Various technical news outlets such as The Register and PC World have been reporting for the past couple of weeks that there has been a shorting of medium-to-high-end graphics cards. The shortage of cards on shelves both in physical stores and online has begun to get to the point where retailers are limited households to only two cards each. It has begun to cause issues for PC builders wanting to build a virtual reality (VR)-ready PC. What is causing it? In a word: CryptoCurrency.
Most people will be familiar with CryptoCurrency as represented by the infamous BitCoin, but there are several other types which exist, such as Etherium and Zcash and those can be ‘mined’ by solving complex cryptographic puzzles. A dramatic jump in the prices for the Etherium currency has seen a surge in demand for hardware the can handle taking on the cryptography. Savvy crypto miners have discovered that powerful gaming graphics cards are ideal for churning out new ‘coins’.
AMD cards have traditionally had the best reputation fro crypto-mining, so upon the Etherium price rise, AMD RX 750 and RX 580 cards suddenly began vanishing, with stores such as Amazon, New Egg and Best Buy being sold out rapidly. A run on nVidia GeForce 1050, 1060 and 1080 cards rapidly followed suit, with demand for the cards far outstripping supply.
As a result, users looking to build a new VR-ready PC videogaming rig have seen cards that support VR, such as the GeForce 1080 being sold out or seeing a huge jump in price. This has left many consumers on a budget with no choice but to wait for a re-stock.
Several GPU makers have now begun to try and ease the strain by creating mining-specific GPU hardware, though the supply has not yet caught up with demand.
Analysts also warn PC builders that when the cryptocurrency bubble inevitably bursts, many graphics cards that have previously seen life running 24/7 mining crypto-currency could begin to flood the market, alongside the crypto-mining specific cards which are unsuitable for VR or videogaming functions. As such, consumers are being urged to tread carefully where ‘bargain’ second hand GPUs are concerned in future.