Don't buy a graphics card right now unless you really have to

1080 Ti
1080 Ti

The current global obsession with cryptocurrency has certainly played a part in the rising costs of GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA. Not just rising costs, either, availability has tanked in recent weeks so that even if you really do need to get one, chances are you'll still have to wait.

The simple advice is this: unless you really need a new graphics card right now, don't buy one.

What's cryptocurrency got to do with it?

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency

While the most well known of the cryptocurrencies is Bitcoin, mining them hasn't been a profitable experience using the best graphics card options for a while. But it's not the only one out there, and there are still ways that a consumer graphics card can help folks mine and make money.

This piece at Ars Technica breaks it down pretty well:

So who's driving all this demand for graphics cards? Cryptocurrency miners. To understand the phenomenon, we talked to people active in cryptocurrency mining, and they all told us similar stories: mining Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies has become hugely profitable in recent months, which is why so many people are racing to expand their mining operations. And getting graphics cards is the main bottleneck.Bitcoin mining is no longer profitable on consumer graphics cards because people have built sophisticated custom ASIC-based mining equipment that's far more power-efficient. But Ethereum has a memory-hungry mining algorithm that's resistant to ASIC optimization. That means mining Ethereum is still practical with a consumer graphics card if it has more than two gigabytes of memory. Entry-level graphics cards don't have enough memory, but more advanced ones do.

It then becomes a simple supply and demand problem.

More: What is Ethereum? (opens in new tab)

PC gamers are the ones getting stung

Razer Core

Razer Core X

The current demand from crypto-miners is helping create a shortage, and when products are in hot demand and low supply, prices will fluctuate. In the case of graphics cards, they're fluctuating wildly. It's not isolated to the U.S., either.

Back in September 2017, I upgraded my own PC with a Zotac GTX 1080 Ti which cost a not insignificant £670 ($944) in the UK, but it was still about the local market rate for a standard, blower-style card. The same exact card right now is £180 more expensive from the same retailer and isn't back in stock apparently until March.

The GTX 1070 and 1060 tell a similar story, and it's not even limited to NVIDIA cards. AMD's new Vega GPUs are almost impossible to get hold of with the mid-tier Vega 56 still possible to come with an attached price tag of $1,000. Because crypto-miners are just using the cards to generate revenue, they're less affected by a price increase, since it'll just take longer to make a return, but they likely still will. It's the real audience for these products that's missing out: PC gamers.

NVIDIA commented to German site, ComputerBase on the matter (translated):

When asked Nvidia spokesman Boris Böhles told the editors: " For NVIDIA, gamers come first. All activities related to our GeForce product line are focused on 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. "

NVIDIA doesn't want its cards being gobbled up by miners, but in the end, retailers decide who to sell to and to some extent the price on the box. The issue for PC gamers is that building a PC or even just upgrading your old one suddenly got a lot more expensive.

Try and stick it out

GTX 1050

GTX 1050

A GTX 1070 will now in places cost GTX 1080 Ti money, and that's wrong. It also means that those in the market may end up settling for a lesser product than the one they really want because suddenly the highest-end cards are out of their budget.

But unless you really, desperately need to buy a graphics card, try and stick it out. You're not doing anyone — least of all yourself — any favors by buying into the system that's currently significantly biased against you. If you want to upgrade to a GTX 1080 Ti, don't throw $1,100 at someone just because that's all there is, try and be patient.

Eventually, one would assume things will start to return to normality. Who knows, the crypto bubble might spectacularly pop. Certainly, many PC gamers are eagerly anticipating just this so they can get back to doing what they love: building kick-ass PCs.

It's really hard, but you're not benefitting by feeding the beast. Nothing lasts forever. But if you really do need a new graphics card, shop around as much as humanly possible. Be vigilant if buying a used card, but ultimately even if you are buying you might be forced to wait right now.

It sucks. A lot.

