Rumours started to surface last week over potentially cheaper to manufacture versions of Nvidia's RTX 40-series GPUs, the AD103 and AD104 chips found in its RTX 4080 and the upcoming RTX 4070, respectively. Several GPU manufacturers have now confirmed the rumours, which will certainly help cut manufacturing costs, though whether it will translate to cheaper graphics cards is another matter entirely.
Nvidia's AIB partner Gainward was, according to Igor's Lab (opens in new tab), the first to confirm the news of the new stepped GPUs, with MSI, Galax, and Colorful following suit (via El Chapuzas (opens in new tab)). Each has been given the go ahead for when the new versions of the GPUs appear.
These aren't cut down versions with less cores, not by any means. By shuffling the PCB design around, however, Nvidia and its partners will be able to omit some unnecessary components—such as the comparator circuit, which helps to regulate voltage—and cut the manufacturing costs by some amount. To be clear, these new stepped GPUs are not an uncommon way for companies to refine and simplify manufacturing, as well as cut costs.
There's a potential that Nvidia has started the work in order to encourage loyalty from its AIB partners. Something no doubt weighing on the minds of Nvidia staff after EVGA pulled out (opens in new tab) of the GPU game, due to a lack of profit from ever-expensive graphics cards.
Either way, it looks like we'll one day be seeing the RTX 4070's AD104-250 chip switched to an AD104-251 version, with the RTX 4080's AD103-300 also getting an AD103-301 variant.
Whether these will end up replacing the current chip in the RTX 4080 is unclear, though Igor's Lab is confident the RTX 4070's -251 variant will go into production within weeks of the standard version.