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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 that it was “unlaunching” the lower-end 12GB version of its upcoming GeForce RTX 4080 graphics card so that it could be renamed and released at a later date. This was good news, for the people who care about this kind of thing—the $899 12GB RTX 4080 and $1,199 16GB RTX 4080 were substantially different cards with much different performance levels. Giving them both the same name could have created unnecessary disappointment and confusion for buyers of the cheaper card.

The problem for GPU makers is that Nvidia planned to launch those cards in mid-November, and partners had already started manufacturing and packaging them so they could be shipped out to retailers. Gamers Nexus has spoken with sources at two of Nvidia’s board partners about some of these logistical hurdles, reporting that existing boxes for 12GB RTX 4080 cards were being “collected and destroyed” and that Nvidia “is at least subsidizing the boxes, or part of them, to be replaced.” The relabeled GPUs will supposedly be reintroduced or relaunched (or un-unlaunched?) around CES in January 2023.

There will be other costs for board partners, too, both for GPUs that have already been produced and those that will be manufactured after Nvidia has settled 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 on it somewhere, occasionally in a prominent place with programmable LEDs underneath. These coolers will either need to be rebadged, reprinted, or replaced to switch out the old RTX 4080 branding with the new branding.

The BIOSes on the cards will need to be re-flashed too, so that the GPUs properly identify themselves (both to drivers and to operating systems) with their new model number rather than showing up as RTX 4080 cards. Gamers Nexus and its sources didn’t know for sure whether Nvidia would also be adjusting the card’s specs to go with its new model name, though Nvidia’s post from last week makes it sound unlikely.

“The RTX 4080 12GB is a fantastic graphics card, but it’s not named right,” reads the original blog post. To change its specs just because the name is changing could 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 that Nvidia “will also be reducing the price” of its rebranded GPU to reflect the new name. This could be tricky for partners that have already manufactured cards with its old retail price in mind, especially because profit margins for these board partners are reportedly already pretty low. If you built GPUs for (say) $700 or $800 expecting to sell them for $900, you would only have so much room to lower the price before you started losing money, and we don’t know whether Nvidia would offer some kind of rebate or reimbursement for partners who have already purchased those GPU dies.

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

One partner that won’t be affected by this? EVGA, which broke its longstanding ties to Nvidia in September because of an alleged lack of communication, and because of competition from Nvidia’s first-party Founders Edition cards. There were other sides to this story—EVGA’s profit margins on GPUs were supposedly lower than some of Nvidia’s other board partners because they didn’t manufacture their own circuit boards or coolers, for example—but if you wanted to prove that Nvidia could be difficult to work with, “renaming a GPU weeks before release and only partially compensating partners for the trouble” is a pretty good example.

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