More: Best graphics cards for gamers in 2018

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

43 Comments
  • You are months too late with this. This has been like this since Oct/Nov of last year
  • Prices spiked dramatically in the past few weeks.
  • Back then most medias and analysts were still predicting that the end of the boom was nearing. Well here we are 6 months later and the boom only went bigger than ever.
  • They started saying it would end in June/July of last year. Then it was August when Ethereum was definitely going Proof of Stake (which was said every month since July, wait until September, PoS on Eth in October, mid Nov Eth is absolutely going Proof.. pft). Retailers can drop the price whenever they like, their margins are huge. If you have a licenced business you can call an AIB directly, ask to speak with a tier 3 corporate sales rep (orders over 1K cards) and the number given is below msrp on rx 580's (at least EVGA was). Large companies who deal directly with AIB's when ordering are charging over 125% cost on cards, and have been for a long time now, even with the crypto market down over 50% from it's highs over the last 5 weeks. No shift down in prices. Pure greed. I'd type more but when I list numbers in detail it gets marked as spam.
  • I consider graphics cards a luxury anyway since the board comes with one built in.
    When you buy one, you have enough to spend.
  • Gaming as a whole is a luxury, but in many cases a GPU is required to play AAA titles.
  • Not necessarily, if you need to do any video or even image rendering onboard graphics don't really cut it. And you could really call any desktop a luxury these days. Also onboard graphics aren't generally on the board anymore, they're on the CPU.
  • Video and imagine rendering can be done on anything.
    I can run Autodesk design software on a 2003 pentium 4 just fine.
    Unless the software its 64 bit specific but theoretically can.
    Onboard, on chip - semantics. A basic laptop running intel graphics is fine for editing engineering software.
  • It IS true that anything modern can handle video rendering, but it can literally be the difference between 16 minutes and 6 days. Process me a 2 hour 4K@60 video on that 2003 laptop with integrated graphics and let me know when it completes. There are people who need high end hardware, gamers are just one! Admittedly large! group. The initial point is egregious anywayly, even if something isn't a necessity doesn't mean someone should be ripped off... I guarantee there are people who've been saving for a PC for months only to have the rug yanked from under them.
  • Not for Autodesk Revit, it works in my i7 SP3, but it's not exactly fast. I found out quickly, that a good internet connection and RDP is substantially better....... Standard 2d CAD runs fine on older builds, but best to use older versions of the software with less bloat.
  • Not all mobo/CPUs have integrated graphics. Even cheap discrete GPUs will far outperform the best integrated models. You don't have to spend much.
  • What if you have a Ryzen (or any current AMD cpu)? Old Xeon system? Don't give me that luxury nonsense when the markup is over 100%. A car is a luxury if you live within 10 miles of a city and have 2 or less children. So is a TV, a couch, brand name anything regarding clothes. Any gaming system, drinks besides water and milk, a microwave. We could go on and on. Cell phones are a huge luxury. Should they mark up budget mid-range cell phones 100? That's essentially what you are saying. the car in your profile pic is how much? Yet a GPU is a luxury?
  • "Who knows, the crypto bubble might spectacularly pop."   Oh it WILL pop. And the funnier thing is that the people now obsessing over cryptocurrency and provoking all of this will take a REALLY hard hit. Mainly because they don't know sh*t about economy. They're very good with computers but completely illiterate in everything else. It'll be hilarious to watch.   In the meantime, yeah, it really sucks. There are some possible solutions, the simplest of which would be for AMD and NVIDIA to fix prices on their products. Retailers might not like it (because they're profiting from the craze) but it's a solution. Alternatively AMD and NVIDIA could start selling directly to consumers, though that would require an expansion of their logistic operations which would probably not be economically viable in the long run.
  • Some banks in the UK have banned the use of credit cards to buy cryptocurrency. All the banks and payment services should band together and block the use of their systems. The crypto market wil tank in about 5 minutes. The people doing it aren't bothered about the environmental costs either - the amount of electricity to run these mining rigs is huge
  • Yet I bet they let people gamble and buy high risk shares...
  • Environmental risks are overblown. Don't be a retard.
  • Overblown? You need to look beyond just the individual use case, there are many people running large mining rigs these days. That is just consumers, there are also companies jumping into the crytomining operations with very, very, very large scale operations.
  • https://mashable.com/2017/12/01/bitcoin-energy/#d8MFuDRRkPqy
  • Yes. Overblown
  • Crypto is only part of it, there's also the incredible demand for memory pushing the price up... Yeah, don't buy RAM unless you really need it either... It's basically the worst time ever to build a PC.
  • I thought RAM prices were unusually high, I miss when DDR3 was new, the stuff was so over mass produced it felt like they couldn't give it away.
  • Yeah, I put 16GB of gourd RAM in my PC for about 70 quid... I doubt you could get 8 for that now. Can't remember ever seeing ram go over it's launch price 4 years on before.
