Nvidia's last-minute 12GB RTX 4080 rebrand will be a pain for GPU makers

Nvidia’s last-minute 12GB RTX 4080 rebrand will be a pain for GPU makers

Nvidia's last-minute 12GB RTX 4080 rebrand will be a pain for GPU makers

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Late last Friday, Nvidia decided to “drop” the low-end 12GB version of its upcoming GeForce RTX 4080 graphics card so it could be rebranded and released at a later date. This was good news for people interested in this sort of thing: the $899 RTX 4080 12GB and the $1,199 RTX 4080 16GB were markedly different cards with very different levels of performance. Giving them the same name could have created unnecessary disappointment and confusion for buyers of the cheapest card.

The problem for GPU makers is that Nvidia was planning to launch these cards in mid-November, and partners had already started manufacturing and packaging them so they could be shipped to retailers. Gamers Nexus spoke to sources at two of Nvidia’s board partners about some of those logistical hurdles, reporting that existing cases for the 12GB RTX 4080 cards were being “collected and destroyed” and that Nvidia “at least subsidizes the enclosures, or part of them, to be replaced.” Renowned GPUs are supposed to be reintroduced or relaunched (or not launched?) around CES in January 2023.

There will also be costs for the card’s other partners, both for GPUs that have already been produced and those that will be made after Nvidia decides on a name (Gamers Nexus says this hasn’t happened, but that “4070” or “4070 Ti” seems most likely). GPU coolers usually have the card’s name and model number printed somewhere, sometimes in a prominent place with programmable LEDs underneath. These coolers will need to be rebadged, reprinted, or replaced to replace the old RTX 4080 brand with the new brand.

Card BIOSes will also need to be reflashed, so GPUs correctly identify themselves (to both drivers and operating systems) with their new model number rather than appearing as RTX 4080 cards. Nexus gamers and its sources were unsure whether Nvidia would also adjust the card’s specs to go with its new model name, although Nvidia’s message from last week made that unlikely.

“The RTX 4080 12GB is a fantastic graphics card, but it’s got the wrong name,” reads the original blog post. Changing its specs just because the name is changing might run the risk of making it less “fantastic” and would likely engender some of the same consumer backlash that prompted Nvidia to change the name in the first place.

Finally, Gamers Nexus says Nvidia will also “reduce the price” of its renamed GPU to reflect the new name. This could be tricky for partners who have already manufactured cards with their old retail price in mind, especially since the profit margins for those consulting partners would already be quite low. If you were building GPUs for (say) $700 or $800 hoping to sell them for $900, you would only have wiggle room to drop the price before you start losing money, and we don’t know not whether Nvidia would offer some kind of discount or refund for partners who have already purchased these GPU dies.

Asked by Ars about refunds, an Nvidia spokesperson told us the company had “nothing to add”.

A partner who will not be affected by this? EVGA, which severed longstanding ties with Nvidia in September due to an alleged lack of communication and competition from Nvidia’s Founders Edition cards. There were other sides to this story – EVGA’s profit margins on GPUs were supposed to be lower than some of Nvidia’s other card partners because they didn’t manufacture their own PCBs or coolers, for example – but if you wanted to prove that Nvidia might be difficult to work with, “renaming a GPU weeks before release and only partially compensating for partner issues” is a pretty good example.

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