I found an ad on Instagram where Amazon India advertised an unknown graphics card label called XHVGA where its GTX 960 is called the ‘best seller’. XHVGA isn’t a brand, rather a name for scamming buyers around the world but through eBay, Craiglist and some domestic e-Commerce website. It was available in AMAZON US until stocks ran out. Its bad when such products are listed in well-known online retailers, it is worse when its labeled as a best-selling graphics card in social media. Knock-offs like XHVGA use a generation old and phased out SKUs to sell these as well known manufacturers won’t have fresh stocks. It uses that gap where people don’t want and need a new graphics card and looks for a better pricing on an older option. But it uses graphics cards from multiple manufacturers whose SKUs are much older.
The common tale of XHVGA in discussion forums!
XHVGA is a facade for selling obsolete graphics cards with renamed BIOS details (hence the term ‘fake’ used in this context) on near-decade-old graphics cards. There is no website or any footprint from this graphics card ‘manufacturer’. You will only find online listings and forum posts warning people from making this purchase. There are many discussions about XHVGA- from Tom’s Hardware, OCAU to Linus TechTips. It is also featured in Nvidia’s own GeForce forums. A user with an ‘XHVGA’ GTX 1050 Ti 2GB placed a complaint about an unknown problem in the GeForce forums. After skipping a few power-cycle steps mentioned by its members, one of them spots the name and breaks the bad news to the user. It is unfortunate, but it is a very common story in many discussion boards.
The internet has a well-documented report of XHVGA graphics card around the world. The graphics card carry the name ‘Nvidia and ‘GeForce’. The new GeForce drivers provide legacy support for older generation graphics cards. Therefore, Nvidia’s intervention is needed to resolve this nuisance.
Tracing fake graphics card to GeForce GTX 550Ti and GTX 660Ti…
The information is easily available through a basic search. All you have to do is connect the series of information spread throughout the search results. The fake graphics cards not limited to 900 series, but also with the GTX 1050Ti.
TechPowerUp! has an unverified BIOS file for XHVGA GTX 1050 Ti 5GB. The GTX 1050Ti has a 4GB memory variant, with GTX 1060 5GB is China-only vRAM variant while other parts of the world get GTX 1060 3GB and 6GB VRAM options- all GDDR5. The packaging and VRAM spec is usually the first identification of fake graphics card provided the buyer knows what they are looking at. In this case, the presence of 5GB VRAM in the domestic market provides a surface level credibility for this fake card until its too late.
But looking closely, the XHVGA GTX 1050Ti is interesting since it has a VGA output and no DisplayPort. Very retro! Its GPU Device ID indicates the card to be GTX 1050Ti, (which can be easily re-named by such scammers). When you google out the vBIOS 70.26.3A.00.00 version, it lists graphics card brands such as Onda, Gainward, Palit. All listed cards are the GTX 550 Ti with one search result coinciding with a PALIT GeForce GTS 450. There is also an unverified Nvidia-branded GTX 550Ti 1GB graphics card vBIOS listed in TechPowerUp! Nvidia never sold its own labeled graphics card until recently with its Founders Edition. But many users do not have the understanding of a chip manufacturer and AIB partners.
In its core, such fake graphics cards are still Nvidia graphics card. But it is not the one which is advertised. It cannot be detected in BIOS as the scammer reprograms the vBIOS with the name they set it for. The only way to identify is by dismantling the graphics card and seeing the numbers on the GPU core. Based on the findings, GTX 960 graphics card which was launched in January 2015 are rebadged from GTX 550Ti which launched in March 2011. and GTX 1050Ti (with different vRAM, depending on the actual listing) are from the GTX 600 series.
Once upon a time….a company called ABIT
One of the companies listed in unverified BIOS listed is ABIT, a very famous motherboard manufacturer which declared bankruptcy and shut down a few years ago. ABIT was more known for its motherboards, especially the legendary IP35-E motherboards. While it did have Intel P45-chipset motherboard pre-production units on display in a couple of expos, the company ran out of time before it could have released it.
But ABIT doesn’t fit in this story as the company closed down in the year 2008, three years before the GTX 550Ti was launched. The last graphics card to be made by ABIT is possibly the Siluro GF4 Ti4200 OTES, a GeForce4 Ti 4200 GPU from the early 2000s. There might have been a time when ABIT’s name was used after its operations were closed. The ABIT “GTX 550Ti” graphics card listing is unverified in TechPowerUp!. It is suspicious, but it shows the hoops these graphics cards jump through! Other companies mentioned above are active. Onda is not a known name internationally.
These fake graphics cards are using old, unsold and/or thrown away but functioning GTX 550Ti. A scammer will buy those graphics cards now at a very cheap price, rename some details in the vBIOS, buy a knock-off GPU cooler and rebadge it with a name. In this case, ‘XHVGA’.
TechPowerUp! did not list any of these cards under Nvidia vBIOS category because these are unverified vBIOS file and people should be cautious about using these BIOS. This way, the involved authorities and Nvidia can use this as an evidence if the scammers are caught.
