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The latest-gen gaming hardware promised to make a real difference in the gaming and technological world. This new generation of gaming included the latest PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, the Nvidia RTX 30-series lineup, and the AMD RDNA2 series of GPUs. Even though it has been around six months since their release, most consumers still haven't gotten a chance to upgrade their systems/setups for many reasons, including limited stock availability. Especially in the PC GPU market, prices of GPUs skyrocketed just after their releases, and currently, you can hardly get your hands on one of these latest-gen GPUs. Finding one latest-gen GPU for their launch prices or at least for reasonable prices is impossible, and finding stock of them is similarly hard. So what might be really causing this massive worldwide GPU shortage?
As GPUs have gone scarce as hens' teeth, people have already started pointing fingers at who they think might be responsible for this historical shortage. Consumers, especially gamers, have started blaming crypto miners for the worldwide GPU shortage, but without proper evidence, the question of who caused the real shortage still stands. It is not a secret that cryptocurrency mining has become a flourishing market, and the number of investors for it grows by the day. Especially the COVID-19 global pandemic encouraged more miners to join the market. This ultimately caused a great demand for GPUs in 2020.
It is also a known fact that crypto mining usually relies on the raw processing power of GPUs, and the increasing crypto miner growth has increased the demand for GPUs. Fortunately for the miners, the leading manufacturers in the GPU market, Nvidia and AMD, decided to release their next-gen GPU lineup around the same time. Both the latest GPU lineups from AMD and Nvidia were ideal for crypto miners as this new-gen was a massive leap from the previous gen, performance, and power consumption wise.
As a result, miners now empty the GPU stocks as soon as they restock or a new GPU gets released. They often buy not one but multiple GPUs for their mining farms (rigs), leaving the rest of the consumers angry and empty-handed. Worst of all mining usually runs these GPUs at the full potential 24/7, and this causes their silicon to degrade faster and die quickly. But the question still stands, are miners the real reason for the shortage?
The answer to that question is as complicated as the crypto-mining itself. Even though crypto miners contribute to a huge share of the current GPU demand, they aren't exactly the only reason or even the main reason for the shortage. Just like in all other markets, the global pandemic has also affected the GPU market by creating a higher demand and restricting the supply.
The pandemic has forced people to stay at home and work from home, and most people have made this an opportunity to either upgrade their PC setups or build new ones altogether. This has greatly increased the demand for GPUs in the mid to late 2020. The issue still exists after more than a year since the pandemic affected our day-to-day lives. Not only the pandemic but also other industries that use silicon chips have contributed to this great GPU shortage. Even though experts show that miners aren't exactly the real reason behind the shortage, they could become a real threat to the future of the tech world as crypto mining consumes GPUs faster.
Silicon is a main component/resource in the manufacturing process of all sorts of processors and other computer chips. With the introduction of many smart gadgets and electric vehicles in the past few years, the demand for silicon chips has increased considerably. The problem is that even though the demand for silicon chips increases by the day, the manufacturing of silicon chips or semiconductors has deteriorated with the complications that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited and Intel Corporation are two of the main semiconductor producing companies in the world. They provide the majority of worldwide silicon needs. Unfortunately, the pandemic added restrictions to the production of silicon indirectly. This has caused the manufacturers to limit the supply of chips fulfilling only a fraction of the current demand. Fortunately, most of these issues are being overcome by the day. The manufacturing processes should all return to normal in a matter of time. But will it still be enough to overcome the shortage?
The limited supply and the increased demand have really made the new GPU prices skyrocket soon after their releases. This has also made a marketplace for scalpers who sell these GPUs at great prices. Most gamers/consumers are also restricted by these price increases. This is not really a problem for miners as they are ready to spend thousands of dollars on GPUs. They usually earn more from them. This leaves average consumers no real choice but to cave in. They must buy an extremely overpriced GPU or settle for a used or an older GPU. So as long as miners are actively hunting for GPUs in the current market, gamers really have no choice but to wait. But what if alternatives for miners are introduced, or the performance of the latest-gen GPUs is cut off in mining processes?
RTX 3060 was Nvidia's fifth card in the 30-series lineup, and Nvidia tried to tackle crypto miners with its release. They stated that the software for its upcoming GeForce RTX 3060 would be cutting off Ethereum mining efficiency by 50%. This made the card less appealing for Ethereum miners Ethereum is one of the biggest GPU-mineable cryptos in the current world. Instead, Nvidia plans on introducing a range of crypto-currency mining processors (CMPs) to counter the GPU demand by miners. However, it again raises a question if Nividia is greedy by utilizing the most important finite resource in the market, silicon, on CMPs when they could be using them on increasing the production of consumer-grade GPUs in the first place.
Still, the demand for GPUs easily exceeds the supply. This is predicted to last for at least another year. The semiconductor manufacturers are slowly recovering, and things are getting back to normal but really slowly. The semiconductor demand comes from not only the GPU manufacturers but all sorts of tech industries such as mobile phones, CPUs, and even automobiles. Experts and Nvidia themselves predict that shortages likely to continue at least until Q4 2021, if not into 2022, and AMD fans can expect the same.
Read more about Nvidia's statement about how "crypto mining didn't really affect" their RTX 30-series launch from here.
If you are looking to upgrade your PC or building a brand new one but reluctant to spend ridiculous amounts on GPUs, there is still hope for you in the current market. The best thing to do right now is to settle for an older-gen GPU or a used one until the new-gen GPUs come back in stock and their prices decrease. A last-gen GPU, an RTX 20-series card, or an RX 5000 series card is just fine for today's gaming and professional needs. However, you might still find it a little hard to find a brand new previous gen card, so the ideal solution is to go with a used card. If you search hard enough, you might be able to find a decent mid/high-end GPU for a reasonable price amongst scalper prices.
The latest-gen Nvidia RTX 30-series cards and AMD Radeon RX 6000-series cards on their own are pretty hard to find. But there are many sites and manufacturers that offer pre-built systems with these new graphics cards. The best part about them is that compared to spending thousands on the GPU alone, these pre-built PCs are reasonably priced too. If you don't mind compromising some performance for portability and convenience, gaming laptops are also a great way to get your hands on the latest-gen GPUs.
And if you really want to get your hands on a juicy RTX 3080 or an RTX 3070, or an RX 6700XT, you can wait out the shortage until prices start to settle down and stocks start to pile up. The COVID-19 restrictions will eventually lift, and things will come back to normal eventually. Unfortunately, this won't be happening anytime soon.
If you are still determined to wait it out, you might even be able to save an extra few bucks to go for an upgraded version when things come back to normal. If you haven't got the patience, you can check out the current RTX 3070 pricing and find a good deal.
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