corp quickly filled its order books and at the time of our initial report had received 583 preorders, which it hoped to fulfill this April. But things went downhill quite quickly after this hyper-positive first sight of the TinyBox.

At the beginning of March, concerns over getting the AMD consumer-grade hardware to work as it had intended, in multi-GPU AI acceleration boxes, were making Tiny Corp and its founder George Hotz frustrated and irritable.

It turns out that the software behind the Tiny Box solution wasn't ready for prime time. The Tiny Corp team only expected they could make the TinyBox work as intended with Radeon GPUs. The reality was that “serious driver issues” were keeping the TinyBox from being a reliable solution. After a spell of publicly musing whether to dump AMD GPUs and equip Nvidia or Intel GPUs in their place, Tiny Corp / Hotz got in contact with AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su, no less, on social media, and she appeared to agree to more talks, to look at any issues arising, and get AMD software engineers to help. The “Team is on it,” Su Tweeted at that time.

Two or three weeks later we reported that Tiny Corp was still having difficulty getting its Radeon-powered TinyBox to live up to the expectations it had initially set. It stated that the "AMD TinyBox is on hold." Apparently, all Tiny Corp devs needed was AMD firmware access, but it didn't seem to be forthcoming for some reason, which may have been technical, legal, or something else.

Asrock Phantom Gaming Radeon RX 7900 XTX GPU

(Image credit: ASRock)

Fast forward to today, and Tiny Corp says that it has found a useful userspace debugging and diagnostic tool for AMD GPUs that offers some hope. In light of this finding and its potential, the firm says it is going to sell both Radeon and GeForce TinyBox servers.

"If you like to tinker and feel pain, buy red. The driver still crashes the GPU and hangs sometimes, but we can work together to improve it," explains the Tweet. It also teased that AMD had done something to make a Radeon-powered TinyBox a more attractive solution "Expect an announcement from AMD, it's not everything we asked for, but it's a start," said Tiny Corp.

Of course, choosing GeForce comes with a price hit. "If you want 'it just works' buy green. You pay the tax, but it's rock solid," says to the recent Tweet. However, the AMD solution is $15,000, and choosing Nvidia means the price tag inflates to $25,000. That's a 67% price uplift.

Despite all the above drama, the TinyBox remains a product to keep an eye on. Reading between the lines, it looks like the AMD option has a chance to edge toward the 'it just works' status in the coming months, so it might be good to stand back and watch for now. Those with a desire for an Intel Arc-powered TinyBox were told today that there is a prototype but "no plans to ship it." However, Tiny Corp decisions appear to be extremely fluid, so check back tomorrow.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • artk2219
    Looks like someone didn't complete a feasibility test before shoving their foot in their mouth.
    Reply
  • PEnns
    "...and at the time of our initial report had received 583 preorder"

    As if we need further proof that "pre-ordering" is a very dumb idea.

    People are worried this TinyBox thing will be sold out and they will suffer some kind of technological harm??
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    If you like to tinker and feel pain, buy red. If you want it just works buy team green.

    Basically describes my experience with Team Red (9600XT to Fury Nano) and Team Green (2070 Super). AMD needs to heavily invest in software QC so it "just works".
    Reply
  • peachpuff
    artk2219 said:
    Looks like someone didn't complete a feasibility test before shoving their foot in their mouth.
    Oops...

    Reply
  • Notton
    Hotz boxes that no one wants to touch, and you definitely don't want to be holding them when the music stops.

    They are the Hotz Potato
    Reply
  • usertests
    Man freaks out publicly, gets more free press for his tiny company.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    Even if they ironed out all the flaws, the man is obviously a disaster to work with. Won't touch his products with a 10 foot pole. A fix for one means a fix for all. And building a competing box is just as easy. And likely with less headaches.
    Reply
  • artk2219
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    Basically describes my experience with Team Red (9600XT to Fury Nano) and Team Green (2070 Super). AMD needs to heavily invest in software QC so it "just works".
    The man is trying to use the cards in a way that they weren't designed and tested for, and is surprised and angry that his consumer cards aren't running his professional workload as well as he would like, and he isn't getting bespoke professional level support on consumer level equipment. Almost like thats why professional products with better support exist, or heck, why AMD's entire semi-custom group exists.
    Reply
  • ivan_vy
    artk2219 said:
    The man is trying to use the cards in a way that they weren't designed and tested for, and is surprised and angry that his consumer cards aren't running his professional workload as well as he would like, and he isn't getting bespoke professional level support on consumer level equipment. Almost like thats why professional products with better support exist, or heck, why AMD's entire semi-custom group exists.
    you are on point. Mr. Hotz wanted tu put a race car motor in a tractor to plow the field, at the end of the day is just about horsepower, right? right? /s
    and asked AMD to compete with themselves, MI-300 exists for a reason.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    If I were a Nvidia reseller, I'd be screaming for Nvidia to enforce their EULA and send Tiny a notice that they will not be receiving any shipments of RTX 4090 cards.
    https://www.datacenterdynamics.com/en/news/nvidia-updates-geforce-eula-to-prohibit-data-center-use/
    He should have to use workstation or datacenter cards, as far as I understand. That would probably push the price of his Nvidia boxes to well above twice that of his AMD model.
    Reply