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GPUs are cheaper, but chances are you're still getting ripped off

It's no secret that graphics cards can be a pricey purchase, especially so in recent years, but despite the market recovering, it's becoming apparent that some models were never a good deal to begin with, even when priced at MSRP.

GPU prices have finally started to stabilize after months of suffering from artificially inflated pricetags, likely caused by a dastardly mix of the global chip shortage and competition from cryptominers

This is great news for those of us who have been desperate to upgrade our systems or build your first gaming computer, but many seasoned PC gamers and computing enthusiasts have complained that the last couple of generations of graphics cards have become disproportionally expensive.

As reported by Video Cardz, there's likely more than a smidgen of truth to this, as 3D Center (Germany's largest GPU website) collated price and performance data in order to try and prove the real-world affordability of these cards.

Lets do the math

Using the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 as a base for cost vs performance, every GPU in the Ampere series of cards from Nvidia was matched up, with the results from this experiment displaying that most of the more powerful graphics cards are overpriced at MSRP when you take into account performance. Simply put, this suggests that even if you snag a GPU at the price set by Nvidia, you're still likely not getting your money's worth.

Nvidia Ampere GeForce RTX 30 series
Graphics Card MSRP (manufacturers standard retail price) 4K performance Index Perf /List Fair Price
GeForce RTX 3090 Ti $1999 408% 41% $814
GeForce RTX 3090 $1499 376% 50% $750
GeForce RTX 3080 Ti $1199 366% 61% $731
GeForce RTX 3080 10GB $699 330% 94% $659
GeForce RTX 3070 Ti $599 271% 90% $541
GeForce RTX 3070 $499 250% 100% $499
GeForce RTX 3060 Ti $399 217% 109% $433
GeForce RTX 3060 $329 165% 100% $329
GeForce RTX 3050 $249 ~114% 91% $228

The most obvious example in the above table would be Nvidias flagship GPU, the GeForce RTX 3090 Ti that has a suggested retail price of $1,999 (around £1,600 / AU$2,700). Taking into account its actual performance against the RTX 3070, 3D center estimates that this GPU should cost just $814 (around £660 / AU$1,170), less than half of what it actually sells for.

A standout winner however is the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti, which going by this experiment is actually priced lower than the average cost vs performance, which means you're getting more power for your cash. Even the RTX 3060 was on an equal playing field with the RTX 3070 for being apparently 'worth' its MSRP.

Still, many other Nvidia GPUs would be considered overpriced in this experiment, with many of the most powerful cards on offer being notably more expensive than they should be.

The grass isn't always red...uh, greener

Team Red didn't get off lightly either, as the same comparison between all RDNA2 graphics cards (again, compared to the cost vs performance of the RTX 3070) and found that every single GPU in its lineup fell short.

Still, AMD's pricing appears negligibly fair around the mid-market, especially with cards such as the Radeon RX 6700 XT and Radeon RX 6800 XT falling only slightly short of the suggested fair price.

AMD Radeon RX 6000
Graphics Card MSRP (manufacturers standard retail price) 4K performance Index Perf /List Fair Price
Radeon RX 6950 XT $1099 368% 67% $735
Radeon RX 6900 XT $999 348% 70% $695
Radeon RX 6800 XT $649 322% 99% $643
Radeon RX 6800 $579 278% 96% $555
Radeon RX 6750 XT $549 234% 85% $467
Radeon RX 6700 XT $479 221% 92% $441
Radeon RX 6650 XT $399 167% 84% $333
Radeon RX 6600 XT $379 159% 84% $317
Radeon RX 6600 $329 ~134% 81% $267
Radeon RX 6500 XT $199 ~71% 71% $140
Radeon RX 6400 $159 ~54% 67% $107

Both high-end and entry-level models appear to be the worst affected (with the notable exception of Nvidia's RTX 3060 lineup), but mid-range cards could fair better within this experiment given the RTX 3070 was used for reference - we would see drastically different results if another GPU such as the Radeon RX 6500 XT or GeForce RTX 3080 Ti were used.

It's also worth noting that this is just one website's affordability experiment, and shouldn't be taken as official data. Performance isn't the only metric that should be considered here, especially as those powerful flagship graphics cards require more specialized cooling solutions and board designs, all of which can significantly add to the cost.

Analysis: is this a fair comparison at all?

People in NYC camping out in line to get a new graphics card from best Buy

People in NYC camping out in line to get a new graphics card from best Buy (Image credit: Twitter / Matt Swider)

There's an argument popping up all over the internet these days, as is tradition when a new generation of graphics cards is on the horizon, that any current-gen hardware is a bad investment. Problem is, folks said that two years ago too, and unless you were lucky enough to snag a Founder Edition GPU, you were likely kicking yourself for not just upgrading to the previous RTX 20 series when you had the opportunity to do so at a reasonable price.

I beat this drum fairly often, but value can be subjective. At the time of its release, the RTX 3070 Ti didn't review particularly well as it was deemed to be priced too high compared to the performance you were getting, but this was during the height of the GPU shortage...if you managed to snap up a graphics card at MSRP, you'd likely be paying significantly less than some poor sap who was forking out extra to a scalper, which made it a great deal all things considered.

Is the RTX 3070 Ti still a good deal? Not so much if you buy one today, but the last few months of comparatively affordable PC gaming I've been enjoying while GPU prices were sky-high are beyond value to me, and in this scenario, my view on value is the only one that matters. 

In the best-case scenario, the current generation of cards should fall below MSRP when the next generation launches, which makes them a bargain, but it's key to remember that this isn't guaranteed. If the crypto market recovers and mining rigs become viable again, we could see a similar series of events unfolding to cause yet another GPU shortage, which will drive up the prices of cards both new and old alike.

With the incoming launch of both Nvidia Lovelace and AMD RDNA3, we can only hope that the market remains low to give gamers a chance to snap up a new GPU after years of fighting scalpers, bots and miners. Failing that, we might find ourselves scrambling to buy pre-built desktop gaming PCs and gaming laptops again.

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