NVIDIA Enters Retail with Direct Sales at Best Buy

Is NVIDIA looking to make add-in-board partners a thing of the past? Or is NVIDIA looking to supplement its already long list of North American partners' stock on Best Buy's shelves. No matter how you look at it, the move is surprising to say the least.

What follows in this article are my own thoughts and opinions based on information that I have gleaned from many sources. I am sure that not all of it is spot on, but I have done my best, and have solid basis for my opinions. I am sure we will have some information to follow this up when NVIDIA's lips loosen a bit about this situation.

Pants Down

Not many things take me by surprise, but add this one to the list, along with Eyefinity. We heard rumors of NVIDIA going direct as far back as Q3'09, with a retail shelf date target of January 2010. At that time we understood that Best Buy and Newegg were the two retailers that would get NVIDIA branded video cards for sale. That did not happen and we went along our merry way.

This time it snuck up on us. Last week we found out through several good sources that NVIDIA is supposed to launch direct sale video cards with Best Buy on its next product refresh cycle which is October 10th. It seems that not everything works out like it should at Best Buy when it comes to moving in inventory, a lesson to be learned about retail, as the cards went on sale a bit earlier than intended.

When we explained to NVIDIA that we purchased NVIDIA video cards from Best Buy on Monday the 4th, NVIDIA explained that it "did not expect that." It seems that a least a few Best Buy stores in North America have been selling the cards before the "official" date. We asked for an official statement in writing about NVIDIA entering retail directly and it took NVIDIA two hours to supply us with that. Here is NVIDIA's complete reply to HardOCP about it entering the retail market direct.

NVIDIA and Best Buy are working together to offer PC customers the opportunity to experience firsthand the latest in PC technologies right inside Best Buy stores. As part of this broad initiative, NVIDIA is supplying to Best Buy specific GeForce models built and supported by NVIDIA. These products will only be available at Best Buy and will complement GeForce products from our partners. We will provide more details on this next week.

Hmmm. Sounds a bunch of 'we don't know what to say,' mumbo jumbo. Is it REALLY going to be "right inside" the stores? Wow. Talk about thinking outside of the box. I could make a lot of jokes about the "experience firsthand the latest in PC technologies," but I will move on. Apparently NVIDIA got caught with its pants down.


We unboxed our freshly purchased packages to give the cards the once over. If you have seen the pictures of video cards here in the GTX 460 review, this is exactly what we saw with this new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460. "Reference card" with stock clocks and reference cooler. With the GTS 450 more of the same. "Reference card" with stock clocks and reference coolers. Both are great looking products, but at the same time there is absolutely nothing original about these cards.

Both of our cards were "Made in China." We asked NVIDIA if Foxconn built the boards and a company representative answered with a simple, "Yes." This flies in the face of the "Designed and Built by NVIDIA," statement on the boxes' packaging, but more on that later.

On the Box

Let me first say that the NVIDIA box is actually in violation of NVIDIA's terms on box art that is handed down to its AIBs. I find that sort of funny, but NVIDIA can do whatever the hell it wants to with its products.

The boxes are branded with an NVIDIA logo in the upper right hand corner with the product name on the lower left. In the middle we have this half missing NVIDIA logo that takes up the majority of the box.

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While the box is "pretty," I think it looks like a chopped off fish head trying to eat the smaller NVIDIA logo. Of course your mileage may vary. The NVIDA logo is odd-looking enough to begin with but relying on just half of it to make a shelf statement is not wise. The single most important thing to put on a box in brick and mortar retail is the amount of RAM on the card and this is lost along the bottom with DX11, PhysX, and 3D Vision tags.

Information on the actual card is very sparse. No clock speeds are to be found anywhere on the box or in the literature.

On the back is a picture of the cooler shroud and fan. Huh? It does not even show the card so you might get an idea that it is a PCIe card...and that is a big deal in Best Buy. It probably is not to HardOCP readers....but it is in Best Buy, just ask any Geek Squad worker.

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NVIDIA goes on to fill rest of the space on box with mostly marketing speak. A couple more "Designed and Built by NVIDIA" statements, then a "Direct from the Source Support." I called support Monday and the guy in India that answered told me without a doubt that I did not have an "NVIDIA video card." He proceeded to explain to me that NVIDIA was a "GPU designer." Funny stuff. NVIDIA reported to me Monday afternoon that this issue had been corrected. However NVIDIA's Platinum Support is a call center in India that has handled or still does handle NVIDIA GPU based video card support calls. I am sure all you people in America love to hear that about "Platinum Support." How support quality will turn out is anyone's guess.

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Beyond that we have "3D Your PC" and "DirectX 11 Done Right." Uh, OK. Not much real information is given on either.

Moving around to one of the opening flaps on the box we actually have something that is informative.

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This flap of the box shows the business end of the video card and what outputs are available. NVIDIA actually took time to label them as well. Kudos.

That is what is covered on the outside surfaces of the box that are going to be most apparent to possible buyers. If the user takes the time to look at the bottom of the box along with all the small print you find some specs that should be on the front or back of the box in helping the consumer make an informed decision.

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On the bottom we get a series of little badges that have some very important information. First we get told that we need at least a 450 watt PSU. Good to know. We get told that the card uses a PCIe x16 connection. Important to know. More 3D Vision, PhysX, and finally SLI notations that no one really gives a damn about if they are buying a card at Best Buy. Interestingly enough, I could not even find a PC at Best Buy that supported SLI under $3000. But that is another story.

If you read very closely into the middle of the Minimum System Specifications you will see where two 6-pin PCIe power connectors are noted. However two 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCIe are included in the box.