Online Retailer listing of XHVGA graphics cards
Amazon (and such retail websites) have automated advertisements based on its best selling and featured products. It runs many ads on social media channels. It also runs its ads via third-party ad providers like our Google Adsense. But searching for XHVGA in Amazon India showed no purchase options. The link provided in the advertisement is a dead link. Having a ‘Best Seller’ tag for a product that is unavailable or did not exist does not make sense. I don’t have a contact in Amazon India yet but I’ve tagged their social media account. This ad was reported to Instagram as a scam but that merely removes the ad to be displayed on my end until Instagram takes an action. For a social media platform of this size, it should have a way for people to attach a message. We’ll follow up and update the article if Instagram notifies us of any change.
It is still a problem because some users will see this as a sign of approval from Amazon India and possibly search in physical retail stores. Naturally, Amazon India will not be responsible if people buy graphics cards through such channels. But such advertisements need to be discouraged. A similar effort needs to be taken by Nvidia India since a little use it is marketing channels, press release and newsletters to warn people and dealers will make a larger impact.
I did find a ‘Currently Unavailable’ listing in Amazon US with pictures of the unGTX 960 ‘4GB’. XHVGA can be easily found to be listed on websites like eBay which has a customer protection. But websites like Quikr do not have any inter-city protection. Therefore, such platforms become a foundation for scammers to exploit. It is unfortunate to see consumer protection here is non-existent. When dealing in Facebook groups where new and old products are sold, an individual can be named and with an intervention of other members it can get resolved or blacklist a dealer in multiple groups.
Are all ‘Chinese’ brands knock-off scams?
Chinese sourced products have negative branding. And ironically many electronics and components are made in China. It largely depends on the brand which obviously carries trust, support reputation and quality. There are times when known names have a history of growing bad apples occasionally. At best, they can control what comes through its own factories. This generalization may have a sound logic because of the variable quality of products flowing from China, depending on the product and brand(s). An experience of an individual also comes into play.
XHVGA is one example of the worst case scenario. Unfortunately, it was sold through online retailers like ‘Ali Express’, a China-based online retailer that ships worldwide. It does have consumer protection, but the cost of shipping and incurring custom charges will discourage anyone from making any effort. Such listings were found in abundance until an army of forum members, reviewers and Youtubers started calling out XHVGA and such knock-offs. One of the notable videos was the one calling out an unknown GTX 1050 1GB which turns out to be a six-year-old GTX 650Ti.
Some Chinese domestic brands are not knock-offs. The best example of that is a graphics card brand called ‘Yeston’. Yeston has a good footprint of product listing and press releases of multiple graphics cards published by PC component websites. TechPowerUp! Also has verified BIOS listings and product image of some Yeston graphics card like the GTX 1050 Speed Edition. Yeston also has its own website with the required details.
The domestic graphics card manufacturer sells graphics cards with both AMD Radeon and Nvidia GPUs. The quality and the reliability is unknown to us, but it is one good example of a Chinese domestic that compete with mainstream brands like ZOTAC, ASUS, EVGA, MSI, Gigabyte/AORUS and AMD-only Powercolor. China-based Colorful has iGame, but it also has well known internationally available brands Galaxy (now GALAX), Gainward, Point of View and PALIT. There are other domestic brands in China that use stock PCB with its own cheap heatsink block and cheap plastic shrouds. Those brands sell the product they advertise.
The same issue with brick-and-mortar shops!
We hope both online and physical store owners realize the seriousness of this problem since this is a community-centric market. Two of many ways to combat is for chip makers to circulate a warning against such dealers and maybe taking a legal action to make a point. Naturally, the more enlightened PC builders and users can easily identify such nuisance, but the problem is with users who can’t identify sooner, later or never. Its also an issue if a system assembler puts components together for a cheap price. The best of us also fall for the oldest trick in the book! Since Nvidia GeForce’s near-decade-old chips and currently available’s model used with a malicious attempt to scam, it affects Nvidia as much as it does on everyone.
One dealer has made a good effort to explain inconsistencies in products and dealers when buying without a proper invoice. The dealer even names the shops that exploit the good name of reputed trademarked named stores (in this reference- ‘Cost to Cost™’ against ‘Cost 2 Cost’ and other similar names). It makes a lot of sense. ‘Cost2Cost’ is a name mentioned in multiple Indian tech forums. This infamous story involves few stores using the same name of a retailer ‘Cost to Cost’. It gets tricky to identify which story because many users have mistaken ‘Cost 2 Cost’ for ‘Cost to Cost’- and similar stores. Cost to Cost is listed on NVIDIA’s page as an authorized GeForce distributor. It would have helped if it included the trademark symbol and warned its customers about similar named stores. Prevention is better than cure.
Some of the Cost2Cost experience can be tracked all the way to December 2009 and maybe more if the dead forums such as Tech2 and CHIP were still around. This was also posted on another Indian-based Indian tech forum. Many stores would even sell such questionable sourced components with a full retail price. Some of these stores are well-known to be open on a Sunday, a typical day when neighbouring computer hardware stores and distributors are closed for business. I hope this news post encourage the decision makers to take a more active stand on behalf of its customers- and co-incidentally our readers. If there is a deal which is too good to be true, you should do a good deal of research on it.
.@AmazonIN advertises fake branded #XHVGA @nvidiageforce #geforce #GTX #gtx960 as its 'best-seller' #graphicscard #gpu https://t.co/rWdRSBH7nM via @hardwarebbq #technews #pcmr #india #esportsindia #india #pcmr #pcmasterrace
— Hardware BBQ (@HardwareBBQ) October 7, 2018