Almost a year on from our look into why graphics card prices often seem to be higher than their manufacturer suggested retail pricing (MSRP), it’s happening again in much more dramatic fashion. Once again, availability and the ever-present fluctuations of supply and demand are the cause, but this time demand has skyrocketed because of graphics card-powered cryptocurrency mining.
It’s been years since graphics cards were used en masse for Bitcoin mining, because the hardware arms race meant that specialized application-specific integrated chip (ASIC) mining hardware quickly overtook them. Ethereum mining, however, as with other digital currencies, doesn’t benefit in the same way from specialized hardware, so graphics cards are a great solution for mining them, and that’s leading to stock shortages and price hikes.
On Friday, Nvidia stated that it was not happy with the current rising prices of GPUs, however, and requested that retailers take action to ensure the needs of gamers were met before cryptocurrency miners.
“For NVIDIA, gamers come first,” the company wrote in a comment to German website Computerbase.de. “All activities related to our GeForce product line are targeted at our main audience. To ensure that GeForce gamers continue to have good GeForce graphics card availability in the current situation, we recommend that our trading partners make the appropriate arrangements to meet gamers’ needs as usual.”
Here are a current list of graphics card prices at a few different retailers. These are the lowest prices we could find for these cards which are in stock and ready to ship, but many go for substantially more.
MSRP prices are for non-Founders Edition, stock cards.
|Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti||$700||$700||$700||$762|
|Nvidia GTX 1080||$550||$530||$500||$582|
|Nvidia GTX 1070||$380||$658||$700||$500|
|Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB||$250||$400||$400||$375|
|Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB||$200||$357||$243||$230|
|AMD RX 580||$230||$600||$700||Out of Stock|
|AMD RX 570||$170||$500||$650||No listing|
|AMD RX 560||$100||$100||$110||$117|
It’s important to point out that not all of the price rises you see are because of unscrupulous gouging. Supplies of base-model cards are almost nonexistent, so only the superclocked, water-cooled, fancy RGB lighting versions of these cards are still available. The cheapest GTX 1070 at Newegg, for example, was the MSI Sea Hawk version that ships from Canada. Other, much cheaper versions just weren’t in stock.
But these were still the cheapest versions we could find. Some stretched even further. We saw one GTX 1070 selling for as much as $850, which would be enough to buy you a far more powerful (for gaming) 1080 Ti and still save money. Miners have wrecked the pricing on the GTX 1060 too, making an extra $100 for the GTX 1080 seem like a far more reasonable purchase.
AMD’s cards were hit far worse, however. Following increased knowledge that they were some of the best cards for GPU mining, their prices have been steadily rising over the past few months, culminating in stock problems around the world. Those show no signs of abating, though we may have finally reached a point where people aren’t willing to pay three times the MSRP for them.
It’s reached such ridiculous heights that the current price for the RX 580 on Newegg is identical to the same card bundled with an AMD Ryzen 7 1700X CPU.
In some cases this price explosion has only been stopped by the cards being out of stock entirely. Tiger Direct has no AMD RX 580s available despite the cards only debuting a few months ago, and doesn’t even have a listing for the RX 570.
While this problem doesn’t appear to have extended to the very top-end cards, that’s more of a problem than it might seem, because most people can’t afford those cards. While it now seems like you can get a “better” deal by opting for a high-end graphics card than one of the more midrange options, that’s not how it’s supposed to be. The middle-of-the-road cards are supposed to offer the most bang for buck, but in a market accosted by mining rig builders, that’s no longer the case.
It’s not clear what can solve this problem, though increasing the number of cards manufactured would be a good place to start. Perhaps we’ll see purchasing limits introduced, as Nvidia does with some of its high-end graphics cards, but it would be a surprise to see either AMD or Nvidia look to clamp down on purchases. Ultimately, a sale is a sale, whether the cards are rendering pixels or crunching cryptocurrency algorithms.
The big rumor is that both companies are working on releasing mining-focused graphics cards which would ship with a slightly lower price tag and no video connectors. That would make them useless for running a gaming PC, but perfect for mining rigs, and could go some way to stem this tide of GPU purchasing that is leaving hardware enthusiasts and gamers with few options when it comes to their next upgrade.