Buying a graphics card (opens in new tab) really shouldn't be a difficult task. But through a mix of spiking demand and slim supply, nowadays it can seem a damn near impossible one. That becomes especially true if you would rather not pay seriously over the odds for the latest silicon.
There's no use dancing around the subject: demand is high and supply is tight. If you want a graphics card this year, you need to be ahead of the game, know your stuff, and look in the right places.
As the main driving force for gaming performance, finding the worthiest graphics card at any price is a matter of utmost importance. Today, that usually means either an Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series or AMD Radeon RX 6000-series graphics card—there are a few to choose from, right the way up from the RTX 3060 (opens in new tab) and RX 6600 XT (opens in new tab) to the all-powerful RTX 3090 (opens in new tab) and RX 6900 XT (opens in new tab).
So pick your battles. Knowing which one of today's top GPUs you're after is helpful in finding any available stock. You are more than welcome to cast a wide net and go after just any old Ampere or RDNA 2 chip, and it will give you more chances to buy, but it also can be quite a bit more effort to comb every store page manually.
If you focus your efforts and your attention on chasing one card, you may stand more of a chance of finding a new GPU without pulling your hair out.
It's also worth noting that there are hints that GPU-based cryptocurrency mining may be waning, with a crackdown in China resulting in used cards hitting the second-hand market. If that becomes a worldwide phenomenon then there will be the question: Should I buy a second-hand GPU? (opens in new tab) It's a real lottery with cards used for mining, and our instinct would be to shy away from them. If an Ebay listing for a 'nearly new RTX 3070' looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Where to buy a graphics card in the US right now
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Best Buy GPU restock
Best Buy is the place to watch in the US for graphics card stock, as the official retailer of Nvidia RTX 30-series Founders Edition cards. It also tends to release cards in dribs and drabs across its many stores, and there is at least one good way to try and nail down where and when this stock will appear, courtesy of GPU Restock Monitor on Twitter.
Stores are getting more strict as word is getting out that GPUs are availableAs of October 25, 2021Toggle on "In Stock Only"Use the keywords : Graphics Card / RTX / Gaming GraphicsGPUs will show in the app, go to the store and ask nicely to place an order using the sku. https://t.co/L0DOpwwKo1October 25, 2021
AMD.com GPU stock drops
AMD regularly opens a queue for its webstore when stock is available, and while usually in limited numbers its RX 6000-series graphics cards are often in the mix. Keep an eye out for these queues when they go live, however, they give new meaning to the term 'flash sale' in how quickly they sell out.
We also recommend checking out Newegg's Shuffle (opens in new tab) for a chance to buy a card for a little less. Drops come in thick and fast, and while you might not be guaranteed success, you at least net the chance at an online order for a graphics card.
Where to buy a graphics card in the UK right now
You can find various graphics cards, both AMD and Nvidia, in stock at websites such as Overclockers, Scan, and Ebuyer. The problem is, they're so overpriced it's a little upsetting.
Take the RTX 3060 Ti, for example. You can find this card fairly often for £600 or more, which is only, uh, nearly double the UK MSRP.
So that's not great, but the cards are there if you're willing to spend. Otherwise, it's a case of tracking stock drops closer to MSRP and racing the competition to checkout. Some of the tips below might be able to help with that.
Or you can try and bypass the rat race altogether with one of the best gaming PCs (opens in new tab), which are easier to come by with the latest cards.
List of graphics card MSRPs
Here's a list of the manufacturer set retail prices (MSRP), or recommended retail price (RRP), for most the latest graphics cards. For the most part, these are the set prices for the stock or reference versions of these cards, if applicable, and not representative of overclocked or third-party graphics cards, which may well be priced higher.
Sadly, real-world pricing is far in excess of those listed below, but this should help give you an idea of how much you're overpaying for a GPU, and whether it's worth it.
- RTX 3090 FE - $1,499 / £1,399
- RTX 3080 Ti FE - $1,199 / £1,049
- RTX 3080 FE - $699 / £649
- RTX 3070 Ti - $599 / £529
- RTX 3070 - $499 / £469
- RTX 3060 Ti - $399 / £349
- RTX 3060 - $329 / £299
- RX 6900 XT - $999 / ~£770
- RX 6800 XT - $649 / ~£600
- RX 6800 - $579 / ~£530
- RX 6700 XT - $479 / ~£420
- RX 6600 XT - $379 / ~£320
Graphics card stock alerts
You could attempt to manually refresh every store page in the hopes of striking gold on the next restock; that's one way to go about it. Or, you could sign up to a trusty app that goes about trawling major retailers for you. It's not a bot that tries to snap up stock the wrong way, it just does the refreshing so you don't have to.
