Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 30 series graphics cards are over a year old but remain remarkably hard to find due to the ongoing global chip and supply shortage. I became so frustrated trying to find an Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti graphics card that I bought a pre-built gaming rig with said GPU. With the chip shortage projected to last well into 2023 by some analysts, finding an RTX 30 series card will continue to be a difficult task.
Despite the hardships customers are having getting Nvidia’s current-gen graphics cards, we’re already hearing rumblings about the company’s next-gen GPUs. As we previously reported, a pay-walled story from DigiTimes (opens in new tab) claimed that the Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 series cards are set to arrive in 2022. That's backed up by Nvidia CFO Colette Kress, who recently said the company aims to have improved GPU supplies in the second half of 2022, when the cards are projected to release (via PCMag (opens in new tab)).
These reports aren’t exactly world-shattering. Companies have to stay ahead of the competition, especially in the ultra-competitive tech sectors. There was no doubt Nvidia would be preparing to unleash the successor line to the RTX 30 series. The cards sound impressive, especially if the reports are accurate about them using TSMC’s 5nm manufacturing process and Lovelace architecture; which would make for some truly powerful and efficient graphics cards.
However, considering the significant challenge of obtaining Nvidia's current GPUs, I find the idea of the RTX 40 series cards launching anytime in the near future somewhat frustrating. Why should people get excited about new cards when they can’t find current-gen GPUs in stock?
This is a sentiment shared by Laptop Mag (opens in new tab) Editor in Chief Sherri L. Smith, who I reached out to in order to get her thoughts on the situation.
“I'm always a fan of the newest, most powerful tech,” says Smith. “And I'm fine with it costing exorbitant prices when it first launches. What I can never co-sign is the shiny, new, expensive tech being straight up unavailable. Such is the case with Nvidia's 30 Series GPUs. Since their launch, my fellow gamers have more often than not been unable to get their hands on even the weakest cards in the line, let alone a 3080 or a 3090. And if they do manage what is considered by many to be an impossible task, more often than not, it's because they paid a ridiculous markup.”
She had this to say about the rumored RTX 40 series cards:
“Can I fault the wheels of process and capitalism? No and maybe. I do want to salivate over the new hotness, but I also want consumers to get a fair shot to get their hands said fire. That's not going to happen and it's infuriating. And yes, Nvidia is probably going to come out with cards designed specifically to ward off crypto miners. But none of that matters if Nvidia and big-box retailers don't find a way to stop scalpers from using bots to buy out the entire inventory. Until then, we're all going to be outside the club hatin' while the scalpers, the retailers and Nvidia are inside swimming in cash and buttery graphics.”
As Sherri said, it’s easy to drool over the prospect of new and more powerful graphics cards. Despite having an RTX 3080 Ti for a little under three months, I’m curious to see what the RTX 40 series can bring to the table. Games look absolutely phenomenal on even the cheaper 30 series cards. How much better will titles specifically optimized to run on 40 series GPUs look? The imagination can run wild pondering the question. But this excitement is curtailed knowing that, if things continue as they have for nearly two years, few of us will actually get to experience what the new Nvidia graphics cards can offer.
IGN (opens in new tab) Associate Tech Editor Taylor Lyles shares a similar view: “I am perplexed at the idea that an RTX 40 series could arrive as early as next year. Nvidia is dominating the GPU market right now, there is no need for them to put out more powerful cards when the RTX 30 series is just as capable of whatever graphic-intensive games are coming out right now.”
Sherri, Taylor and I are coming at this from the perspective of customers. We understand the reality of what’s happening with regards to supply, but it’s difficult for us to not get worked up over other gamers’ inability to easily purchase Nvidia’s current GPUs. I personally don't see things greatly improving next year. However, the industry analysts I reached out to see things more objectively.
“The current supply crunch is incredibly frustrating for anyone looking to buy a graphics card for gaming, VR, or work,” says Techsponential president Avi Greengart. “However, Nvidia can’t just stand still or it will be uncompetitive when supply finally catches up with demand. Besides, it’s not like launching new products constrains supplies of existing products – at worst, newer, better, and often cheaper GPUs replace the prior generation. In many cases, it’s additive, as the newest products are produced on new, smaller process node fabrication lines.”
Gartner VP analyst Alan Priestly has similar thoughts. He also believes the smaller process node fabrication lines will help improve the chip shortage problem.
“RTX4xxx GPUs are expected to be on TSMC 5nm process,” says Priestly. “This means smaller die size which in turn equals more die per wafer and thus increased GPU availability." With regard to Nvidia staying ahead of the competition, Priestly said: “Intel is entering the [GPU] market so Nvidia has to introduce new GPUs to keep ahead of its competition. Just sticking with current 30x0 GPUs will result in loss of market share as gamers move to newer high perf GPUs from other vendors.”
The price of the rumored RTX 40 GPUs is something else to take into consideration. We recently reported on a tweet posted by Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan (opens in new tab), where he said next-gen gaming laptops from the likes of the Razer Blade series will see an increase in price starting next year. The inflated costs, according to Tan, are tied with the "significant increases in component costs.” There is no reason to believe this won’t also affect the price of Nvidia’s graphics cards.
“We should definitely expect an increase in pricing, not so that Nvidia can make up the difference between MSRP and what resellers are charging, but to cover the increase in Nvidia’s actual costs,” says Greengart. “Transportation and labor costs have shot up, input costs have risen, and the fabs are charging more to manufacture the chips because, well, because they can.”
While I admittedly have a bleak and perhaps too pessimistic view on where things stand with Nvidia's RTX 40 series cards, I recognize that the chip and supply shortage gripping the tech industry will eventually subside. The global pandemic has overturned all aspects of life, but the world will eventually settle on a new normal. Perhaps things will be better by the time the new Nvidia GPUs arrive in 2022. That’s little solace, but it’s better than nothing.
For now, I’ll continue enjoying the benefits provided by my RTX 3080 Ti-powered gaming rig. Even with new GPUs on the horizon, I know that games will look amazing on my machine for many years to come. PC game developers won’t suddenly stop optimizing titles for 30 series cards when next-generation GPUs arrive. This is something all PC gamers should keep in mind as well.
So I’ll continue enjoying what I have and try to be optimistic for what the future holds. Even if I have to wait an extra year or two for Nvidia’s RTX 40 series graphics cards to actually become available.
If Nvidia stopped at the 30 series and focused on releasing old models based on old tech again and again, customers would lose out in the end, in both availability and performance. High tech fabs won't be producing at their tech level as much anymore, and low tech products would start needing components the previously high tech production lines, and availability would worsen.