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.

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In the Box

Without a doubt, these are two of the nicest retail video card boxes I have seen in the last 16 years. The build quality and packaging are second to none. NVIDIA is undoubtedly concerned with first impressions and more importantly perception of value. It is actually a shame that the video cards are in anti-static bags and have the plastic covering on the cooler shrouds to prevent scratches, because that is the only thing that takes away from the awe-inspiring packaging. I wish all motherboard and video cards could be packaged this well, sadly that is just not the case and it is not going to happen because of cost.

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The box and packaging had to be incredibly expensive and it shows.

The accessory contents of the boxes are also very robust. You should have everything you need to get up and running. A 6 foot mini-HDMI to HDMI cable is included that looks to be of very solid quality, a DVI to VGA adapter, two 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PCIe power adapters, and other installation essentials are covered. I like the fact that the power adapters are included. This will help on returns at Best Buy for sure. I do wish there was a bit more verbiage on the outside of the packaging so that the consumer will know what he is getting into.

I would be remiss if I did not point out that someone at NVIDIA has a sense of humor. On the back of the inner box is a statement letting us know it can be recycled. I was opening the box with a buddy of mine and he read it to me, and I immediately thought he was making stuff up.

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I wish NVIDIA would have put this much creativity into the rest of the packaging.

Warranty Coverage

"Three year warranty from NVIDIA" is stated on the bottom of the box. Interesting since NVIDIA only gives the majority of its GPUs a 2 year warranty through its partners. You are actually getting a better deal than most of NVDIA's customers. And it also states that the buyer gets "NVIDIA Platinum Support." Inside this Platinum Support is whittled down to 5 days a week during business hours live support. That does not sound too Platinum compared to the other big names in North America. But 3 years is a solid and fair warranty on a video card. "Lifetime" warranties on video cards are quickly becoming a thing of the past and rightly so. There is simply not enough profit in these cards to continue those types of warranties on a large scale. BFG sure felt it.

I am concerned exactly how the RMA practice on this card will work and we will address that a bit later in this article.

Cost

The cards that we bought today here in North Texas were priced fairly high compared to some others on the shelf. The GTX 460 was $299, the same price as PNY, but $100 higher than Galaxy. The GTX 450 was $199, which was $5 higher than Galaxy and at the same price as the PNY card. I would say that PNY has to be somewhat worried about NVIDIA's pricing strategy.

Designed and Built by NVIDIA

The words "Designed and Built by NVIDIA" are plastered all over the outside and inside of the packaging.

There is no doubt that NVIDIA designed the GPU and the video card itself. NVIDIA's primary function in the desktop GPU market is to design GPUs. If you look up the "NVDA" stock name you will find this description of what the company's function is.

NVIDIA Corporation (NVIDIA) is a provider of visual computing technologies and the inventor of the graphics processing unit (GPU).

Notice there it is a "provider of visual computing technologies." It is not a discreet graphics card builder. This is because NVIDIA does not build graphics cards. To my knowledge NVIDIA does not own facilities that can mass produce graphics cards for retail sale. This would be highlighted by the fact that NVIDIA did not build the graphics cards that we bought Monday labeled "Designed and Built by NVIDIA." Foxconn built these graphics cards. This was confirmed by NVIDIA directly. I am unsure how it can state that it built these cards as NVIDIA did not build these cards, Foxconn did.

I just see this as being dishonest. Maybe I am splitting hairs here, but AIBs such as EVGA do not state on its boxes "Built by EVGA," because it does not build its own cards. ASUS, Galaxy, Gigabyte, MSI, and Palit to name a few do build its own video cards, but NVIDIA does not.

NVIDIA is misleading the consumer on this point and it needs to make this right. Maybe "Designed by NVIDIA and Built for NVIDIA?" Get it through your head that if you purchase a retail NVIDIA video card, it is not built by some special NVIDIA division squared away to give you the perfect video card build. You are getting just another "reference board" built by Foxconn. How many of you want a Foxconn video card? Maybe this is something that will not matter to the average Best Buy consumer, and I can accept that, but making that person think they are getting a card built by NVIDIA is not right.

Maybe NVIDIA will tell us next week that it will be buying its own video card production facility, but I don't see that happening any time soon.