HP Inc. and Nvidia Corporation face a proposed class action that claims they deceptively sold HP laptops with slower variants of Nvidia’s GeForce MX150 graphics processor units (GPU) without disclosing to consumers that the computers would not perform as well as advertised.
The 32-page case claims Nvidia, unbeknownst to consumers, manufactured two variants of its GeForce MX150 GPU in May 2017, one of which performed at the advertised specifications and the other of which performed “substantially worse.” According to the lawsuit, HP in June 2017 began offering consumers the option to upgrade from the base GPU in its Envy 13 “ultrabook” laptops to the MX150. The case alleges, however, that HP used the slower MX150 variant in the smaller 13-inch Envy 13 while consumers who purchased the larger models received the standard MX150.
According to the case, consumers who bought the smaller laptops were never told that their machine included the slower MX150 variant that would not perform as advertised. The suit claims consumers were misled as to the laptops’ speed and performance despite paying a higher price for what they believed to be a premium product. From the lawsuit:
“Because the specification sheet for the Class Laptops simply advertises the MX150 without disclosing that it is referring to the Slowed MX150 variant, consumers who opted for the MX150 upgrade purchased laptops that performed substantially worse than advertised and were unsuitable for many of the uses that would prompt purchasers to opt for the MX150 upgrade in the first place.”
Per the case, the defendants’ “greed-driven scheme” allowed the companies to sell more laptops at a higher price than they otherwise would have—at consumers’ expense.
The lawsuit explains that GPUs are specialized computer chips designed to process visual data from the CPU and transmit images to a computer’s monitor. A computer with a discrete GPU, i.e., a GPU with its own memory and processing power, is able to process visual data faster than a CPU on its own and is capable of producing higher quality visuals, making it particularly desirable for running video games, augmented-reality programs, three-dimensional modeling, and video and image processing, the suit relays. By contrast, an underpowered GPU can cause visual anomalies such as artifacts, flickering images and screen shuttering, according to the complaint.
When HP first made available its Envy 13 with the GeForce MX150 option, consumers paid a premium price for the laptops with the understanding that the machines were “exceptionally powerful” and had “[i]ncredible speed” that would provide “unbridled performance that overpowers even the most demanding tasks,” the lawsuit states.
What consumers were not told, the case alleges, was that Nvidia had produced and uniformly marketed two variants of MX150 GPUs with “wide performance differences and power demands.” Per the suit, Nvidia designed the slower version of the MX150 to be “better suited to the physical limitations” of the smallest HP Envy 13 laptops.
According to the case, a March 2018 NotebookCheck.com article claimed Nvidia had been “sneaking in [a] slower GeForce MX150 ‘1D12’ variant onto some Ultrabooks” that performed 20- to 25-percent worse than the other MX150 variant. Citing a series of performance tests, the lawsuit claims laptops with the slower MX150 variant were 20- to 28-percent slower than the fastest laptop tested and nine- to 17-percent slower than the average of the roughly two dozen laptops tested.
Neither HP nor Nvidia acknowledged in marketing materials that there were two versions of the MX150 “separated by a large performance gap,” according to the case. Instead, the suit says, the Envy 13 laptops with the MX150 GPU were all marketed as able to perform according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
The case claims consumers relied to their detriment on the defendant’s representations and paid a premium price for laptops that were “unfit for their common intended uses.”
“Contrary to Defendants’ promises of ‘amazing gaming performance’ and ‘faster, smoother gaming,’ the Slowed MX150 possesses insufficient power to play many modern video games or run virtual reality software without screen stuttering and other visual interruptions that render the Class Laptops unusable for such purposes,” the complaint relays.
Despite not disclosing the disparity to customers, Nvidia internally differentiates between the two MX150 variants, according to the suit, with the standard GPU bearing the internal model number N17S-G1-A1 and the slower version bearing the internal model number N17S-LG-A1.
According to the case, consumers would not have purchased their HP laptops had they known the machines contained the slower MX150 variant.
The lawsuit looks to represent anyone in the U.S., and a proposed subclass of Maryland residents, who purchased an HP laptop containing the slower MX150 variant after the June 2017 launch date.
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