How to buy a graphics card in 2021 (reasonably priced)

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The best graphics cards haven’t been found for nearly a year now, but things are starting to improve. Inventories are improving at retailers, and although prices are still high, they are starting to drop. For all of you who have waited patiently – and don’t want to wait any longer – we’ll show you how to buy a graphics card.

It’s important to note that the prices are still much higher than they should be, and this is true for all retailers. We have three methods that will help you mark a card as close to the list price as possible, but it’s next to impossible to buy a card at the list price right now.

Method 1: Newegg, EVGA and Micro Center

If you want to get a new graphics card as close to list price as possible, there are three options: Newegg Shuffle, EVGA’s Queue System, and in-store at Micro Center. It is possible to get a graphics card by all three methods, but your mileage will vary depending on where you are, how much you are willing to spend, and how diligently you research a new card.

Newegg Shuffle is probably the most popular way to get a new graphics card. Shuffle is a daily raffle that takes place on the Newegg website. Every day, Newegg selects a list of high-demand products – mostly graphics cards, but sometimes also processors and consoles – that users can select for a chance to buy. Once the raffle is over, Newegg raffles the winners and gives them a small window of time to log in and verify.

It’s not a perfect system, however. On average, around 100,000 people participate in each shuffle, so you can participate every day for months without always being selected. It’s a raffle, after all, so there is an element of luck. Additionally, Newegg often bundles boards with other components that you might not need, like a power supply or motherboard. You cannot return the bundled item separately, so you will either have to sell it yourself or pay the additional cost.

The EVGA queue system is more forgiving. Instead of a raffle, EVGA allows users to purchase cards on a first come, first served basis as stock becomes available. Unlike Newegg Shuffle and many other methods of buying a graphics card, EVGA sells its cards at list price. Yes, you can buy an RTX 3080 for $ 699.

However, that depends entirely on when EVGA has new stock on hand. Instead of an overall raffle, you have to choose each individual model you want to buy and be ready to buy when your name appears.

Finally, you can purchase a card in person if you have a Micro Center near you. Many slots have graphics cards in stock for several days, and if your local store doesn’t, you can show up in the morning when they have more inventory to pick up a card. This is probably the best way to get a new graphics card for a reasonable price, but it assumes that you have a Micro Center near you.

Method 2: Use a stock tracker

A live tracker for graphics card inventory.

If you want to make your way to a new graphics card, you can use a stock tracker. There are several stock trackers available through YouTube live streams, Discord servers, and browser extensions, but they all do the same thing: constantly check to see if graphics cards are in stock at retailers.

User fixitfixitfixit has been executed a live stream on YouTube and Twitch over the past few months, and a Discord server is also associated with the streams. It tracks AMD and Nvidia graphics card inventory on Amazon, Newegg, Best Buy, and Antonline, as well as several other retailers (including Office Depot and B&H Photo).

Additionally, there are inventory tracking extensions like Distill and HotStock that can check for you. Both have free and paid tiers depending on how often you want to check websites and how many products you want to monitor. However, retailers may prohibit you from using these tools. Users are reporting account closings on Newegg and Best Buy thanks to anti-bot measures in place at those retailers.

If you want to use this method, we recommend that you follow an action tracking account on Twitter. This way, you don’t have to constantly monitor a live stream or run the risk of having your account banned. Accounts like @stock_drops and @LeBlarstOfTimes tweet when new cards are available. Follow these accounts and others like it, and make sure to turn on tweet notifications. If you do this, you will only have to check when you get a notification.

Method 3: Buy a pre-built or gaming laptop

Omen 30L desktop computer in front of a window.

If you need more than a graphics card, or even an entire system, you’re in luck. You can buy a pre-built system or a gaming laptop at a reasonable price. Keep in mind that pre-built systems are more expensive than purchasing individual components, so the final price reflects the high cost of graphics cards at this time.

There are many options for pre-built offices. HP, Dell, Origin PC and Falcon Northwest top the list of best gaming desktops, but there are dozens of manufacturers out there with a plethora of unique options. The advantage of going with a pre-built PC is that you can customize your build beyond what you could be comfortable doing. There are options like the HP Omen 30L which include easily upgradeable standard parts, as well as machines like the Maingear Rush, which includes a custom water cooling loop.

The other advantage of a pre-built is that you can choose whatever card you want. Newegg Shuffle mainly offers Nvidia cards and EVGA exclusively sells Nvidia cards. With a pre-built card, you can also get one of AMD’s recent RDNA 2 graphics cards.

If you don’t need the extra parts, you can buy a pre-built card, trade in the graphics card, and sell it as a unit. You can also separate it and sell everything individually. While it’s hard to get rid of the extra parts if all you need is a graphics card, this route can save you money depending on your system configuration.

The other option is a gaming laptop. The GPU price crisis really only impacted full-size graphics cards. Popular gaming laptops with recent mobile cards, like the Razer Blade 14, are still priced in line with the rest of the laptop market. The obvious downside to going this route is that you can’t remove the graphics card and put it in another machine, along with the normal heat and noise issues that come with most gaming laptops.

Method 4: Buy second-hand (but be careful)

Ads for the RTX 3080 on eBay.

Finally, you can buy a used card. This is a good option if you want to get a below-priced card at retailers, especially as scalpers level off and second-hand prices continue to drop. However, you have to be careful when shopping in the second hand market.

Cryptocurrency miners often sell their GPUs after they have been used for mining. Since these are cards that run at full capacity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you may end up taking a unit that is in its final stages. There is no way to know if you are buying from a minor or not, so you will need to do your due diligence. If you look at the seller’s ratings and other announcements, it’s usually easy to tell if it’s a manufacturer selling an older GPU or a miner unloading dozens of cards.

eBay is the best place to assess how much GPUs are selling for, but you’ll also find them on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Mercari. Regardless of the platform, pay close attention to the name and description of the ad. Since the onset of the GPU shortage, vendors have sprung up selling pictures graphics cards, not the cards themselves. While most of the time just a joke, it’s not hard to imagine someone buying something like this thinking they’re getting a good deal on a graphics card.

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