What the heck is an nVidia founder’s Edition GTX 1080/1070 Anyway?

May 9, 2016

GeForce_GTX_1080Pretty much the entire games and hardware crews at The GWW are atwitter this week with the announcement of the new 10XX series from nVidia. Starting with the GTX 1080 and 1070 set to debut in the next two months, the new graphics processing silicon represents the annual release of some of the finest hardware that will be made available for your procurement this year. And nVidia was only slightly stingy with the details, releasing information on comparative speed to past nVidia products, new features, and, the creme-de-la-creme of product announcements, pricing and release dates. One thing that was left shrouded in a bit of mystery (or at least confusion) until this week, however, was the mention of a version of the GTX cards called the Founder’s Series.

nVidia’s standard technical model for the past 20 years has been to typically only ship chips. They have historically left actual manufacture of retail units to licensing partners. They have provided direct product to OEM’s, but retail packages have typically and almost always been supplied to market by the likes of Creative labs, PNY, Asus, eVGA, and Gigabyte. In a switch up, CEO Jen-Hsun Huang indicated that some units of a Founder’s Edition card would ship to retail direct from nVidia. They will be priced at a +$70 – $100 premium over the custom retail cards expected from third parties. This places MSRP for the 1080 Founder’s card at $699, while the 1070 Founder’s will be set at $450 MSRP. What exactly these were was not made entirely clear at the time of the GTX1080notes_MG_3864announcement, though.

Later in separate press correspondence, it was brought to light that the cards are not anything special at the silicon level. They are not overclocked, nor are they a limited yield of Pascal GPU’s on steroids or anything. So what gives exactly? Again, these will simply be the retail versions of the chips, packaged for retail and sold through outlets direct from nVidia, and available before licensing partner variants hit market. So what you get is essentially a card that may make you feel special because it is dressed in nVidia packaging and not with the likes of MSI or Zotac branding on the package. Something to put on display in your nerd room, but that’s about it. I guess I would expect a bit more stability in support through the GeForce Experience, and an overall smoother owner’s experience, a la Android on a Nexus device. As an aside, you do get a cooling solution which is directly engineered by nVidia, so that may be of some extra value.

At most, this is a move meant to provide some direct revenue to nVidia while not shafting its partners. MSRP for add-in board partners is set at $599 and $379 for custom boards, so PNY can sell its GTX 1080 for $599 or anywhere up to $698 and undercut nVidia’s products. This is a nice gesture by nVidia, who could have obviously forced its partner’s hands by setting very aggressive pricing and forcing its licensees to sell through at potential losses, or at least less healthy profit margins. Regardless, it’s more supply and more product variants at market, which is always a good thing. Get ready for the bottom half of may, because it looks like it’s going to be raining GPU’s, pc gaming fans!