We've had success with the app HotStock in the UK, and sites such as Stock Informer (opens in new tab) offer a similar service in the US, although we've not used this service to score stock personally.
Some services may charge a small fee or require a sign up to notify you ahead of the rabble, and we recommend you only do that with services with good reviews. Sometimes it will get you ahead of the crowds, but you don't want to give up all your personal info just to net a new GPU. Proceed with caution.
Similarly, you can find plenty of free Discord servers with dedicated stock alert bots and eagle-eyed community members, such as the popular StockDrops server (opens in new tab). Then there are the heaps of dedicated Twitter accounts, like our sister site Tech Radar's very own Matt Swider (opens in new tab).
And don't forget Twitch streams. Those dedicated to finding you stock will often fire out a deafening klaxon the moment stock appears. We recommend checking out Falcodrin on Twitch (opens in new tab) for Nvidia GPUs, but there are plenty of kind souls out there offering a similar service.
What I'm saying is to use the resources available to you, most of which are free, to make your life a little easier when trying to buy a graphics card. They really do work, and it's a lot better than hitting F5 all day long.
Make accounts at major retailers
It sounds silly, but the time it takes for you to enter your details at checkout can be the difference between securing a graphics card and walking away empty handed. We recommend making accounts at all the major tech retailers in your area when you decide to start seriously hunting, if only to be an inch ahead of the rest when stock finally arrives.
Similarly, retailers such as Newegg actually recommend using their app for swifter checkout. While we cannot confirm that is the case and not just a ploy to get you using their app, it may be worth it while you're on the hunt for a GPU.
It's all about minimising the time it takes for you to load a page and hit checkout. It's possible you're in a race alongside potentially thousands of others, if not some robots too, and you really want to be ready to go right as the starting pistol fires.
It's not for everyone, but the best way to ensure you'll receive a graphics card this year, and a modern one at something close to MSRP, is to buy a prebuilt gaming PC. It's a worthy consideration if you're considering a total rebuild some point in the future, at least. System builders appear to enjoy a more stable supply of graphics cards, and while some still expect delays, you are at least guaranteed a PC with GPU in situ eventually.
I'd also say there are a few brands I'd maybe expect to see dropping prices a touch around Prime Day. Dell and Lenovo immediately come to mind, so worth checking out if there's a bargain (by 2021 standards) to be had. Or if you don't want to do it yourself, we've got our eyes on the prize and will be keeping our cheap gaming PC (opens in new tab) page up to date with the latest deals from across the web.
Alienware (Dell) (opens in new tab)
You won't find much in the way of a discount over at Dell, at least not as I'm writing this, but systems are readily available. Most appear available with delivery dates in mid August, so this could be the quickest route we've seen to a brand new graphics card yet.
iBuyPower (opens in new tab)
iBuyPower says it should be able to get you a gaming PC by late August, which isn't awful considering the dire situation in the component market. That includes gaming PCs with RTX 3080 graphics cards fitted, so not a bad shout if you're desperate. It also has its Same Day RDY range (opens in new tab), these are non-customisable pre-built machines which could be on your desktop in days.
Origin PC (opens in new tab)
You can take your pick of graphics cards over at Origin and have a system delivered in roughly a month's time. Some even sooner than that. Funny thing is, you can also pick up an RTX 3090 PC for cheaper than an RTX 3080 Ti-powered system. Sweet.
Gaming laptops haven't felt the GPU crunch quite like the component market has this past year. You'll still find 'out of stock' notices littering pages from here to Razer's HQ, but that really only hits the most popular models going—some of which may have had spotty stock even at the best of times.
The fact is, you can find a gaming machine with a great RTX 30-series GPU in stock right now. It's not that hard, even, and if you're really in a pinch for performance a gaming laptop could be an exciting prospect. They also come with all the greatest hits of PC gaming too—fast NVMe SSDs, high refresh rate screens, and the latest GPU and CPU silicon around. The latest gaming laptops are light and can last all day... so long as you're not actually playing games on them at least.
Like with gaming PCs, we will also be keeping an eye out for the best cheap gaming laptop deals (opens in new tab) on a weekly basis too. So that's always a page worth bookmarking too.