How to buy a graphics card
Things are looking up since the last time we covered how to buy a GPU. While you’ll still struggle to find an Nvidia Founder’s Edition GPU even close to its original MSRP, you won’t have to fight tooth and nail just to find somewhere that has stock to buy. In fact, the longer you wait, the greater the chance you will find maps at MSRP due to shortages that eventually ease.
Before you run out and get yourself a graphics card, also note that the Nvidia’s 40-series set to drop later this year. These cards will be more powerful and hopefully available at their MSRP. However, it’s a gamble on whether they’ll cost the same as the 30-series Founder’s Edition cards.
Either way, buying from a scalper on eBay isn’t necessary, but getting a card close to AMD or Nvidia’s suggested retail price can still be tricky. So we’ve put together our tips and tricks below.
By far the easiest way to buy a graphics card is to go to a hardware store like Micro Center or Best Buy and browse the shelves in-store. Both stores also have a large stock of cards to buy online to pick up in store as well. To save money, keep an eye out for open-box units, which are discounted from their full retail price.
If you are looking for a Nvidia RTX Founder’s Edition GPUs (i.e. the cheapest current-gen Nvidia cards), Best Buy is the exclusive retailer and they’ve locked their purchase behind Best Buy’s $200 annual subscription to Total Tech. AMD reference cards are a little easier to find, as they’re not tied to a single retailer, but Micro Center will still be your best bet.
Third-party cards from EVGA, Asus, MSI, gigabyte, NPC, and other manufacturers are much easier to find in stores, but they tend to be more expensive than their reference counterparts. In return, they have unique cooling designs, RGB lighting, and other special features that help offset the price gap.
If you open your search to online retailers, your options expand, but you’ll come across more than a few cards selling for twice the MSRP of reference cards or more. walmart, Amazon, Antonina, Adorama, BH Photo Videoand new egg all sell cards if you can find them in stock. If you have a specific card in mind, be sure to check the manufacturer’s page for other retailers as well.
By far, your best bet for getting a graphics card you’re happy with online is to choose the card you want, then keep up to date with stock alerts from official retailers and e-tailers.
Buy a second hand
Just like buying an open box graphics card from a retailer, you can buy a used graphics card. You probably won’t save a lot of money doing it on eBay, but it’s always worth reminding people to find out if their friends are planning to update their cards soon and do a trade.
Of course, take typical precautions when buying a used PC part. First: check that you are getting what you pay for. Check the graphics card specs in the “Device Manager” menu or through a third-party spec checker like Species to make sure it matches the item description. The graphics card should also have a sticker with the model name on it.
If you want to go deeper, you can open the graphics card, remove the cooling plates, and directly check the GPU chip’s model number, although we don’t recommend doing this unless you’re sure you can get the job done. well with electronics (it’s really easy to damage or even brick a graphics card if you mess around).
If you’re sure the card is genuine, great! You’ll also want to make sure the card hasn’t been driven to death. First things first: don’t buy cards used for crypto mining, as these cards often run at their maximum power, 24/7 until they die. Check the card for dents, scratches, rust, water damage, or other signs of physical damage. Run benchmarks on your new card and compare them to other PC builds similar to yours.
Buy a pre-built PC
Technically, you can buy a pre-built gaming PC, take the GPU, and sell the rest of the PC. However, you can also get a pre-built one that you like and sell your old PC. You are already upgrading your GPU. Why not upgrade the rest of the PC if money is no object? There are great deals on CPUs, PSUs, and RAM, especially if you get them in one build.
If you’re not so concerned about saving money, now is a good time to upgrade your entire system in general. Intel’s 12th generation processors support DDR5 RAM, so you can be one of the first to upgrade to 5200 MHz RAM speeds if you upgrade your processor and motherboard.
Some of our favorite pre-built desktops come from manufacturers like NZXT, MSI, and Origin PC, all of which use hardware you’d probably pick up yourself if you were assembling a PC from scratch – no proprietary motherboards. weird or cryptic cases that break when you try to open them.
Restock alerts and other tips
If you want to get a card at retail price online, you’ll need to do your due diligence. Restock alerts will be your best friend. First, check to see if the card manufacturer or retailer has an email or phone alert you can subscribe to.
Then, head over to social media and turn on those notifications! There are Twitter accounts, Discord servers, YouTube channels, and dedicated stock tracking websites. Restockfor example, checks the stock of dozens of cards every minute. Stockinform is another stock checker, although its user interface is not as clean. the Youtube channel has a live stock alerts feed to keep in the background if you want to keep tabs on a lot of charts at once (you can also join their Discord for alerts this way too).
If you don’t want to waste your time walking around a store at random times of the day, it’s worth talking to the employees who work there. Ask them if/when the store expects a restock of cards, or if there is a restock pattern. Due to global supply chain issues across all industries, they may not always know when the next truck will show up, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
May you have the best of luck searching for that shiny new GPU!
If you need help choosing the best GPU for you, be sure to read our coverage to get a better idea of what to expect performance-wise.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.