Things are looking up since the last time we covered how to buy a GPU. While you’ll still have trouble nabbing an Nvidia Founder’s Edition GPU even close to its original MSRP, you won’t have to fight tooth and nail just to find a place that has stock for purchase. In fact, the longer you wait, the more likely you’ll find cards at MSRP due to shortages finally easing up.
Before you run to get yourself a graphics card, also note that the Nvidia 40-series is rumored to drop later this year. Those cards will be more powerful, and hopefully available at their MSRP. However, it’s a gamble whether they’ll cost the same as the 30-series Founder’s Edition cards.
In any case, there’s no need to buy from a scalper on eBay but getting a card close to AMD’s or Nvidia’s suggested retail price may still be tricky. So, we’ve rounded up our tips and tricks below.
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Shopping in stores
By far, the easiest way to buy a graphics card is to drive to a hardware superstore like Micro Center or Best Buy and browse the in-store shelves. Both stores also have a healthy stock of cards for purchase online to pick up in-store, as well. To save money, keep an eye out for open-box units, which are discounted on their full retail price.
If you’re on the hunt for a Nvidia RTX Founder’s Edition GPU (ie the cheapest current-gen Nvidia cards), Best Buy is the exclusive retailer and they have locked their purchase behind the Best Buy $200 Total Tech annual membership. AMD reference cards are a little easier to find, as they aren’t locked to a single retailer, but Micro Center will still be your best bet.
Third-party cards from EVGA, Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, PNY, 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 make up for the price discrepancy.
If you open your search to online retailers, your options are widen, but you will encounter more than a few selling cards for twice the MSRP of reference cards or more. Walmart, Amazon, Antonline, Adorama, BH Photo Video, and Newegg all sell cards if you can find them in stock. If you have a specific card in mind, be sure to check out the manufacturer’s page for additional retailers, as well.
By far, your best bet to getting a graphics card you’re happy with online is to pick out which card you want, and then keep up to date with stock alerts at official retailers and e-tailers.
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Like buying an open-box graphics card from a retailer, you can buy a second-hand graphics card. You probably won’t save much money doing so on eBay, but it’s always worth reminding folk to ask around if their friends plan to upgrade their cards soon and strike up a trade.
Of course, take the typical precautions when buying a used PC part. First: Verify you’re getting what you’re paying for. Check the graphics card’s specs in “Device Manager” menu or through a third-party specs verifier like Speccy to ensure that it matches the item description. The graphics card should also have a sticker with the model’s name on it.
If you want to take it a step further, you can open up the graphics card, remove the cooling plates, and directly check the GPU chip for its model number—although we don’t recommend doing this unless you are confident that you can work 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 be sure the card hasn’t been driven to death. First and foremost: don’t buy cards used for crypto mining, as these cards are often run at max power, 24/7 until they die. Check the card for dents, scratches, rusting, water damage or other signs of physical damage. Run benchmarks on your new card and compare them against other PC builds that are like 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 yourself a pre-built you like and sell your old PC. You’re already upgrading your GPU—why not upgrade the rest of the PC if money’s not an issue? There are some great deals on CPUs, power supplies, and RAM, especially if you get it within a build.
If you’re not so concerned with saving money, now’s a good time to upgrade your entire system in general. Intel’s 12th-gen processors support DDR5 RAM, so you can be one of the first to hop onto 5200MHz RAM speeds if you upgrade your CPU and motherboard.
Some of our favorite pre-built desktop PCs come from manufacturers like NZXT, MSI, and Origin PC, all of which use hardware that you’d probably pick up yourself if you were putting a PC together from scratch—no weird proprietary motherboards or cryptic cases that break when you try to open them.
Restock alerts and other tips
If you want to get a card for retail price online, you will need to be diligent. 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 sign up for.
Next, get on social media and turn those notifications on! There are Twitter accounts, Discord servers, YouTube channels, and websites dedicated to tracking stock. Restockify, for instance, checks for stock on dozens of cards every minute. Stockinformer is another stock checker, although its UI isn’t as clean. The YouTube channel fixitfixitfixit has a live stock alert stream to keep in the background if you want to keep tabs on a lot of cards at once (you can also join their Discord for alerts that way, too).
If you don’t want to waste your time wandering into a retailer at random times of day, it’s worth talking to the employees that work there. Ask them if/when the store expects a restock of cards, or if there’s a pattern to the restocks. Due to the world’s supply chain issues in 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 hunting for that shiny new GPU!
If you need help picking out the best GPU for you, be sure to read our coverage to get a better idea of what to expect for performance.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: How to buy a graphics card