Why graphics cards cost so much right now

It’s a bleak time to be a PC gamer. Nvidia’s new GeForce RTX 30-series and AMD’s new Radeon RX 6000-series graphics playing cards blaze new efficiency trails in comparison with final era’s disappointing choices—however most individuals haven’t any probability of getting their fingers on both, particularly not at a sane value. New graphics card inventory drops disappear in minutes, if not seconds, at on-line retailers, typically at crazily excessive costs. A lot of these playing cards reappear shortly thereafter on resale websites like Ebay and Craiglist for twice their recommended value, or extra.

Right here’s a really tangible current instance. AMD’s Radeon RX 6700 XT launched at $480 in mid-March. We mentioned that in a sane GPU market, the value was about $100 too excessive for the efficiency provided. Sapphire mentioned it could cost $580—an extra $100 premium—for its incredible, custom-designed Nitro+ variant. When the Nitro+ 6700 XT really hit the streets at Newegg, nonetheless, it price a whopping $730 and nonetheless bought out very quickly. The cardboard is at present going for over $1,000 on Ebay. Most individuals have had extra success claiming a vaccine shot than a brand new GPU this 12 months, unbelievably sufficient.

So why do graphics playing cards price a lot proper now? It’s extra than simply the scalpers and cryptocurrency geeks that everybody likes accountable. Let’s dig into this excellent (s***)storm.

1. Demand is wild proper now

Demand for gaming blew up through the pandemic, with everybody bored and caught at dwelling. Within the early days of the lockdowns in the USA and China, Nintendo’s superior Swap console grew to become red-hot. Even alternative controllers and a few video games grew to become onerous to seek out.

steam data Valve

Steam served up 25.2 exabytes (or 25.2 million 1 terabyte onerous drives) of information in 2020.

Nintendo Swap provide grew to become way more out there as time wore on, however when the brand new graphics playing cards and next-gen PlayStation 5 and Xbox Sequence X consoles launched final fall, in addition they suffered from overwhelming demand, (and nonetheless do). PC gaming boomed through the pandemic, with Steam setting contemporary concurrent consumer milestones seemingly each different week.

Individuals simply need to play. Heaps of individuals—even ones who weren’t players earlier than.

2. Provide woes

Regardless that each Nvidia and AMD have mentioned they’ve been delivery as many or extra graphics playing cards than in prior launches, it nonetheless hasn’t been sufficient to maintain up with the overwhelming demand, for a couple of completely different causes.

lisa su rdna 2 radeon chip AMD

AMD CEO Lisa Su holding a uncommon RDNA 2 graphics chip.

On the AMD facet of issues, the corporate launched not solely the Radeon RX 6000-series final fall, but additionally the best-in-class Ryzen 5000 desktop and laptop computer processors and people next-gen consoles, which each function AMD chips that marry Ryzen and Radeon on a single die. The corporate additionally plans on launching cell Radeon RX 6000-series GPUs for laptops quickly, too.

Each a type of merchandise are fabricated by the TSMC foundry in Taiwan on the identical 7nm course of. They’re all preventing for a similar 7nm chip wafers. AMD doubtless wanted to prioritize wafers for the next-gen consoles through the essential vacation gross sales interval as a part of their agreements with Microsoft and Sony. Ryzen CPUs—which have also been in short supply—not only best Intel’s champions for the first time in a long time, but they use much smaller dies than the large Radeon chips, so they’re likely higher on the totem pole than graphics cards until the 7nm crunch dissipates a bit.

The introduction of Radeon GPUs with smaller dies (like the aforementioned Radeon RX 6700 XT) could also make it more economical for AMD to focus on churning out graphics cards. The smaller the die, the more chips you can get from a single wafer.

Beyond the AMD-specific TSMC logjam, the chip industry in general has been suffering from supply woes. Even automakers and Samsung have warned that they’re struggling to keep up with demand. We’ve heard whispers that the components used to manufacture chips—from the GDDR6 memory used in modern GPUs to the substrate material fundamentally used to construct chips—have been in short supply as well. Seemingly every industry is seeing vast demand for chips of all sorts right now.

amd gddr6 AMD

The reminiscence chips that work in tandem round a graphics card’s GPU have additionally been briefly provide.

“There’s different trade headwinds our entire provide chain workforce is taking a look at throughout the PC ecosystem,” Radeon chief Scott Herkelman advised us throughout an unique interview on the Radeon RX 6700 XT’s launch day. “Some parts on a graphics card—or perhaps a motherboard for that matter—are even longer now, so you need to plan out a bit of bit longer.”