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The new GPU world order is beginning to take shape

As Nvidia hikes prices, Intel is only too happy to profit from your discontent, and AMD remains a wild card

Comment For the first time in what feels like an eternity, customers have a third choice when it comes to graphics processors with the launch of Intel's mainstream Arc GPUs. It could be that AMD and Nvidia's long-standing duopoly has come to a close.

The timing of Intel's launch couldn't have come at a better time. After nearly two years of crypto-fueled price gouging and supply chain constraints, many including myself were looking to see GPU pricing return to pre-pandemic norms. Instead, it seems Nvidia has got a taste for just how much y'all are willing to pay for a few extra frames and it's hungry for more.

The chipmaker's RTX 40-series cards are among its most expensive to date – running anywhere from $100–$400 more than their predecessors.

Nowhere was Nvidia's rapacious nature more egregious than when it rebranded what was clearly meant to be a 12GB RTX 4070 as a second, substantially lower-spec 4080. The two 4080s don't even use the same GPU die, yet Nvidia is asking nearly $900 for the base model. By comparison, the RTX 3070 launched with an MSRP of $500 at the end of 2020.

Even if the 12GB 4080 manages twice the performance of the 3070, at nearly twice the price, that doesn't make it better value. And if Nvidia continues with this trend, it's not hard to imagine MSRPs of $699 and $529 for the 4070 and 4060, respectively, when they finally launch.

It's also worth noting that Nvidia's MSRPs are rarely realistic. You can expect board partners to charge far more than Nvidia suggests. A quick search of Best Buy reveals customers can expect to pay as much as $1,749 on the high end for an RTX 4090 when it arrives on shelves next week.

While this will certainly contribute to the perception of Nvidia as a premium vendor, the strategy risks driving customers into the arms of Intel or AMD.

A new mid-tier darling?

That's exactly what Intel appears to be counting on. At Intel's Innovation event last month, CEO Pat Gelsinger took to the stage offering relief from high GPU prices with the Arc A770 GPU, in what was clearly a shot at the GPU juggernaut.

Rather than trying to compete on sheer performance, Gelsinger made it very clear Intel's strategy is to undercut its larger rivals in the high-volume, mid-tier segment. If this sounds familiar, it's the same strategy AMD used to get a leg up on Intel in the early days of Ryzen.

It's no secret GPUs like the 4090 are hero cards. They represent the very best of what a company like Nvidia can squeeze out of its silicon, and as such they command a premium. But it remains the mid-tier where most of the money is made.

This is where Intel is establishing its beachhead with the launch of its $329 A770 GPU, which the chipmaker says outperforms Nvidia's mainstream RTX 3060 in a wide selection of games.

This level of performance is unlikely to make Intel's Arc GPUs an enthusiast's first choice. But their relatively high performance per dollar should make them very attractive to OEMs and system integrators, whose customers are looking for overall value rather than cutting-edge performance.

The AMD wildcard

So where does AMD fit in this new GPU world order? We won't know for sure until the House of Zen rolls out its RDNA 3 GPUs early next month, but the company's Ryzen 7000 CPU pricing does offer some hints.

While many had suspected AMD would reposition itself as the premium CPU option and raise prices for its Ryzen refresh, it didn't. AMD kept prices flat compared to Ryzen 5000 and even dropped the starting price of its top-tier 7950X by $100.

There's no guarantee that AMD will do the same with its RDNA 3 GPUs, but given the outcry over Nvidia's higher prices, it would certainly be the smart move.

Even if AMD bumped the MSRP of its RX 7000-series GPUs by $100 over the outgoing RX 6000 series, the company would still be positioned to claim better value over Nvidia, while offering higher overall performance than Intel. ®

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