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What to do About the GPU Shortage?


Things are bad for those who want to buy a new GPU these days. Thanks to cryptocurrency-driven demand for high-end graphics cards gamers and professionals now have to deal with massively inflated GPU prices. What can you do? Hereís our advice.

When GPU technology started muscling in on more general purpose computation it was undoubtedly a good thing, but it also means demand for GPUs now also comes from non-graphics applications.

Itís one of the reasons that Nvidia sells the Tesla cards which canít be used for graphics at all.

No one could however have predicted how much the demand for GPUs from cryptocurrency miners would affect the market. Modern high-end GPUs are great for mining crypto. Specific models have become incredibly popular thanks to their price/performance ratio when mining. Itís not the absolutely most powerful cards that are being snapped up. Itís mid- to high- range units like the GTX 1080 and 1070. Where a 1080 should run you around $500 the prices have soared to more than a grand!

Why is This Happening?

The most simple answer is that the value of Bitcoin and now perhaps Ethereum, has just been climbing and climbing. The more a given cryptocurrency is worth the more people are willing to invent money in hardware. The prices are stabilized at what miners are willing to pay for them at the moment. Not gamers and graphics professionals.

What Are GPU Makers Doing About It?

Both Nvidia and AMD seem to have been caught out a bit by this sudden demand. Nvidia's answer has been to limit online buyers to just two cards per customer. Theyíve also asked retailers to do the same, but they arenít obligated to.

AMDís answer is to ramp up production, which seems like a better idea, but we suspect Nvidia was already making as many cards as they could, given their market position.

Both of these measures should help to ease prices down again, but thereís no telling how long this will take. A sudden crash in crypto value might also tank GPU prices from where they are now, but who can say?

So what should you do right now if youíre in the market for a new GPU?

Do You Really Need to Upgrade?

Getting a new, shiny and fast component is always awesome, but this is possible the worst time to buy certain GPUs. If the GPU you have in mind has been affected by crypto demand and you really donít want anything else, the best move might be to wait. Think about the percentage performance gain from the new card vs your current model and then work out whether you think the price/performance ratio is worth it for your application. If not, hold off.

Aim Higher

Truly top end cards such as the Titan series havenít felt the price pressure as much since miners canít buy those cards in volume and they arenít that great in terms of mining returns for the price. So now weíre in a situation where a Titan Xp might only cost a little more than a GTX 1080 Ti.

Aim Lower

Lower performing cards such as the GTX 1050 Ti havenít been affected as much by the shortage and have more GPU power than most users need. 1080p gamers and VR users are covered as are many professionals. If the price difference between these midrange cards and the inflated high-end donít make it worth the outlay then a lower-end unit could by the right answer.

Itís a Sellerís Market

If youíre sitting on any of the sought-after GPU models right now this is a golden chance to offload them to miners. Itís even likely that you can now get more for your current GPU than you paid for it new! If you can, hold on to that money until the prices come down when supply is raised to meet demand. Alternatively, just think of it as a massive discount on a new card.

Itís Going to Be a Buyerís Market

If you donít mind buying used cards weíre probably going to see a flood of ex-mining cards hit the market a year or so from now. If you can hold out until then there should be some real bargains. However, cards that have been used for mining might be more prone to fail since they are run 24/7. Often without the best cooling solutions.

Things are crazy right now, but if youíre smart about it there are some deals to be had too. Things will blow over one way or another, but for now think twice before splurging on GPU technology.