Nvidia’s Ampere launch last fall combined a very good GPU with a very bad availability situation. Five months later, it’s still a very good GPU, with a reportedly worsening availability situation. The culprit, in this case, is Chinese New Year, when a number of factories close to celebrate the holiday.
This information comes from Alternate.NL, a retailer serving Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium. They write:
Here is an overview of our expectations:
RTX 3090: Very Small Deliveries (Few Open Customer Orders)
RTX 3080: very little supply (Very many open customer orders)
RTX 3070: Small Deliveries (Few Open Sales Orders)
RTX 3060 Ti: very little supply (Fair amount of open customer orders)
This means the chance of an RTX 3080, especially for new orders, is virtually nil.
RTX 3060 Ti availability is also expected to be very low, though there’s a better chance of getting your hands on an RTX 3070 or an RTX 3090, apparently on the grounds that there’s a better mismatch between the number of open orders and the amount of arriving hardware. Alternate.nl expects prices to rise as well.
Factories in China close for 1-2 weeks during Chinese New Year, including, presumably, the factories responsible for producing the chip substrates whose limited availability is helping choke supply. While all this information is coming to us from Europe, there’s no reason to think the US won’t be equally impacted, since video cards intended for global distribution are made in the same factories.
The once-solid guidance that this situation would resolve itself by the end of Q1 is looking increasingly shady, and we’re seeing multiple companies already warning that it might be the end of Q2 2021 before things are resolved. By the time the fifth anniversary of Pascal rolls around, we’ll be closing on the point where GPUs have spent more time above MSRP than at or below it over the past five years. Assuming this trend holds through May, we’ll have run higher-than-normal GPU prices for 28 out of the past 60 months.
This kind of sustained price inflation is destroying the idea that the PC market should treat GPU MSRPs as any kind of factual metric of cost. If you can’t buy a GPU at normal price literally half the time, GPUs effectively don’t have a “normal” price. They have an oscillating price that varies depending on other market conditions. Some companies, like Newegg, have set up lotteries to determine who gets to buy video cards in a bid to distribute them more fairly. And there’s no way to blame this on the pandemic — while COVID-19 has snarled factory production globally, GPU availability was tight in 2016, 2017, and early 2018 for reasons that had nothing to do with coronavirus.
Also, fun fact: While this report is specific to Nvidia cards, we can assume that shutdowns will hit availability for every scarce component, to one degree or another. AMD CPU and GPU availability, along with console availability, will get no favors from this.
Assuming AMD’s prediction holds true, we should see slowly improving availability after Q1.
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