4 Tips For Successfully Buying The Graphics Card You Actually Want In 2021

Buying a graphics card in 2021 isn’t easy. The compounding problems of low stock and high prices mean you have to be fast, lucky and often have deep pockets to get one, or settle for an overpriced and under-powered second hand version. With industry leaders predicting that the shortage may extend well into 2022, though, it isn’t necessarily worth trying to wait out this GPU crisis either.

You can always opt to buy a pre-built gaming PC or laptop, as though those are also more expensive than they should be, they’re almost always in stock, and the sheer volume most retailers and system builders trade in means prices aren’ t too ridiculous.

If you want a new GPU for your existing gaming PC and want to get one close to its suggested retail price, though, here are some of the best ways to buy a graphics card in 2021 at a reasonable price.

Use Stock Trackers

With all of the other gamers, cryptocurrency miners and scalpers (and their bots) trying to buy a graphics card online, it can be extremely difficult to buy one when stock finally appears at any online retailer or even on the official manufacturer’s digital stores. If you’re even a couple of minutes late it can be enough to miss one of the cards and then you’re back to playing the F5-waiting-game again.

Fixitfixitfixit Drops and Tech also operates a Discord channel which works in much the same way, if you’d rather use that platform for updates.

If you’re more of a Twitter fan, there are accounts on there that are worth following that can give you immediate updates retail when stock arrives at differenters, including @TheBlarstOfTimesand @stock_drops. They’re not as regularly updated as some of the livestreams, but they do have links in their tweets, so you’ll be able to tap or click straight away and if you’re logged in to the respective store, the card will immediately be added to your cart, potentially saving precious seconds and further increasing your chance of being lucky.

If you have a specific card or cards that you want to buy, there are some generic website change tracking extensions which also work a treat. The Distil Web Monitor can be setup to send you SMS alerts whenever a particular URL or URLs are changed.

Websites like HotStock, StockInformer and NowInStock are less dynamic, but can give you an overarching picture of retailers and what they may (or may not) have in stock at any one time.

Enter The Lottery

Most major retailers know that a big portion of the graphics cards being bought aren’t going to actual gamers, or at least ones that won’t sell those cards on at a profit, so to try to make the process of buying a GPU a little bit fairer, some have implemented lotteries and raffles, all of which give a lucky few the chance to buy a graphics card at a fairer price.

There’s no guarantee you’ll win the chance, as you’re still competing against the tens of thousands of others who want to buy a card for every possible reason. But at least the process is fairer than all the cards going to those with the fastest fingers (or more likely, bots).
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The Newegg Shuffle is one popular way to get access to some of the retailer’s most hard-to-get graphics cards. It allows you to select a number of products you are interested in buying before entering the lottery system. Winners will be selected at random and you’ll be notified if and when you are selected. When you are, you’ll be given a six hour notification window to agree to the purchase, with a further two hours to actually make the transaction and buy the card. Although you still need to get lucky, the whole process has much less time pressure and the guarantee of stock on at least one of the items you’re interested in.

Pre-register to Buy

EVGA has a slightly different system for helping gamers get their hands on a graphics card. Its Queue system lets you register your interest for a graphics card and when it becomes available and it’s your turn, you’ll be given a notification ahead of everyone else, giving you a prioritized window to buy the card you’ve been after.

Because you have to select individual models and registering your interest today puts you at the back of the existing queue, you may have some time to wait. Some models haven’t been in stock (or have been so oversubscribed) that the queue is eight months long. However, according to an unofficial queue tracker, some buyers have picked up even popular, powerful cards like the RTX 3080 Ti just three months prior.

Buy In-Store

Skip online queues for real-world ones, and you may have a much better chance of buying a graphics card. Big brick and mortar stores like MicroCenter and Best Buy often get large orders of GPUs in store with hard limits on one card per person, and you have to actually visit the store to get it.

You’ll still need to find a store with the card you want in stock, travel there, and pay a little bit over original retail pricing, but you’ll only be competing with other people with the will and means to do the same— Rather than every gamer and cryptominer who can refresh an online retailer anywhere in the world.

You may get lucky and just show up to a store and buy one as soon as you can get there, but if your local MicroCenter needs to wait on stock, do take note of the virtual ticket system that you’ll need to navigate in order to be one of the first in line when a new shipment arrives.

There are also tools like BrickSeek which can check in-store retailer stock of certain products, which can help spot GPUs that are available to buy in person.

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