Until recent years, the Windows crowd have had many years of bragging rights over Apple users – namely that you had to pay 2-3 times the amount to get the equivalent performance out of a Mac compared to a PC, whether off the shelf or custom built.
Two things put an end to that – the release of Apple’s impressive M1 chip in November 2020 (with the M1 Ultra now coming to the desktop Mac Studio) and the GPU shortage that started in the same year, which pushed prices up for PCs and sometimes meant you couldn’t get your hands on your preferred graphics card at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that means everyone should buy a Mac now – there are often other reasons for being locked into one ecosystem – but it has certainly ended the clear imbalance between the competing parties.
In the last few weeks, there have been signs from some commentators that the GPU shortage may be over – or at least that we’re seeing the beginning of the end – which would be big news for PC users in post production, especially given how central the GPU has become with hardware accelerated decoding and encoding supported in most applications.
Analysis by 3dcenter.org shows a clear downward trend over the last few months in price and a clear upward trend in availability of cards. Prices are at a record low since the end of 2020. The data also shows how bad things got – at its worst in May 2021, the shortage had people paying over three times MSRP for NVIDIA cards. While prices are still averaging 30-40% above MSRP, mainstream publications like PC Gamer are already saying that “GPU pricing could drop down to ‘normal’ by the summer“. (Bear in mind that most graphics cards are made by third parties like Gigabyte, MSI, Asus and Zotac who will usually sell somewhat above MSRP anyway).
There are also anecdotal reports of much greater availability on the main sites like Newegg, Best Buy and Amazon as well as in store at places like Micro Center, though you still have to keep your finger on the pulse, with different stores getting “drops” – batches of cards – which sell out quite quickly.
To investigate this myself, I imagined I was in the market for a RTX 3070 Ti – a popular mid range NVIDIA card which performs really well in Puget’s Premiere and DaVinci Resolve benchmarks. It has an MSRP of $599 and NewEgg has stock at $869.99 (45% OVER MRSP). Pricing on other sites like Amazon is quite a bit higher. Tom’s Hardware tracks eBay pricing and has the recent average price at $1001.
My feeling is that although the signs are good, it’s far too early to call the shortage over. Things are so much better than they were a year ago or even 6 months ago and it is at least a realistic option now to buy a card if you need one. Let’s hope that this trend continues.
Due out in 2022
Even if you can get a graphics card for around 40% over recommended pricing, what do you have to look forward to this year if you’re willing to wait a while, at least if the rumours hold true?
Q2 2022: NVIDIA RTX 3090 Ti. With an estimated MSRP of $2000-2500 (though likely to sell for more), this will be more for gamers than editors. Analysis always shows a big drop off in performance gains for the high end cards relative to cost, with the exception of VFX heavy workloads like noise reduction (so it might suit colorists looking to keep that real time playback as they pile on the nodes). It is pretty similar to the 3090 with the same 24GB VRAM, but with a faster base clock and faster memory, at the cost of upping the power usage to a massive 450W.
Q2 2022: Radeon RX 6650 XT / 6750 XT / 6950 XT. AMD are said to bring out three card refreshes with marginal upgrades, following the same idea as NVIDIA – more power, faster memory – to be in a better place to compete with the new Intel cards.
Q2 2022: Intel Alchemist range. PC enthusiasts have welcomed Intel’s announced entry into the low-end and mid-range GPU market, mainly because the competition will keep pushing NVIDIA and AMD forwards. Intel are likely to only compete with the mid range cards from NVIDIA and AMD, with the top Intel Arc A780 card going up against the RX 6700 and RTX 3070.
Q2/3/4 2022: NVIDIA RTX 4000 series. Leaks suggest quite a big jump in CUDA cores for the next-gen NVIDIA cards and that they are being built on TSMC’s 5nm process (down from Samsung’s 8nm) – all of which should lead to a big jump in performance as well as power draw – the question being whether the prices will go up to match. Happily NVIDIA are expected to have much more stock this time around.
Q3/4 2022: AMD Radeon RX 7000 series. AMD’s RX 7000 series is also rumoured to be a big jump forward from the current generation with a large jump in cores, as well as power usage. Usually NVIDIA is the better bet for post production, but let’s see if AMD can’t buck the trend this time around.