Today, after many months of leaks, rumors, and speculation, Nvidia finally officially revealed its next generation of graphics cards, the RTX 4000 series. While new graphics upgrades are welcome—the RTX 3000 series is now over two years old—Nvidia’s decision to charge massive premiums for the new-generation GPUs, as well as engage in arguably deceptive naming practices, is not going over well with many PC enthusiasts.
The new information came from Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s keynote address at the company’s three-day GTC 2022 event, which it bills as the “#1 AI developer conference.” Huang debuted not just the 24GB RTX 4090 (paper-launching on October 12 for $1599) but also a 16GB RTX 4080 ($1199) and a 12GB RTX 4080 ($899), both due in November. In addition, the company revealed a number of new features and technologies the new GPUs will enjoy, including DLSS 3.0, a new performance-enhancing tech called Shader Execution Reordering, and standard dual NVENC encoders that support next-gen video codec AV1.
You can read Nvidia’s official PR here, and Tom’s Hardware has a useful roundup of the known specs.
Prices aside, everything sounds solid, right? Streamers and video folks have been clamoring for products with robust AV1 support. DLSS 3.0 sounds like it’ll make the already very compelling DLSS 2.0 technology even better at running performance-intensive games at higher resolutions and framerates. There’s now a ray-traced version of Portal. Despite rumors, RTX 4090 runs on less than 500 watts. And Nvidia is claiming, across various benchmarks, 2x to even 3x performance uplift over the last-generation cards. (Of course, take those numbers with a grain of salt until outside folks can put RTX 4000 GPUs through their paces.) After two years of increasing performance stagnation, it’s at least nice to see forward movement again.
Those prices, though. Oof, those prices.
“What the fuck? 899 for a 4080 12G, which should be a 4070? 1200 for 4080 16G, so $500 more than last gen xx80. These prices are crazy,” lamented one Redditor.
Said another, “The prices are downright insulting. They are trying to sell you a 4070 rebranded as a 4080 for 900$ lmao.”
One commenter looked back to 2018’s GeForce 20-series to pinpoint why today’s prices felt so exorbitant.
And the last two gens were already out of fucking control, even at MSRP. For years, the x70 was $329, the x80 was $499, the x80 Ti was $700, and the prosumer grade one (Titan, x90, etc) was $1,199. With the 20 series, they bumped all of the prices a whole fucking tier, and it looks like they are doing it again.
Indeed, in 2018, Nvidia attracted criticism for pricing its then-new RTX 20-series cards a full “tier” higher than the previous 10-series cards had cost. For example, the RTX 2070 cost almost as much as the prior high-end GTX 1080, despite being less of a flagship card. Today we’re seeing a similar tier-jumping phenomenon take shape.
The MSRP of the 10GB RTX 3080 Founder’s Edition—assuming you could find one, during the crypto-mining hell of the last two years—was $699. Now Nvidia’s revealed a 16GB RTX 4080, which many observers take to be the closest to a true 3080 successor, for a whopping $1199—an increase of $500.
Read More: Chaotic Scenes At Nvidia GPU Restock
But what about the 12GB RTX 4080 at $899? The catch, unfortunately, is that it appears to be a significantly lower-performing part, essentially a whole different card altogether. If you refer back to the Tom’s Hardware specs, the lower-end RTX 4080 uses a different, lesser die (“AD104,” with only 7,680 shader cores) than the 16GB RTX 4080 (“AD103,” with 9,728 cores).
And it’s the same story across every spec: It’s easy to make the argument that the 12GB RTX 4080 appears to be a “4080” in name only, hence various onlookers suggesting that “RTX 4070” would be a more “honest” designation. Of course, even then its MSRP is $899, which is $400 more than the RTX 3070’s original MSRP of $499. Sure, two years is a long time, and we’re in the midst of record inflation. But even taking that into account, it really feels like Nvidia is continuing to starve what just five years ago had been a more vibrant GPU market which had compelling offerings across a range of price points.
In addition, RTX 4000-series prices will likely be even harsher outside of the United States. For example, Nvidia Italy product pages list the RTX 4090 at 1,979€, and the two RTX 4080s at 1,479€ and 1,109€, respectively.
“VAT aside, those prices are not affordable in Europe. The wages here are significantly lower and with the rising costs of electricity, I just can’t see the 40 series selling well here,” said a Redditor. “They marketed the tech to corporations throughout 99% of the stream which further shows their lack of faith in the gaming market.”
“Basically every currency has weakened against the USD, most of them between 10-30%, so it’s gonna be even more expensive. The 4090 literally costs $2100 retail in Japan,” said another.
Those were considered scalping prices less than a year ago.
It’s also worth remembering that today’s announced MSRPs only cover Nvidia’s own card releases, such as the RTX 3000-series’ Founder’s Edition products. RTX 4000-series cards from third-party AIB (add-in board) vendors like Asus and MSI will generally cost more. Last week, noted Nvidia AIB vendor EVGA shocked onlookers when it announced its decision to stop making Nvidia graphics cards.
When asked for comment, an Nvidia spokesperson said,
The price point of RTX 4090 starts at $1599. In comparison, the launch price of the RTX 3090 Ti, which the RTX 4090 now replaces, was $1,999.
The RTX 4080 16GB is 3x the performance of the RTX 3080 Ti on next-gen content like Cyberpunk with RT Overdrive mode or Racer RTX—for the same price of $1199. And the RTX 4080 12GB at $899, is 3x the performance of the RTX 3080 12GB for $100 less. RTX 3080 10GB is still an incredible value and we’ll continue to offer it in our lineup.
That is one way to look at it. And as that last line implies, Nvidia’s new cards will actually be competing with its two-year-old RTX 3000-series products, which the company is widely rumored to have a large surplus of now that the crypto GPU-mining craze has (temporarily?) subsided. Only as of recently, after two years of outrageously inflated, scarcity-induced pricing, can you easily buy RTX 3000-series cards for close to MSRP. With RTX 3080s still starting at a steep $699, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Nvidia would willingly price the new RTX 4000-series cards anywhere closer to Earth.
So Nvidia has its viewpoint. But viewing events from the consumer side, it really feels like the costs of enthusiast PC gaming are continuing to skyrocket, and at a time when the costs of just about everything else are, too. I hope there is some sort of relief on the horizon, because as the one Redditor put it, “I love PC gaming, but I can’t fucking afford to be a part of it anymore.”