Update: This article has been updated to include the video above.
If you haven't followed the price of graphics cards lately, or are oblivious to the price of GPUs and are thinking about buying one, then we've got an important PSA for you: Now is a really bad time to buy a GPU.
Graphics card prices have skyrocketed because GPUs are so effective at mining cryptocurrency, which has gained a lot of traction in recent months. To get a gauge for the price discrepancy, let's look at the GTX 1080 Ti; the lowest you can find Nvidia's flagship gaming card online right now is $1,350, which is roughly twice the card's MSRP. The situation is arguably worse on the AMD side. The 4GB version of the RX 580, which carries an MSRP of $200, is going for roughly 2.5x as much online currently. The following chart encapsulates modern GPU MSRP against their current, lowest street prices.
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti||$700||$1,350|
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080||$550||$1,100|
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti||$450||$800|
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070||$380||$900|
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060||$250||$400|
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti||$150||$185|
|Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050||$110||$140|
|AMD Radeon RX Vega 64||$500||$1,500|
|AMD Radeon RX Vega 56||$400||NA|
|AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB||$229||$540|
|AMD Radeon RX 580 4GB||$200||$495|
|AMD Radeon RX 570||$170||$476|
Lowest prices reflect time of publish.
As you can see from the comparative chart above, the pricing surge has affected all GPU sectors. Even lower-end cards like the GTX 1050 Ti and GTX 1050 are well above MSRP, albeit less so than the higher-end cards. Not only are GPU prices sky high right now, but cards like the RX Vega 56 are currently completely sold out everywhere.
While it's possible to find some high-end gaming GPUs near MSRP if you're vigilant, the windows of opportunity are small. One way to skirt around this issue if you are thinking about building a gaming PC with a new GPU is to buy a prebuilt system.
When we met with system vendor CyberPower PC at CES, the company revealed to us that it, along with many other system vendors, have strict GPU pricing guidelines. This effectively means they can't over-inflate the price of its systems based on the street prices of graphics cards.
Historically, it's generally been cheaper to build a PC than to buy a pre-built system, but that has changed in today's climate. While we think you should learn how to build a PC as it can be very rewarding and educational, there's no shame in purchasing a pre-built system, especially right now when they're largely unaffected by the current cost-prohibitive price of GPUs.
To exemplify this, we tried recreating CyberPower PC's Z370 i5 configuration. CyberPower PC's rig costs $1,169 and comes with AMD's 4GB Radeon RX 580 GPU. When we spec'd out the build ourselves using the cheapest prices found on Newegg and Amazon, our total came out to $1,322. That's $144 more than CyberPower PC's price. On top of that, it doesn't come with the company's warranty and customer support.
|OS||Windows 10 Home (64-bit Edition)||$120|
|Case||IN WIN 101 w/ Tempered Glass||$70|
|CPU||Intel® Core Processor i5-8600K||$257|
|CPU cooler||Corsair Hydro Series H60||$65|
|Motherboard||MSI Z370 - A Pro ATX||$100|
|RAM||8GB (4GBx2) DDR4/3000MHz dual channel memory (ADATA XPG Z1)||$103|
|GPU||AMD Radeon RX 580 4GB||$495|
|PSU||600 watt PSU 80 Plus certified||$45|
|HDD||1TB 7,200RPM HDD||$67|
Prices reflect time of publish.
If you still really want to build a new gaming rig yourself, we suggest you use browser extensions like Honey to provide you with alerts on GPU price drops. As for when graphics cards will come down to normal MSRP levels, only time will tell.