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Nvidia and AMD address the great GPU shortage

Nvidia and AMD address the great GPU shortage


It’s not great news

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Photo by Sean Hollister / The Verge

Nvidia’s new RTX 3080, 3070, 3060 Ti and 3090 and the AMD RX 6800 and 6800 XT are all incredibly hard to find, selling out instantly whenever they appear, due to an incredible level of demand that makes these GPUs worth many hundreds of dollars more than MSRP. A Trump tax and surging cryptocurrency prices may be about to make them even more expensive, too. Many older graphics cards are sold out online as well.

This week, Nvidia and AMD finally have some updates — and it’s bittersweet news.

On the plus side, AMD tells The Verge it expects to sell more of its own reference design RX 6800, 6800 XT and RX 6900 XT cards on its own website in the first quarter of 2021 at their sticker prices, which should mean $579, $649 and $999 instead of inflated ones. But AMD is only committing to make them available “to as many gamers as possible,” which may not reassure buyers who felt AMD had a paper launch to begin with.

Nvidia, meanwhile, is now saying that supplies of its GPUs to both consumers and partners “will likely remain lean through Q1,” and we’re not even talking about the first quarter of the year — Nvidia’s fiscal Q1 doesn’t end until late April. That’s an awfully long wait.

Again, it’s demand, not just supply constraints, that are keeping graphics cards out of our hands. Nvidia tells us that since launch, its $499-and-up RTX 30-series GPUs have sold almost twice as much as the RTX 20-series did after the same amount of time. (The RTX 30-series is a much bigger upgrade than the previous gen was, mind you — there weren’t a lot of games that took advantage of Nvidia’s ray tracing at the time, and people’s GTX 10-series cards were still holding up just fine.)

Nvidia does at least seem to think crypto miners aren’t snapping up all the cards quite yet, despite the sky-high prices we’ve recently seen for Bitcoin and Ethereum.

“If crypto demand begins or if we see a meaningful amount,” said CFO Colette Kress at a recent investor conference, “we can also use that opportunity to restart the CMP product line to address ongoing mining demand.” CMP refers to Nvidia’s dedicated crypto mining GPUs, which strip away the video ports miners don’t need because they aren’t driving graphics to a monitor, making them them more profitable for Nvidia.

Only Asus has admitted to higher GPU prices so far

As far as whether Trump’s taxes might impact the price of graphics cards, Nvidia isn’t saying much — but board partners EVGA and Zotac may have answered that themselves, adding $70 to $100 (or more!) to the price of each card with price increases this past week. AMD CEO Lisa Su claims the company is trying its best to keep prices down but without specifics. Here’s a quote transcribed by AnandTech:

We knew about the expiration of some tariff policies, and in advance worked towards a more flexible supply chain as it relates to AMD. We are committed to keeping GPU pricing as close to our suggested retail pricing as much as possible, because it’s the only way to be fair to the users. Normally when we have GPU launches, our own branded cards are available initially but then fade away for our partners to pick up. This time around we’re not phasing out our RX 6000 series, enabling us to sell direct to customers as low as possible. We’re encouraging partners to do the same. Not only tariffs, but the COVID environment has increased shipping and freight costs, which are hard to avoid. As we get into a more normal environment, this should improve. This also matters for our planned graphics updates through the first half of the year, as we have a lot of product coming to market.

That sounds good, but it’s still fairly noncommittal — and feels like a step back from what AMD told Hardware Unboxed in November, about how partners should be able to sell the RX 6800 XT at its original $649 MSRP within eight weeks.

During their back-to-back CES 2021 keynotes today, AMD praised how its new graphics cards gave the company “leadership at the high end” and noted that “many gamers are excited about the Radeon RX 6000 series,” while Nvidia acknowledged that “these products have been hard to find, and we want to thank you for your patience as we continue to work hard to catch up.”

It’s going to be a wait, and you shouldn’t be surprised if Nvidia’s just-announced $329 GeForce RTX 3060 is hell to buy, just like its predecessors. Like many have asked: why can’t we just buy one and they ship it when it’s ready?

Update January 13th, 11AM ET: Added AMD CEO Lisa Su’s thoughts on Trump’s tariffs and pricing, thanks to AnandTech, and EVGA and Zotac price bunps.