Financially, times are tough for many, but that hasn't stopped well-heeled gamers from rushing out to buy Nvidia's RTX 4090 (opens in new tab). In fact, their popularity has led to a global shortage, and we're all too familiar with those. Newegg in the USA, Overclockers in the UK, and Mwave in Australia show one single model in stock between them at the time of writing.
You'd think at $1,599 / £1,699 / AU$2,959, Nvidia would be rushing to make as many AD102 GPUs as it can can to meet demand, but that might not be the case, as a new rumor suggests that Nvidia is reallocating its TSMC capacity over to much higher margin H100 Hopper enterprise GPUs. (opens in new tab)
The report comes from MyDrivers (opens in new tab) (via Tom’s Hardware (opens in new tab)). The RTX 4090 is a high margin product at $1,499, but compared to Hopper products the profit Nvidia makes for a single 4090 is a relative pittance. A fully enabled H100 GPU with 80GB of HBM3 sells for tens of thousands, and if tech companies wants to build exascale supercomputers with H100s, Nvidia will be happy to accommodate them.
As Nvidia's Ada Lovelace and Hopper series both make use of TSMC's 4N node, it's relatively easy for TSMC to switch production from one GPU to another, although the H100's packaging is a lot more complex.
Next are the pending restrictions on China's access to advanced computing technologies. Big tech in China including the likes of Alibaba and Baidu have an insatiable appetite for high performance computing products, and Nvidia has reportedly ordered "super-hot runs" of its most lucrative chips before the final implementation of the ban.
What does this mean for us? It means finding an RTX 4090 might be difficult in the short term. The 4090 is a low-volume product, as is Hopper, at least compared to the AD103 and AD104 based RTX 4080 16GB (opens in new tab) and
RTX 4080 12GB (opens in new tab) (sorry, RTX 4070). Production of those chips will be taking up a big chunk of Nvidia's wafer starts. When they launch, they’ll be in higher demand than the 4090 and Nvidia will be wanting to have stocks to satisfy global demand into the peak Christmas buying season.
So if you're after a 4090, you might want to get a pre-order in. I can't imagine we'll be facing anything like the scarcity and price-gouging induced by mining demand at its peak, but if Nvidia has to choose between making 10,000 4090s or 10,000 H100s it can sell at 10x the price or more, the choice is a logical and understandable one, even if its not great for us.