Finding the right graphics card is one of the biggest challenges in putting together a custom PC. This has only gotten more difficult as the cost of graphics cards has gone through the roof. NVIDIA has recently started doing something interesting by releasing their own, Founders Edition graphics cards, but are they worth it?
Founders Edition graphics cards are made directly by NVIDIA and sold at a lower cost to consumers. They are similar to AMD’s Reference Cards, but are designed to compete directly in the graphics card market. Founders Edition graphics cards have high-performing specifications, a lower-cost than third-party competitors, but also have more limited heat mitigation.
Let’s find out which type of graphics card is going to be the best choice for your PC.
What Are Founders Edition GPUs?
Founders Edition graphics cards are made directly by NVIDIA and sold on their website as well as at third-party retailers. NVIDIA saves their highest performing graphics chips to be put into in-house Founders Edition graphics cards. These graphics cards have an outstanding combination of high performance and low-cost.
What is an AIB Partner?
An AIB is an Add-In-Board partner. These are third-party companies that take the chips made by AMD, NVIDIA, and soon to be Intel and add them into housings and cooling systems to make full graphics cards.
AMD and NVIDIA do not actually make graphics cards. They only make chips. It’s up to their AIBs to integrate those chips into housing and cooling systems that create a full GPU.
An AIB also makes a few changes along the way. They can adjust specs, cooling and create overclocked GPUs and other specialized models:
Founders Edition cards aren’t always better than AIB cards. In fact, a high-end AIB card might far surpass what a Founders Edition card is capable of. It all depends on both the specs of the cards themselves and the PC that they will be installed into.
Just Bin It
Depending on where in the world you’re from, you might be surprised to hear that NVIDIA and AMD “bin” almost every graphics card they make!
Bin isn’t being used in the slang term meaning to throw away, but is actually a process of sorting cards based on how well they perform. Chips are sorted into “bins” in a process known as “binning.” Chips that do well during this testing get set aside to be used in Founders Edition GPUs.
Are Reference Cards Different From Founders Edition Cards?
Founders Edition cards and Reference Cards have some similarities in their history, but are in fact completely different products today.
Both come from the same process. When AMD or NVIDIA start to make a new graphics card, they go through the testing process mentioned above. They take some graphics chips that perform exceptionally well and sell them on their own rather than with the help of their AIB partners, such as Sapphire:
Reference Cards are standard issue GPUs from AMD, and formerly from NVIDIA. They have standard specs, standard cooling, and typically take a no-frills approach to design. They act as a “reference” point for other GPUs using those same chips.
Reference Cards have always given PC builders a way to enter the graphics card market without spending as much money as they would with an AIB. Reference Cards tend to deliver plenty of computing power, but, at a cost that is much more affordable than you get after those cards have been moved from AMD to one of their partners.
NVIDIA used to do this prior to 2016. In that year, they decided to step directly into the market and compete with their AIB partners, rather than just offer a more price friendly way for people to enter the graphics card market.
Founders Edition GPUs compete directly with AIB partners. They might offer similar specs to a Reference Card from AMD (such as having similar graphics memory and GPU clock speeds), but they’re designed to compete with higher-end products rather than offer cost-effective ways to get a graphics card.
How to Buy Founders Edition GPUs
There are a few different places where you can purchase a Founder’s Edition graphics card from NVIDIA. The first place to check is the online shop on the Nvidia website. This will be kept up-to-date with the latest stock and, since NVIDIA can now sell Founder’s Edition GPUs directly, it’s the best place and typically offers the best deal:
You can also find Founders Edition GPUs at third-party retailers. Best Buy and similar stores typically carry these graphics cards. However, you can expect a markup in cost as well as more sudden fluctuations in stock.
The graphics card market is still in a very turbulent place. The constant up and down of the cryptocurrency industry drives a lot of rapid change for graphics card scalpers and third-party retailers.
This also means you’ve had a good chance to find Founders Edition GPUs being offloaded on other retailers like eBay.
Are Founder’s Edition Cards Rarer Than Regular GPUs?
Yes, Founders Edition GPUs from NVIDIA are rarer than other GPUs that use the same chips. This is because NVIDIA only makes a limited run of their Founders Edition graphics cards. They don’t have the same production capability as their Add-In-Board partners which means they have a more limited ability to produce Founder’s Edition graphic cards.
