The situation with RTX 4090 graphics cards is getting pretty dire, as prices for the Lovelace flagship have shot up, and the reason is seemingly tied into what’s happened with this GPU over in China.
As you may be aware, the RTX 4090 is now banned in China, and indeed so are other Nvidia AD102-based products and GPUs for heavyweight AI work. However, there are organizations in the country who have found a fudged way around the restrictions.
If you recall, a whole heap of RTX 4090 graphics cards were reportedly shipped to China before the ban came into play, and this made sense as we saw the results in rising prices for the flagship GPU in the US and elsewhere a couple of months back.
Having bought up these RTX 4090 models, what some firms are doing in China is taking them apart and using the AD102 chips and VRAM modules to make new AI accelerators with blower-style coolers. Those coolers are designed for data center usage in what are known as AI farms, where there are big racks of these GPUs for serious AI workloads.
As VideoCardz has reported in the past, there’s photographic evidence of the deconstruction of these GeForce gaming graphics cards to make these AI accelerators, and more pics just turned up on X (formerly Twitter) courtesy of I_Leak_VN.
Another "RTX 4090 AI Blower" warehouse with x2 price 😂Source: Xianyu app pic.twitter.com/ZChkPVreIANovember 26, 2023
As noted, with the growing scarcity of AI boards in China, these blower-style cards can be sold for massive amounts of profit.
Analysis: Blowing up prices
Clearly, we must be cautious about anything from the rumor mill, but there’s now quite a bit of photographic evidence of these repurposed RTX 4090 graphics cards. And we can certainly believe these blower-based franken-GPUs are big money spinners given the situation around the US import ban in China.
There’s also another way we can clearly see something is afoot, and that’s in the price rises for RTX 4090 GPUs in the US and elsewhere. The pricing for these Lovelace flagships has headed upwards at an alarming rate most notably in the US.
Remember, the MSRP for the RTX 4090 in the US is $1,599, but just a couple of weeks ago, the cheapest model was $1,900 on Newegg – and if you look now, the retailer itself has no stock left. There are third-party sellers offering RTX 4090s, but the cheapest is an eye-watering $2,249, a staggering 40% above the (already hefty) recommended retail price. Again, that’s the cheapest model, they go up in cost from there.
Over in the UK, the most affordable RTX 4090s we could find were pitched at £1,790 (Overclockers) and £1,800 (Scan, eBuyer – the latter did have an ex-display model for £50 under that, mind, but that doesn’t really count). Compare that to the MSRP of £1,579, and while it’s not nearly as bad as the situation in the US, prices are clearly up by a fair old chunk.
In the short-term, it seems this situation won’t abate – and you’ve certainly got no chance of getting a Cyber Monday bargain on an RTX 4090. Still, there are seriously tempting discounts to be had on other graphics cards for Cyber Monday, fortunately.
If you’re really set on an RTX 4090, though, you’re best off waiting for prices to settle – this AI blower-style craze will only last so long in China (as 4090 stock is no longer headed to the country, or shouldn’t be).
Besides, you may want to wait until the new year rolls in to see if Nvidia launches an RTX 4080 Super (at CES 2024 as rumored) which could prove to be a much better value proposition for gamers anyway. We’re expecting that card to have a good chance of ranking on our list of best GPUs, especially because Nvidia will presumably be looking to this supercharged variant to wash away the poor reputation of the RTX 4080.
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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).