We’re not in a GPU shortage, but it sure feels like one

2022 was a roller coaster for GPU prices. Prices started high, with the crypto boom on the verge of collapse, they dropped around the middle of the year, and now GPU prices are holding steady at a much more reasonable cost. Or at least compared to the massively inflated prices we saw during the GPU shortage.

We don’t have another shortage of GPUs, but I’ve still had a few messages from readers who are concerned about how expensive GPUs are right now. As we enter 2023, I wanted to look at the current state of the GPU market and where it might be headed, but more importantly decipher the difference between high GPU prices and a real shortage.

There is no shortage of GPUs here

RTX 4080 logo on a pink background.
Jēkabs Rochs / Digital trends

In September I boldly claimed that The RTX 4090 wouldn’t cause another shortage of GPUs. If you’ve been trying to get your hands on an RTX 4090 since launch, I’m sure you can imagine the proverbial egg on my face. While I stand by that initial point, there are some nuances to it, especially months after the RTX 4090 hit store shelves.

Let’s start with the RTX 4090. It’s been discontinued since its release, at least at major retailers like Newegg and Micro Center. You can still buy a new card through marketplaces like Newegg or Amazon, but you’ll be spending at least $2,200. Many cards are over $2,500.

We have plenty of evidence to suggest that we don’t have a shortage of GPUs

The used market isn’t much better. If you get a deal, eBay’s minimum is $2000, but again, you’ll be spending $2200 on most cards, and in some cases over $2500. It looks like a lack of GPU. The last generation RTX 3090 retailed for $1,500 ($100 less than the RTX 4090) and cost around $2,500 during the shortage.

However, we have a lot of evidence that points in the other direction. For starters, the Nvidia RTX 4080 has sold miserably. Scalpers can’t sell them at the above price on eBay, and some say they’ve tried unsuccessfully to return the cards. According to Wccftech’s Hassan Mujtaba, Nvidia has shipped more than four times as many RTX 4090s as RTX 4080s.

Even if those numbers are wrong, you need look no further than the list of RTX 4080 graphics cards. At the time of writing, Newegg has six models in stock at list price. And my local micro center alone has over 30 cards available for two models. Even monstrous GPUs like the last-gen RX 6500 XT sold out within hours during the GPU shortage, but the RTX 4080 is easily available nearly two months after release.

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The same goes for AMD’s recently launched RX 7900 XT, though not the much more popular RX 7900 XTX. If you’re buying last-gen cards, you can basically find any RTX 30 series or RX 6000 graphics card available from major retailers.

The situation we’re in right now isn’t a lack of GPUs. If you remember the last few years, everything out of stock and marked on the used market. This case is unique to the RTX 4090 and possibly the RX 7900 XTX, but we’re still too close to AMD’s launch to tell.

High GPU prices are another matter

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU.
Jēkabs Rochs / Digital trends

We don’t have another shortage of GPUs, but one effect remains. High GPU prices still reign supreme. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang received a lot of criticism for such a statement Falling GPU prices were a thing of the past, and rightfully so. But it was an oddly prophetic statement in hindsight.

We’ve looked at the RTX 4090, but even the obviously unpopular RTX 4080 is way more expensive than it should be. You can find one model, the PNY XLR8 Gaming Verto, for a list price of $1,200. Every other card available sells for $1,300 or more. Board partner cards are always more expensive than list price, but $100-$200 after poor sales and an already high MSRP? It’s hard to justify.

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The options of the last generation are worse. The RTX 3080, which should retail for $700, starts at around $900 despite being over two years old. Moving down the stack, Nvidia’s prices are better. The RTX 3060 Ti is about $50 over list price, just like the RTX 3060, and the RTX 3070 Ti is $100 over list price. However, it is important to remember the age of these cards. They are last generation and should sell for less than the list price at this time.

Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti Founders Edition on a pink background.
Jēkabs Rochs / Digital trends

These prices are a unique situation for Nvidia, and AMD GPUs provide a lot of context for where GPU prices should be. The AMD RX 6950 XT debuted at $1,100, but you can now find models in stock for around $800. Nvidia’s competing RTX 3090 Ti is available in a refurbished capacity for around $1,200. That’s a decent cut below the $2,000 list price for this card, but it’s also the same price Nvidia announced in August 2022.

Likewise, the AMD RX 6650 XT is $50 to $100 below list price, and the RX 6750 XT (which competes with Nvidia’s RTX 3070 Ti) is $150 below list price. The only exception here is the RX 6800 XT, which like the RTX 3080 sells for a much higher list price (about $200 above list price for AMD and Nvidia).

AMD RX 6950 XT installed on PC.
Jēkabs Rochs / Digital trends

Back in August, when Nvidia announced that it had an “overstock” of RTX 30-series GPUs, the writing was already on the wall. This generation of Nvidia is much more expensive compared to the previous one. The RTX 4080 is $500 more than the card it replaces, and the rumored RTX 4070 Ti could also be more than the last-gen RTX 3070 Ti. With much higher prices, Nvidia doesn’t have to compete with their last generation offerings and they can continue to sell at or above list price.

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Compare that to what AMD is doing. The RX 7900 XTX and RX 7900 XT take the space used by the last generation flagships, forcing prices down. However, let’s not be naive here. While it’s true that AMD’s unwavering pricing is driving down the cost of last-gen options, Nvidia has nearly 90% of the desktop GPU market. AMD needs lower prices to stay competitive. Nvidia is not.

GPU outlook for 2023

AMD RX 7900 XTX, which is located together with the matrix.

I expect to see a big drop in GPU prices in 2023 for two reasons. The first is the RTX 4080. Customers have voted with their wallets and made it clear that the pricing of this card is unacceptable, and I don’t think Nvidia will continue to release cards with similar markups if they continue to see poor sales.

The second reason is that we are past the lead phase. Throughout 2023, AMD and Nvidia will release GPUs in the lower end of the range, and then we’ll see the current and last generation GPUs really compete in price. AMD has already put some pressure on Nvidia with its RX 7900 XTX, which also goes up against the RTX 4080. In the $300-$500 price range, a similarly competitive GPU from AMD would force Nvidia’s hand.

However, there is no doubt about it AMD and Nvidia want to keep GPU prices as high as possible. That’s why they’re in the GPU business. While I’ve praised the RX 7900 XTX here for its competitive pricing compared to the RTX 4080, it’s important to remember that the AMD RX 7900 XT is also much more expensive than it should be. If AMD had cornered the GPU market like Nvidia, we’d likely see similarly high prices from Team Red.

The real competition is in the mid-range, where only a $50 or $100 difference is needed to influence a purchase decision. 2023 should bring these mid-range cards, and hopefully that’s when the high GPU prices we’re seeing now will begin to fade. After all, we are from a shortage of GPUs.

This article is part of ReSpec, an ongoing bi-weekly column featuring discussions, tips and in-depth reports on gaming technology.

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