PC enthusiasts are known to take pride in their powerful gaming PCs. Many also love building their computers personally. Globally, this phenomenon is nothing new or unusual.
Nevertheless, in 2018, building a gaming PC has become a little bit harder; a widespread and long-lasting GPU shortage is hurting gamers and other PC builders.
Lately, the GPU shortage has made it hard even to find some models of GPUs. There’s also been a noticeable rise in GPU prices that makes the issue even more severe. In this article, we’ll discuss the source of the problem as well as potential solutions.
GPU Shortage: Origins
A few years ago, cryptocurrencies exploded in popularity. Since then, their value has significantly increased (and decreased, and increased again). Bitcoin, in particular, fluctuates wildly, but it’s a sufficiently lucrative investment for some people to spend a lot of time and effort mining it.
“Mining” Bitcoins involves using your PC to solve ludicrously complex math problems 24/7. (This is a super-complicated process that we won’t get into here, but check out this excellent article if you’re interested in an in-depth explanation.)
You may have realized that doing complicated math is a GPU’s whole job. Naturally, amateur Bitcoin miners started snatching up every high-powered GPU they could find.
A GPU and a CPU are basically the same things, but there are critical differences. CPUs have higher clock speeds while GPUs have more cores. Practically, this means that the CPU does calculations more quickly, while the GPU is capable of performing more calculations simultaneously.
A graphics processing unit has a significant advantage in Bitcoin mining because it can solve far more math problems at once than a CPU can. More tasks and calculations that can be completed in the same amount of time means more cryptocurrency earned.
The GPU Shortage: Direct Causes
Unfortunately, the new role given to the GPU created unwanted side effects for gamers. It created a higher demand for GPUs than manufacturers were prepared to handle. Therefore, due to the implacable rules of supply and demand, GPU prices spiked quickly and significantly.
Now it becomes apparent why the prices of GPUs have been closely mirroring the value of cryptocurrencies. As with any product, when the demand for a product exceeds the available supply, you get a shortage.
GPUs became not only expensive but also scarce.
You would expect this phenomenon to affect the best graphics cards for gaming. However, even the midrange models, like GPUs under $300, were affected. These models appeal to miners for a couple of reasons.
Top-performing GPUs are valuable because they can complete more processes at once. More calculations mean faster mining and more cryptocurrency earned.
Midrange GPUs, on the other hand, are impressive due to their energy efficiency. Those cannot mine as fast as the top performers, but they demand less energy during the process. Compared to top-performers, these GPUs are more cost-effective. During the peak of the home mining phase, some people were doubling or tripling their electric bills just from running stacks upon stacks of GPUs all day long, so we can see why more energy-efficient models would be attractive.
Nvidia RTX Shortage
This year, one unfortunate accident worsened the GPU shortage. It is particularly affecting the new NVIDIA RTX graphics cards that many gamers are going crazy for.
TSMC, a company manufacturing NVIDIA’s GPUs, had to scrap production of thousands of new GPUs due to an accident in the production process. It appeared that the imported chemicals used in the production process were not pure. Because the problem was discovered late into the process, the company had to scrap thousands of units that were nearly ready to ship.
Sadly, NVIDIA will not be able to deliver the product on time and in enough quantity to satisfy the market. Thus, we can expect another shortage of NVIDIA RTX graphics cards very soon.
Gamers usually buy GPUs from retail outlets, but when cryptocurrency miners buy them in bulk directly from the manufacturers, there often aren’t many left for the retail stores.
GPU Shortage: Possible Solutions
Not all is lost, though; you can circumvent this issue and enjoy a pleasant gaming experience if you make an adjustment to how you plan on building your gaming rig. Here are some possible solutions:
Method #1: Used GPUs
One of the possible solutions is to buy a used GPU. Buying used means you can get a good bargain, and it should offer the same performance as an identical new-in-box model. If you’re buying from a stranger (on Craigslist, for example), make sure to have them show you that the GPU works before paying them.
However, you have to be careful with GPUs that have been used for mining. Mining forces hardware to work at full capacity for long periods. That drastically shortens the GPU’s life expectancy. Therefore, the GPU you buy should be as recent as possible if you want to avoid purchasing a GPU that is almost at the end of its life. As always, buyer beware.
Method #2: Prebuilt PCs
Another solution is buying a prebuilt gaming PC. For example, there are awesome gaming PCs under $1000 which will let you game on high settings for the next couple of years.
This is not a feasible solution for those people who only want to upgrade or fix their PC, but it could work in the time of GPU shortage. After all, it enables you to acquire the desired GPU new.
We recommend buying prebuilt computers from Microcenter, iBuyPower, and CyberpowerPC. These companies are not really affected by the GPU shortage because they acquire large quantities of hardware directly from manufacturers.
Remember that the GPU shortage, while inconvenient, is not a permanent state. If you don’t have to buy a new GPU or a PC right now, you may want to wait for all of this to blow over.
Sudden jumps in prices, demand, or supply are natural things, and the market always reaches equilibrium eventually. It is actually happening in the cryptocurrency space as we speak; Bitcoin reached its peak value in 2017 and its value has been falling ever since. The desire for GPU-based mining will follow the value of cryptocurrencies, and the GPU shortage will end. With a little patience, we should soon be able to afford some of the top-performing GPUs on the market.