Business, Graphics, Hardware

UPDATE #1: EVGA, where did your lifetime warranty go?

Ever since premium service vendors appeared on the IT market, one of main selling point was the level of service. When vendors such as Corsair, BFG, EVGA, OCZ appeared and offered lifetime warranty and excellent end-user support, most of our Taiwanese sources started to disclose their business models and claimed that operations such as EVGA cannot succeed due to low margins.

More than half a decade later, EVGA turned into quite a large operation, and with acquisition of EPoX engineering team the company started to produce brilliant motherboards as well. Recently, the company launched several engineering projects of their own, such as Classified motherboards and graphics cards [GTX285 Classified can take up to 600W of power] or GTX 275 Co-Op and there was no telling that we were impressed with the level of commitment.

EVGA Warranty - No Longer is the Lifetime "the only option"
EVGA Warranty – No Longer is the Lifetime "the only option"

Personally, I had the most fun talking to Tier 3 motherboard vendors when EVGA entered the world of non-nVidia-chipset market. The feeling of light panic was in all of my sources eyes, who asked how they can expect to succeed. My default approach is to analyze the past of all the companies involved in the market and see where their strengths are. For instance, EVGA could always command a price premium and customers would buy them due to combination of solid product, multiple SKU [Stock Keeping Units] based on a single product that passed additional testing, top-of-the-line warranty and customer service second to none. Personally, I worked with EVGA Europe ever since their inception and saw them growing to stratospheric levels of revenue, just as was in the past with Hercules and Gainward. The key to success in Europe was the fact that EVGA’s European operation was former Hercules and Gainward team [remember Golden Sample and H2O series or even back further, Hercules re-entry into graphics with nVidia cards?] lead by Hans Wolfram Tismer from operational side, Andreas and Aline handling sales and Peter Tersluisen from technical side [guilty party for Black Perl series].

But at the same time, we have noticed something odd is happening. In the past few months, EVGA started to introduce more and more products that do not carry lifetime warranties. Naturally, there are two sides to this story – from one, the conclusion would be that EVGA is getting rid of their lifetime warranties while the other side could be that these products were merely EVGA trying to push its products on those who do not care for lifetime warranties and would rather have inexpensive products rather than a lifetime warranty.

Slowly but surely, we believe that those who thought the lifetime warranty was going away are beginning to become right. Here is a recent breakdown of EVGA?s most recent products:

  • GT 240 – 2 years
  • GTX 275 CO-OP – 2 years
  • GT 210 and 220 – 2 years (yes this is a mainstream part, we can expect that to happen)
  • Entire P55 Lineup (6 different boards) – 3 years
  • GTX 285 Classified – 2 years

Now, the interesting part about the minimum warranty is the fact that EVGA US may claim that they offer "double the standard warranty." But in the European Union, manufacturers have to offer two year warranty by law, just like they can’t offer lifetime warranty [EVGA, Corsair and others offered 10 year warranty instead]. In any case, all of the recently introduced EVGA’s products carry a minimum warranty, which confirms the claims of Taiwanese manufacturers – EVGA cannot keep up the warranty scheme. A business model that worked for a decade obviously isn’t working anymore, even though – how come remaining premium vendors are still in the business?

Most people associate EVGA with their lifetime/10-year warranty and the step-up program. Asking almost anyone who is familiar with the brand and they will associate EVGA with their lifetime warranty and their customer service. Now, if they let their lifetime warranty slip, who’s to say they won’t or aren’t letting their customer service slip too? We heard rumors that EVGA might be letting the step-up program go as well but given the origin of those sources [competing manufacturers], we aren’t inclined to believe that is going on. We contacted our regular contacts at EVGA but are yet to receive an answer.

The last product to be released by EVGA that carried a lifetime warranty appears to be the X58 SLI 4-Way SLI motherboard, which needless to say is not a board that we?d expect them to sell many of considering the $500 price point and lack of availability up until recently. While we understand that some products may have limited production runs, and that the warranty may reflect that? There is still reason to grant a lifetime warranty if EVGA really wanted to as there have been limited run products in the past.

Update #1 November 21, 2009 02:16AM GMT – We received comment from Jacob Freeman and Joe Darwin of EVGA US office, and we’re running their statement in full:
"We recently noticed your article about EVGA Warranty and Step-up and would like to make a few points:

  1. EVGA pioneered the Step-up? program and even trademarked the term; this will definitely be ongoing and will continue to be a service that EVGA offers.
  2. Limited Lifetime Warranty is still an option on many EVGA products.
  3. You will continue to see Limited Lifetime Warranty on many EVGA products as long as the warranty can be sustained; you can expect to see Limited Lifetime Warranty on next generation reference design cards!
  4. Recently you have seen EVGA making more specialty products, such as GTX 275 CO-OP and 285 Classified; these products require major enhancements over the reference designs. Because of the special parts needed for these builds, they are typically limited in QTY?s and offers.

EVGA will not settle to be 2nd best in service and support to our customers!"

In the future, we will closely monitor EVGA’s commitment to their customers and again, thanks to a customer that informed us of the change in policy. Unfortunately, EVGA lost a customer who spent a five figure sum in US notes on his personal computers for EVGA equipment alone. Only time will tell whether EVGA come up on top or become "one of many" companies who fight for customer dollars. At BSN*, we put you, as the consumer – first. From the e-mail that EVGA sent, next-gen GeForce reference boards will have lifetime warranty, but there is a question hanging over factory-overclocked boards and special designs. Does that mean the end of warranties for liquid cooled boards etc – only time will tell. There is only one thing that comes to my mind. To paraphrase, EVGA made a "step down".