Founders Edition graphics cards are also highly sought-after. They have impressive specifications, a decent price tag, and a unique design. This means that consumers are more eager to buy these than they are the standard issue graphics cards coming from third-party companies.
Founders Edition Cards vs Regular GPU
Let’s do a head-to-head comparison of Founder’s Edition graphics cards and regular graphics cards. Which costs less, which has better performance, and most importantly, which is better for your PC?
Usually Founder’s Editions cards are the cheapest in a specific card line-up. Where they aren’t the cheapest, they will only usually be beaten by budget cards that may compromise on cooling or GPU clock speeds.
Let’s look at some specific pricing examples, as of mid-July 2022:
|Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti (Founder’s Edition)||$1,199.99||Nvidia website|
|EVGA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti (AIB/Third Party)||$1,249.99||Nvidia website|
|MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Gaming X Trio (AIB)||$1,399.99||Nvidia website|
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (Founder’s Edition)||$399||Best Buy|
|EVGA GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (AIB)||$519.99||Best Buy|
|Gigabyte GeForce RTX 3060 Ti (AIB)||$539.99||Best Buy|
As you can see, the Nvidia founder’s edition card is cheapest for both the RTX 3060 Ti and 3080 Ti – when compared to EVGA and Gigabyte.
But that’s not to say that a slightly more budget provider such as Palit might not come out with a card that is slightly cheaper than the founder’s edition:
It all depends on stock levels, build quality and whether there’s deals currently on (either for the Palit card, or the Nvidia FE cards).
Founders Edition graphics cards use the best possible chips from NVIDIA (and might have better memory configurations too). NVIDIA saves its highest performing tech to put inside the graphics cards that they sell themselves. This has one very specific utility that some people might find incredibly important.
Founders Edition graphics cards have a reputation for being the best choice for people who want to overclock. These chips have the best-performing silicon which means that they can handle the strain of overclocking better than other chips from the same manufacturer.
However, Founders Edition graphics cards have a reputation for also having slightly worse cooling than cards made by AIB partners. If you plan on getting a Founder’s Edition graphics card, you’re going to want to make sure that you have adequate cooling in your PC case in general to compensate for the slight loss of heat mitigation.
You’re also going to be able to find graphics cards with higher specs. Founder’s Edition graphics cards might be some of the best, but third-party manufacturers are turning out graphics cards with overall better performance. However, that will cost significantly more than a Founder’s Edition card.
Founders Edition graphics cards are known for their outstanding build quality. NVIDIA is using this as an opportunity to show off just what they’re capable of and building a graphics card that is really built to last.
We also have to look at the style of graphics cards. If you’re looking to take a break from the LED laser light show going on inside your PC case, a Founders Edition graphic card is exactly what you’ve been looking for. They have a sleek and minimalist style that has a more refined aesthetic than your typical customizable RGB light enabled card.
We should touch on heat mitigation again here in the build quality. Third-party graphics cards can put a lot of design work into heat mitigation. However, Founders Edition cards from NVIDIA currently have very simple heat mitigation.
Depending on how you plan on using your graphics card and the strain it is going to be under, the heat medication technology in a Founder’s Edition graphics card might make or break your purchase.
Knowing all these nuts and bolts is all well and good, but how are people reacting to Founders Edition cards in the real world?
Overall, the reaction to Founders Edition graphics cards is fairly positive. They offer above average specs, a great build quality, and a decent price tag on top. While they will likely always get out competed by third-party high-end graphics cards, they are beating the competition when you compare cards by cost instead of specs.
Is a Founders Edition GPU Worth It?
A Founders Edition GPU is absolutely worth it if you’re looking to get high performance with a decent price tag. These graphics cards are great for overclocking, but you will need to do more heat mitigation inside your PC case to compensate. The Founders Edition graphics cards from NVIDIA also have a truly unique style which could be ideal for people who want their custom PC build to stand out.
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2 thoughts on “Founder’s Edition (Reference Cards) vs ‘Normal’ GPUs: Which Are Best?”
Very helpful thanks!
Thanks Mach, I’m glad you find this article helpful!