GPU Pricing Unveiled: A Year in Review and Future Projections
The Waiting Game: Upcoming GPU Launches
Before we dive into the details of GPU pricing, let's address a pressing question: Is now the right time to invest in a new graphics card, especially with the holiday season upon us? The answer, in most cases, leans toward waiting, and here's why.
Nvidia's RTX Super series graphics cards are on the horizon, and their launch is expected to be a game-changer. Scheduled for January 8th at CES 2024, these refreshed RTX 40 graphics cards are likely to offer improved performance and value. So, if you're contemplating a GPU upgrade and have some holiday cash burning a hole in your pocket, it's advisable to exercise patience and wait until mid-January for the official unveiling.
Traditionally, some might consider purchasing existing GPUs just before the release of new models, hoping to capitalize on potential discounts. However, this strategy has become increasingly rare in today's GPU market. Preemptive discounts ahead of product unveilings have become an exception rather than the rule. Currently, there has been minimal movement in the prices of GPUs like the RTX 4070 and RTX 4080. Moreover, this generation has not witnessed existing models' prices skyrocketing after the introduction of new ones.
Given the lack of significant price shifts or pre-launch discounts, the best course of action is to wait for the unveiling of the RTX Super series. Waiting enables you to make an informed decision with all the facts at your disposal. If the Super series proves to offer superior value, you can opt for these new cards, ensuring you get the latest technology. Alternatively, if the existing models receive discounts, you can choose them at a reduced price, securing excellent value for your purchase.
The Mid-Range Dilemma
The decision to wait or buy now also extends to those considering mid to upper-range GPUs, whether from Nvidia or AMD. If the RTX 4070 Super, for instance, delivers exceptional value, it could prompt AMD to adjust pricing for their Radeon RX 7800 XT to remain competitive. AMD has demonstrated a willingness to adapt to market dynamics, making the mid to upper-tier GPU market a space where patience can be rewarding.
For those contemplating GPUs in the $500-plus price category, waiting is the wisest choice. The potential launch of the RTX Super series might introduce substantial improvements or compel competitors to reevaluate their pricing strategies. As a result, potential buyers can benefit from a clearer picture and make well-informed decisions.
However, if you're in the market for lower-tier GPUs, such as the GeForce RTX 4060 or Radeon RX 7600, the impact of the RTX Super series launch on this price category is expected to be minimal, at least initially. Therefore, you can proceed with your purchase without significant concerns, always keeping an eye out for enticing deals.
Underwhelming Prospects for RTX 40 Super Series
As we anticipate the RTX Super series, it's important to set realistic expectations. These upcoming GPUs are not expected to revolutionize the market or deliver game-changing improvements. Instead, the improvements are likely to be incremental.
Rumors suggest that the RTX 4080 will see a minor upgrade to become the RTX 4080 Super, while the RTX 4070 Ti will similarly transform into the RTX 4070 Ti Super, featuring an increased VRAM capacity of 16GB. The performance gains are projected to remain modest, not exceeding 20% and likely hovering around the 10% mark or even lower.
The Dark Clouds: RTX 4090 and Radeon RX 7800 XT
While the GPU market holds promise for the future, there are two ominous clouds casting shadows over certain segments. The RTX 4090, due to export restrictions to China, has seen its pricing become excessively inflated. Export restrictions have driven many AIBs and distributors to rush RTX 4090s into China before the restrictions take hold. Consequently, this has created a shortage in other regions and inflated pricing, with RTX 4090s now fetching around $2,000. This substantial price increase stands in stark contrast to the GPU's original MSRP, making it challenging to justify the purchase, despite its exceptional performance.
Another concerning development is the inflated pricing of the Radeon RX 7800 XT, rendering it an unattractive option. While this card should ideally be priced at $500, the cheapest models currently hover around $540. This pricing discrepancy erodes the card's value proposition, especially when the RTX 4070 is available for just $550. The impending launch of the RTX Super series further complicates matters, potentially overshadowing the Radeon GPU in the current market.
In a previous benchmark analysis across 45 games, the Radeon RX 7800 XT showcased a marginal 5% performance advantage over the RTX 4070 at 1440p resolution. If the Radeon GPU were priced at its intended $500 MSRP, it would offer a reasonable 5% performance boost at a 9% lower cost compared to the RTX 4070 priced at $550. However, the current pricing landscape tilts the scales unfavorably, making it challenging to justify choosing the Radeon GPU over Nvidia's offering.
Used Graphics Cards: A Parallel Market
The dynamics of the used graphics card market have mirrored trends in the new GPU market, albeit with some nuances. Throughout the year, Nvidia GPUs experienced price drops ranging from 20% to 30%, with examples including a 26% reduction for the 3080 Ti, a 28% decrease for the RTX 3070, and a 22% decline for the RTX 3060. Similarly, used AMD GPUs saw price declines within the same range, with the RX 6900 XT down by 25%, the 6700 XT by 21%, and the RX 6600 by 24%. These consistent price drops have been punctuated by a minor uptick in December.
Notably, the availability of new last-generation models has persisted, with both Nvidia and AMD striving to clear inventory through aggressive price reductions. However, this approach has not yielded the desired results, highlighting the sluggish demand and slower GPU market compared to previous years.
While the current GPU generation may not be groundbreaking, each launch has sparked increased interest and purchases. Price adjustments have been observed as new cards enter the market. Despite its shortcomings, the GPU market in 2023 has witnessed notable sales spikes during launch periods, indicating the enduring demand for graphics cards.
In conclusion, the GPU market has undergone significant fluctuations and developments throughout the year, culminating in the anticipation of Nvidia's RTX Super series. Waiting for this unveiling is advisable, as it allows buyers to make informed decisions based on the latest offerings. While challenges persist in certain GPU segments, such as the inflated pricing of the RTX 4090 and Radeon RX 7800 XT, the market continues to evolve. Whether you're eyeing a new or used GPU, staying informed about pricing trends and upcoming releases is key to securing the best value for your investment.