Sky-high GPU prices are still going strong, and there is no end in sight. Many hope that supplies will balance out demand soon, and some pray for miraculous altcoin crash event. But, whatever your aspirations are for this ongoing severe shortage of GPUs, nothing is going to change the fact that only a trickle of them are actually flowing into the common consumer folk right now. Here, we look at how to deal with the global chip shortage crisis.
We can lament about the situation and cry foul at those that cause it, but your best bet right is to just deal with the crisis using some form of clever resource management or strategy that will get you want you want. Since this is not any ordinary event, there will be a few specific measures needed to survive these technologically trying times…
Why the GPU Shortage Currently Exists
The current GPU crisis is a literal storm of different events that combined together to create an electronic-industry price inflation event never before seen in history. The main contributing factors are the following:
- Increased indoor activity e.g. work from home WFH due to the current pandemic – COVID-19 has sent the entire world on a mandatory lockdown, forcing many people to resort to online services and home computers to do jobs they were doing in the office before the pandemic. As for enthusiasts, being stuck at home means more potential boredom, and the demand for GPUs in the name of entertainment inevitably increased.
- Reduced manufacturing capability due to lack of personnel – the same vein, the pandemic also drastically reduced the number of active personnel available on most manufacturing facilities. This includes chip manufacturing fabs like the ones owned by TSMC (currently the only discrete GPU chip manufacturer), further worsening the inability for supply to meet the exponential demand.
- Scalpers take advantage by reselling GPUs at several times more than MSRP. With a clear high demand by shortage of GPUs, scalpers have promptly invaded the GPU space, using advanced purchasing bots to quickly swipe GPUs and sell them at outrageously marked-up prices. Those who can’t find GPUs anywhere are forced to deal with them, which again further worsens the supply versus demand situation overall.
- Altcoin mining experience yet another explosive revival. With the introduction of the RTX 30 series, cryptominers are yet again introduced to a machine that is not only powerful, but is also massively power efficient and very affordable to mine altcoins like Etherium with. Combine them with scalpers, and an infinite upward demand trend for GPUs start to exist, making it impossible now to just casually walk to a tech shop if you want to purchase one.
- AiB partners also want a piece of that delicious x2/3 MSRP pie. GPU distributors quickly realized very early on that, instead of just letting the retailers increase the prices, they would simply increase the MSRP themselves. They too, want to benefit from the current shortage crisis. The Asus ROG Strix 6700 XT, for example, is priced by default at $830, which is significantly higher than the intended original MSRP of the reference 6700 XT ($480).
Dealing with the Crisis Psychologically
The disillusionment of many DIY PC enthusiasts over the current crisis has led to many paranoia-fed conspiracy theories and negative thoughts. While some of them are based in reality, the fact is some of them are way too overblown. Before we financially deal with the crisis, it might be best to deal with the issue first psychologically:
- This is NOT a business conspiracy between AMD and Nvidia. These two companies are, after all, based on distributing customized merchandise. As such, the availability of a wide inventory to cater to every customer base level is more important for the long term than just being able to profit by “selling anything for twice the price” in the short term. That being said, certain AiB partners, such as MSI and Asus, are not completely blameless in this crisis.
- Still got a 1070? A 1660 Super? Or even an RX 580? Then just wait. Seriously speaking, if you have something equivalent to an RX 580/GTX 1060 and above (or even a GTX 1050 Ti), then you can still game fairly well, “modernly”, and at respectable enough display and graphic settings. It is in your best interest to just wait, and not fall victim to the punishing extortion of GPU scalpers.
- Fabs that will ramp up production to (hopefully) meet demand aren’t coming soon. Understandably, it takes a good investment of both time and money to create fabrication plants from scratch. Sure, some changes may happen even as early as the next few months, but don’t expect things to change drastically until at least more than two years later.
- Hope for the best for Intel’s GPUs, but don’t treat them as saviors. In the current GPU crisis, many consumers are starting to look into Intel and their upcoming lineup of powerful discrete GPUs to be the last saving grace of this issue. Sure, they might have their own fabs as opposed to AMD and Nvidia’s “renting” of TSMC’s fabs, but there is no guarantee that the company would not uphold the same questionable practices as current AiB partners have.
How to Get a GPU in The Current Crisis?
