The RTX 4090 from Nvidia is on the way. It promises two to four times the performance of the RTX 3090 Ti, which would make it one of the biggest jumps we’ve seen in performance between generations.
If you ignore the price, that is. With the launch of the RTX 4090 at $1,599, the RTX 4080 16GB at $1199, and the RTX 4080 12GB at $899, Nvidia’s new GPUs represent another round of price increases for new GPUs, one that makes building a PC more expensive than ever.
It used to be the case that newer GPUs had much better performance for the money than older ones, at least if you’re just comparing MSRP. Typically, you can expect a return of 30% or more per dollar with each new generation, with some generations delivering as much as 50% or even 70% more value than the last. For example, the GTX 1080 Ti was about 70% faster than the GTX 980 Ti and only cost about $50 more; The great value of the 1080 Ti is one of the reasons it’s such a legendary Nvidia GPU. However, it’s been apparent for a while that Nvidia just isn’t offering the generational value improvements it used to. We saw it in the RTX 20 series, and we also saw it in the RTX 30 series, which was only a partial improvement over its predecessor.
The RTX 40 series is no different. Even if we take Nvidia’s own numbers at face value (the lower end of the range, anyway), the 16GB RTX 4080 at about twice the performance of the RTX 3080 isn’t that great when it’s also nearly the double the price. In fact, the 16GB 4080 would have to be 2.3 times faster than the 3080 to get even 30% more performance for the money. Sure, the 40-series has better ray-tracing performance and more Tensor cores than the 30-series, but we’re still not at the point where that kind of technology is truly standard.
There are also other reasons to worry about price, even if the value is good. First, the cheapest RTX 40 card announced was the RTX 4080 12GB, which has less memory and fewer cores than the RTX 4080 16GB. It should be called the RTX 4070 really, but maybe Nvidia didn’t want to call it that because of its $899 price tag, which is higher than even the RTX 3080. It’s pretty obvious that these GPUs are unaffordable for the vast majority of PC users. PCs, even those who once bought Nvidia flagships like the 1080 Ti.
Of course, Nvidia will release lower-end GPUs with lower prices, and that brings me to my second point. Because we can see how expensive the higher-end 40-series models are, it’s hard to see Nvidia not raising prices across the stack. We typically only see maybe $50 to $100 between each GPU in the entire product stack, so it seems highly unlikely that the RTX 4070 will launch at $499 just like the RTX 3070. Instead, we might see the 4070 launch with an MSRP of $699 or even $799. Will there even be a 40 series card for under $300?
In addition to Nvidia wanting to increase their margins and profits, the high price of the RTX 40-series is also possibly motivated by the glut of 30-series cards still on the market, particularly the high-end cards from the RTX 3080 to the RTX 3090 Ti. These cards have been falling in price because demand has dropped, and that’s bad for Nvidia’s bottom line. If Nvidia had lowered the price of the RTX 40 series even further, then that could have pushed the price of their old flagships even further.
This is Nvidia’s problem, and in the past, when Nvidia or AMD made too many GPUs, they just had to suck it up. For example, after the release of the RTX 20 series, Nvidia enjoyed a single quarter of record revenue and profit, followed by a year-long slump caused by a glut of GTX 10 series cards still on the market.
Nvidia probably remembers this all too well and doesn’t want it to happen again (despite the fact that it’s responsible for making too many GPUs in the first place), so the company’s solution is simply that consumers will have to pay more for GPUs. new RTX 40 series cards or buy old RTX 30 series cards at prices that are still higher than they should be. It is certainly a bold stance to take given that the world is not exactly in prosperous times.
This can really only go one of two ways for Nvidia. In one scenario, Nvidia gets exactly what it wants and everyone agrees to the RTX 30 and 40 series GPU prices. Nvidia doesn’t have to take lower than desired profit or loss for RTX 30, and RTX 40 sells for huge margins. . In the other scenario, people balk at prices and old and new cards don’t sell as well as they need to, which would be worse than Nvidia simply allowing prices to fall so demand can rise.
We can’t forget about AMD either, which will announce its RX 7000-series GPUs on November 3. AMD has been following Nvidia’s lead in raising prices in recent years, and the next-gen RX 7000 series is on TSMC’s cutting edge and expensive 5nm process, which is nearly identical to TSMC’s 4nm process. nm that the RTX 40 series uses. AMD has every reason not to price the RX 7000 particularly competitively, so Nvidia probably feels pretty confident in its strategy. However, AMD has the power to price the RX 7000 competitively if it wants to, and doing so would be disastrous for Nvidia. Setting prices this high is certainly risky in multiple ways.
Personally, I’m not surprised by the price of the new Nvidia GPUs. Back in August, I detailed how CPUs and especially GPUs have gotten worse in value improvement each year and how it wasn’t just because of COVID or supply shortages. The RTX 40 series is just the next step in a trend that’s been going on for years.
In all likelihood, the trend will continue for years to come, and it could really hurt desktop gaming. We always see reports that desktops are dying and the show has ended, and those reports always ended up being wrong. But it’s hard not to worry when the cheapest GPU of a new generation is significantly more expensive than the most expensive flagship from just a few years ago.