With prices finally dropping and a new generation from Nvidia and AMD on the horizon, it's not a simple question. For the first time in what feels like forever graphics card prices are starting to fall, sometimes even reaching the same ZIP code as their MSRP. But even at the best of times it’s not always clear if it’s, well, the best of times to actually but a GPU. So should you take the plunge while prices are dipping, or wait for the next generation?
The current generation of GPU tech from both Nvidia and AMD (RTX 3000 and RX 6000, respectively) are both about two years old. In a market that hadn't been drastically impacted by global chip shortages, cryptocurrency miners, and an influx of unscrupulous scalpers, prices would be dramatically lower as manufacturers prepare for an influx of new hardware. Instead, we’re exhausted and happy to see them merely approach the prices they were at pre-pandemic.
So the current situation is still less than ideal. That would seem to indicate that it’s smart to wait, right? If you hold out until the next-gen releases for Nvidia and AMD, you’ll have the option to choose between the newer cards or (possibly) deals on the current stock. That’s true, but if you’ve been holding out for two years (or three, or four, or five!), another six months might be an interminable wait. If you’ve got the cash at the moment and you’re tired of waiting, you might as well go for it. After all, it might still be a year past launch before the affordable mid-range cards in the new series actually become available.
But now, as always, prudence is best if it’s an option. Not only do the usual “wait and see” rules apply, we have a once-in-a-lifetime milestone approaching. Intel is set to enter the discreet desktop GPU market before the end of the second quarter of 2022, attempting to bust up a decades-old duopoly. While initial card models and stock are likely to be low, there’s simply no way to predict how such a variable will affect the market as new Nvidia and AMD cards drop later this year.
If “maybe” seems like an unsatisfying answer to the question, at least it’s a familiar one. PC gamers have been pondering pretty much the same thing for as long as PC gaming has been a thing.