If you really, really need to get a GPU now for whatever ’emergency’ situation you may have, there are still a few methods to obtain one at relatively MSRP. Just a quick disclaimer, though, none of these works 100%, and you still have to do your fair share of precaution so as not to waste your funds further:
1. Avail in GPU “lottery” events
Sounds crazy, but with the equally crazy crisis still ongoing, this remains one of the most legit ways to be able to buy a GPU at full MSRP. Join your local Newegg Shuffle, and offer a worthy sacrifice to the ancient compuiter gods before you sleep at night.
2. Queue up, and brace yourself for the long wait
Since we are all in here for the long haul, why not just queue up an order and wait? You’re not going to get that GPU for a while anyway, so might as well finish the line maybe as the GPU crisis itself eases down.
3. Regularly finishing your religious pilgrimage to your local tech store
For the highly privileged, such as those living near Micro Center stores, you may simply opt to walk in regular, either to queue up, or just hope that a GPU happens to be lying on a shelf on that day and hour that you visited.
4. Visit alternative PC component selling sources
It would require a good amount of regular and quality searching, but something like the FB Market Place can help you haggle and bargain on what you are really looking for. Craiglist is also another option, if you like an added layer of “challenge” to your GPU hunt.
5. Buy from a friend, or a friend’s friend
Use whatever legitimate social connections you can use to guilt-trip them to convince them to sell you a GPU at hopefully reasonable prices. No guarantees on what kind of GPU you’ll get, but it’s certainly better than nothing if pulled off successfully.
6. Do comprehensive inventory research on second-hand GPUs value-to-performance ratios.
Then, decide to (temporarily) use the best one you can get for a few years. For example, Greg Salazar concluded that in the U.S. markets, the AMD Radeon R9 380X sits surprisingly very near its original resale value price, making it the best GPU to buy in the current crisis if you are living in the U.S. At least, at the time that he posted the video (April 2021).
DISCLAIMER: the R9 380X is notoriously known for its temps, and high power requirements (like an RX 580)
7. Buy a ready made / off-the-shelf gaming desktop
Instead of waiting for the GPU prices to come down, what about investing in a wholly new machine with your favourite GPU pre-installed. These ready made, off-the-shelf system may cost a bit more but it does mean that you get an updated system. Some off-the-shelf units are even cheaper than custom built system. All the individual components and time spent putting it together add up. Here are some of the gaming desktops from major manufacturers:
- HP OMEN, HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop
- ACER Predator Orion, ACER Nitro Gaming Desktop
- DELL Alienware Aurora Gaming Desktop, DELL G5 Gaming Laptop, DELL Alienware Area-51
- ASUS ROG Strix Gaming Desktop
- MSI Aegis R Gaming Desktop
- LENOVO Legion Tower Gaming Desktop
- and a slew of other gaming desktops from third party builders
8. Get a powerful gaming laptop
In the same vein as above, you can also consider a powerful gaming laptop with dedicated GPU. Mobile versions of the NVIDIA RTX 30 series display are just as powerful with the added advantage of being energy efficient. So the questions then become the size of the display and do you want a high refresh rate to go with it.
From affordable gaming laptop with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 to chart topping GeForce GTX 3080 with 16GB dedicated graphics memory, and everything in between, there is no shortage of choice. Every manufacturer have their own line of gaming laptops, see below for a comprehensive list.
- ACER Predator Triton, Acer Predator Helios, Acer Nitro
- DELL Alienware, DELL G7, DELL G5, DELL G3
- HP OMEN, HP ENVY, HP Pavilion
- LENOVO Legion series
- MSI GF series, MSI GE, MSI GE Dragonshield, MSI Stealth, MSI Creator series
- ASUS ROG Zephyrus, ASUS ROG Strix, ASUS TUF Dash
- RAZER Blade, RAZER Blade Stealth
- GIGABYTE Aorus, Gigabyte Aero
Lastly, you can give up and simply buy scalped cards. Of course, this option only applies if you truly, truly need the GPU for some technical reason, like if you are a graphical artist or something. Otherwise, you are going to just feed the fuel that fires this crisis even more.
So… How Long Will the Crisis Last?
Very optimistic people will claim that things would start to ease down significantly as 2021 comes to a close. But, even though there is a good reason to believe that things are somewhat going to get better in the next few months, there is no reason to conclude that the crisis itself will end this year.
In fact, Nvidia and AMD predict that no significant changes would occur until at least 2022. Even then, nobody knows when during 2022 would this take effect, if it ever would accurately happen on that year. As such, if you have any sort of DIY PC plan ongoing, you need to incorporate the high likelihood of not being able to purchase one properly until at least 2023-2024.
Edited by Samuel J. Tan