Graphics Cards and Holiday/Black Friday Deals in 2021

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Credit: NVIDIA

If you or someone you love is a PC gamer, you might be thinking about buying a graphics card this holiday season, as Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Holidays deals tend to extend throughout most of November and December each year. With a pandemic still raging, many are still mostly staying inside, so a lot of people are looking to invest in gaming hardware. Unfortunately, the GPU situation is still incredibly bleak as 2021 begins to wind down, and in this article, we'll explain why.

The Problem: Chip Shortages

Intel Xeon roadmap promotional artwork
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Credit: Intel

The bad news is that graphics cards across retailers, resellers, and scalpers are extremely expensive, often being sold for many times their intended MSRP. And this isn't just true for the latest generation cards from AMD and NVIDIA, but older cards have also seen their value skyrocket over the course of the last year or so.

In short, unless money isn't an object for you, buying a graphics card today is a tough thing to do. Not only are cards expensive, but they're an essential component of a gaming computer, so if this single component throws off your entire budget, it might just end up being better to wait on building a PC altogether.

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This is the case for a variety of reasons, but it all comes back to one thing: COVID. The pandemic and its attendant chaos caused manufacturing issues across the world, and microchips are still an industry heavily impacted by shortages.

Chips, naturally, are essential components of graphics cards, and you can't very well ship a card out without all of its required tech, so stock is low, and as a result, prices are high. Scalpers continue to make ungodly money off of reselling graphics cards to those with cash to burn, and this won't be changing in time for Christmas.

However, if you want (or even need) a graphics card this holiday, there are things you can do. With a little luck and a lot of determination, it is possible to get a card without being charged an arm and a leg for the privilege.

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The Best Way to Buy a GPU in 2021

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Credit: NVIDIA

First and foremost, you're going to want to stick to reputable retailers and stay away from resellers and sites like Craigslist or eBay or Facebook Marketplace. You're not going to find good deals on a GPU nowadays from any of these places, and you might not just pay way more for a card than it's worth, you might get scammed.

On sites like eBay, people will try to deceptively list boxes for certain GPUs for sale or package an older GPU in a newer GPU box, so make sure to remember that if you ever see something too good to be true, it's too good to be true.

Second, you're going to want to sign up for an in-stock tracker. There are a variety of apps and sites that can quickly check to see if a certain product is available at a given selection of outlets. Many of these services offer alerts when a product is restocked. Ideally, you'll set this up on your phone so you can get these alerts in the form of push notifications.

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The age-old GPU-buying advice has always gone like this: Buy at the upper-end of last generation's cards when a new generation comes out. This way you can get a decent deal on powerful hardware that also comes with super stable drivers and better performance than at launch.

RTX 3080
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Credit: NVIDIA

Unfortunately, this isn't good advice anymore: A used 2080 sells on eBay for the MSRP of a new 3080, for example. The chip shortages have made it so that even older hardware is as expensive as it was at launch. So, if you think you're likely to find a great deal buying a generation behind, you're out of luck.

You'll want to focus your energy on the low-to-mid-range of current-generation cards for the best shot at not finding some kind of discount or deal but rather simply finding a card that's in stock you can buy at MSRP. Unfortunately, a 'sale' on a GPU isn't much of a thing in 2021.

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Can't Find A GPU? Here's What You Do

AMD logo
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Credit: AMD

If you still end up struggling to find a GPU, there are a couple of ways to think outside the box.

First, you may want to consider buying a prebuilt computer with your desired graphics card. This might sound crazy, but considering the market today, depending on the particular computer this can make financial sense.

If a 3080 on eBay sells for roughly twice its MSRP at $1,600 or so, then a $2,000 prebuilt with a 3080 inside becomes much more viable. If you don't have the budget or need for another computer, you can always part out and resell the rest of your components.

Considering the shortages, you may well be able to get more money back than you might think is possible. Or you might have a friend or loved one interesting in getting a PC, and you can give them a great deal on what will be a full computer aside from a GPU.


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If spending more money isn't an option, game consoles are also impacted by the chip shortage, but they're generally easier to come by than graphics cards are, especially the Xbox Series X and S as compared to the PS5.

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Credit: AMD

Xbox, today, has lots of cross-compatibility with PC, so gaming on an Xbox with Game Pass, for example, until you can get a decent deal on a GPU would be an easy transition if you're just looking for a good way to play some video games.

Lastly, you might want to consider a gaming laptop. While laptops won't match the performance of a full-featured, top-of-the-line desktop PC, laptops today can be extraordinarily powerful. You can connect external GPUs to laptops; you can connect a laptop to a high refresh-rate gaming monitor; and there are many ways to expand the storage of a laptop as well as upgrade components like RAM.

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A decently spec'd laptop can and will handle modern games at reasonable resolutions (like 1080p or 1440p) at 60 FPS, so if that's all you're looking for out of your computer, a laptop will be easier to source and less outrageously priced than building your own PC currently is.

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