2022 on GPUs: Shortage ends, but higher prices seem to be here to stay

From left to right, largest to smallest: GeForce RTX 4080 (which is the same physical size as the RTX 4090), Radeon RX 7900 XTX, and Radeon RX 7900 XT.
Enlarge / From left to right, largest to smallest: GeForce RTX 4080 (which is the same physical size as the RTX 4090), Radeon RX 7900 XTX, and Radeon RX 7900 XT.

andres cunningham

In 2021, the biggest story about GPUs was that you mostly couldn’t buy them, not without paying inflated prices from resellers on eBay or learning how to navigate a maze of stock tracking websites or Discords.

The good news is that the situation for stocks improved a lot in 2022. A fall in cryptocurrencies and a drop in PC sales reduced the demand for GPUs, which in turn made them less profitable for resellers, which in turn in turn, the situation of the shares improved. Today it is possible to visit an online store and purchase many GPUs for an amount that is at least slightly close to their original list price.

We also saw a lot of new GPU launches in 2022. The year started badly with the release of 1080p-focused cards and inflated prices like Nvidia’s RTX 3050 Y AMD’s inspiringly mediocre RX 6500 XT. But at the end of the year, we got the hugely expensive but hugely powerful one from Nvidia. RTX 4090 Y RTX 4080 cards, AMD’s less monstrous but still competitive RX 7900 series, and Flawed but price-conscious Intel Arc A770 and A750 cards.

The bad news is that the fallout from the GPU shortage still lingers, mostly in the form of inflated prices. We can expect these to taper off in 2023, but so far, there is little sign of that happening.

Budget GPUs are in a sorry state

You can still find GPUs at $200 or less if you’re looking for better base performance than built into older, lower-end games that you’ll run mostly at 1080p or lower.

But performance in this category has moved very little in the last three or four years. Nvidia seems content to serve this lower-end slice of the gaming market with the same GeForce GTX 1650 GPU it introduced in 2019, a card that continues to stubbornly move in the $150 to $200 price window despite its age. AMD and Intel have brought new cards to the sub-$200 market in the last year, and those cards can sometimes outperform the GTX 1650. But these cards are also flawed in some hard-to-ignore ways.

AMD RX 6500XT originally a laptop GPU that was tailored for desktops and as a result supports fewer displays than other RX 6000 series GPUs, no support for hardware video encoding, and its performance on older supported PCs with PCI Express 3.0 it’s poor because it only provides four lanes of PCIe bandwidth in the first place. Intel’s Arc A380 has excellent support for video encoding (even for the AV1 video codec), but like other Arc cards, its drivers are clunky and performance in older games can be spotty.

If top GPUs like Nvidia’s RTX 3050 series and AMD’s RX 6600 series drop into the $200-and-under range soon, we’ll feel much better about the state of budget GPUs (the RX 6600 is getting pretty close, with prices falling in the $220-250 range for some models depending on the sale). Those GPUs still have compromises, like lackluster ray tracing performance and a more hit-or-miss experience at resolutions above 1080p, but it’ll be nice to put the GTX 1650 firmly in the rear view.

For the best GPUs, $1,000 and up is the new normal

Nvidia's beefy RTX 4090 GPU also has a hefty price tag of $1,600, and you'll pay more than that to buy the GPU right now.
Enlarge / Nvidia’s beefy RTX 4090 GPU also has a hefty price tag of $1,600, and you’ll pay more than that to buy the GPU right now.

Sam Machkovech

Switching to the other end of the market, it used to be that GPUs with four-digit price tags were mostly ignored by regular people. Halo products like Nvidia’s Titan GPUs performed well, sure, but why pay all that money when the cheaper xx80 and xx70 series GPUs could give you a large percentage of that performance for a small percentage of the price?

The history of this generation’s mid-range cards has yet to be written, but so far, the high-end cards in the RTX 4000 series and RX 7000 series have made the list for much longer than their predecessors. The $1,200 RTX 4080 that’s a big jump from the $700 that Nvidia originally announced for the RTX 3080 and 2080. If the newly renamed 4070 Ti launches at $900 as currently rumored (and originally planned, back when it was called the “RTX 4080 12GB”), it will be a substantial increase over the $500 to $600 launch prices of cards like the RTX 2070, RTX 3070, and RTX 3070 You.

All of these prices are made much worse by the fact that you can’t find RTX 4080 or 4090 cards anywhere near their launch MSRPs right now.

Things look slightly less exorbitant on the AMD side, where the Top Tier RX 7900 XTX released for the same price of $999 as the last-gen top-tier RX 6900 XT did. But while the 6900 XT was paired with an RX 6800 XT that provided most of the performance for $649, the 7900 XTX’s little brother is an $899 RX 7900 XT that actually gives you less performance per dollar than the XTX. Both cards continue to undercut Nvidia’s price for the RTX 4000 series, but it’s more about how expensive the 4090 and 4080 are than the value AMD provides.

Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia said these higher prices are here to stay, courtesy of the increased costs associated with designing and manufacturing these GPUs. Obviously, Huang is not an impartial observer here: he is materially committed to keeping his GPU prices up, especially as Nvidia’s finances have suffered. But there is some truth to what he says: state-of-the-art manufacturing processes are expensive, Nvidia is fighting AMD, Apple and all sorts of other chip designers for TSMC production capacity, and giant monolithic chips like GPUs RTX 4000 will have less performance than smaller and less complex processor dies.

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