  • It's not just the demand. Prices rose when the three producers merged (Samsung, micron and.... forgot)
  • Hynix, they're the ones that have a factory fire a few years ago, which also didn't help. Are you sure they've merged? I'd expect a bit of collusion... But if that's correct things will only get worse.
  • I needed/wanted a 1060. Walked into walmart last month and found an HP "gaming" PC on clearence for $250, included an I5-7400, 8GB ram and a 1060 3GB... The 1060 went into my main Pc and the hp, using the onboard video, is just a space/guest pc.
  • Nice find.
  • Not the first time this has happened in the last decade. I need to upgrade my desktop as its 8 years old and finally struggling to play games. I can't stomach anymore than a GTX 1050 right now, I can find them around $130 but the bump to the 1050ti brings the price near $250 for a small performance bump.
  • Yeah, 9 years ago I bought 4x2GB Kingston HyperX RAM very cheap. A few months later, RAM prices increased by 200% or even more. I still use the PC I built then (Quad Core Phenom, GeForce 9600GT) as a home media server and for some casual gaming (old stuff, but still good).
  • Yes, RAM prices have climbed and fallen, but is definitely on the high side lately. I have a few aging gaming PCs I built a while ago - athlon II X4's but with 8GB of RAM which as I remember wasn't too bad of a cost around 7 years ago.  Updated with GTX 1050 Ti cards a while back, they are surprisingly still okay-ish for less demanding 1080p or lower gaming.  But my oldest boy has been getting more into PC gaming, so for his birthday last year I upgraded one of them to Ryzen.  Thought I'd get at least 16GB if not 32GB of RAM now, but had a severe case of sticker shock looking at current RAM prices.  Ended up just sticking with 8GB RAM for the time being.
  • After reading this, I had to check, and sure enough, Amazon pricing on the 1050Ti cards is well over $200.  Can't believe it.  I got some 1050Ti's shortly after they came out in Dec. 2016 for around $140 each.  Over a year later, and the price is up ~$100. Crazy.
  • NVidia should charge more for graphic cards sold separately and lesser for OEMs. This differential pricing can help eliminate the problem.
  • They have, it doesn't work. And it still screws the home builder too. And for better or worse their sales partners probably wouldn't let them... They don't care where the cards are going.
  • At the end of the day, for retailers it's a profitable market and they aren't going to give that up.
  • This post is a little bit too late unfortunately. I am currently investing money in my first custom built PC. I have held on for it since November, trying to decide which parts to get. I noticed the price of the graphics card increasing by about $30 from just a month ago, but thought I had seen wrong the first time. I bought the graphics card 3 days ago, from the last company that still had it, for the same price. But whaddaya gonna do.
  • Since it's your first custom PC I would suggest going for previous gen and mid tier at that you will find decent bargains - compile a spreadsheet / spec list. Then create your high end wish list this way your midtier level is your base level. This way you can find out the perfomance differential per $  as on the high end the performance per $ is not that high heck you will most likely will make a loss when compared to the mid tier at the present time. Main thing, stick to your budget for the base level.  
  • Looks like this is one situation where Ms will have the upper hand on the competition with the Next Generation consoles seeing as how they are already supposedly invested in the makers of the Ryzen graphic cards. This shouldn't be much of a cost sting to them when it's time for the next xbox
  • And despite the fact that Nvidia has asked the card manufacturers and retailers to not sell to miners but to the gamers... Well... It's kind of happening. The only problem is that, they are doing it, and putting the graphics cards at somewhat pre-cryptobubble prices, BUT... they're bundling them with high end mobos forcing buyers to end up paying for both, even if you only need the card... So in essence not really helping at all.
  • I never would have thought graphics cards and cryptocurrency go hand-in-hand like this. Very interesting dilemma then for PC gamers. I'm glad I bought my PC before all of this craziness with a nice 8GB AMD Vega :) A way around this, however, is to buy a PC outright, as PC makers usually have a special deal on graphics cards and other hardware pieces that fall more in line with wholesale pricing. :)
  • Ridiculous right now. Had to get one a few weeks ago. A PNY 1050 Ti 4gb ran $230 and now is over $250 in just a few weeks at BB when they should have been around $100.
  • Well I lied now at $300.
  • Yes it sure sucks. I've been really wanting new 1080 Ti rig for VR but it is impossible. Not only can I not buy a new computer. I also can't by the VR titles that will not run on my current system. How many of us are holding off on hardware and software purchases because of this dang cryptocurrency craze, it is definitely having a depressing effect on hardware and software. It is to the point I'm just going to wait for the NVidia next gen now but who knows how long it will be before a new 1180 system will be attainable.
  • Buy a console... One X is $10 less now...
  • I almost giving up on buying , bu I saw a shop still selling Asus GTX 1050 Ti on reasonable prices, what funny is the Zotac prices in any other store is more expensive with this Asus brand. guess what more, that's their last stock, I probably get lucky