The GPU (Graphics Card) Shortage and Why It is More Serious Than Gaming

Best Buy had their once a month Nvidia graphics card sale again on the first of October. You had to physically go to the store in order to get one. They were handing out tickets at 7:30am and would let people in to buy them at 8:00am. But it was of course not that simple.

I ran across a spreadsheet stating that at my local Best Buy there were about 80 people already lined up around 5:00pm on Thursday. I was not gonna drive an hour away to get in line, sleep there overnight just to get the chance that the GPU I wanted was still available at 7:30am.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that lots of people aren’t even in line. They put their chair in the line and leave. As if that is somehow supposed to save their spot in line… I would be tempted to take the chairs out of the line if they were empty longer than 10 minutes, long enough for a bathroom break. There are photos at various Best Buys of a line of chairs wrapping around the stores with no one in them.

The reason there is such demand at these Best Buy stores is that they are the only place you can get these GPUs for MSRP. If you go on eBay these same GPUs sell for 3x MSRP thanks to scalpers looking to take advantage of the GPU shortage.

This is a small part of an even bigger problem, shortage of the raw materials used in making computer chips. This is affecting CPUs, GPUs, even automobiles as automakers use far more computer components than they use to. Automakers are having to delay production and shutdown production lines of new cars because of the lack of computer chips.

There is also a lack of manufacturing capacity, the demand for computer chips is simply far higher than it has ever been because they are used in everyday components.

And of course there is Covid. The pandemic has swept its way through every sector of the economy including disrupting the factories making computer chips setting back production for several months.

What can be done about all of this? For one they are building new chip fabrication facilities in the U.S. and elsewhere but this is not a short term solution. These facilities cost billions of dollars to build and take years to come online. Two, mining for the raw materials used in computer chips needs to increase as well in order to meet the demand of the chip fabrication plants. Three, cryptocurrency miners are buying up GPUs to use to mine currency like Ethereum, taking the GPUs out of the hands of gamers and pushing up prices for GPUs due to demand. Nvidia has been looking to combat this by handicapping some of their GPUs so that they perform poorly for mining cryptocurrency but still work well for video gaming.

My advice? If you are looking to upgrade your PC, strongly consider buying a PC with the GPU you want instead of upgrading your existing PC. PC makers are getting first dibs on GPU supplies and whats leftover trickles into the retail market. It would normally cost a little more to buy a PC than build one but at 3x MSRP for GPUs you can just about buy a whole computer (not including the monitor) for slightly more than just the GPU that you can find on eBay. I wish I had known this before I embarked on building myself a new PC from parts as I have done in the past.

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