Thinking of buying a new GPU? It might be a good idea to move fast as demand for graphics cards is spiking

An AMD Radeon RX 7800 XT on a table
(Image credit: Future / John Loeffler)

Sales of graphics cards are showing signs of recovering from a prolonged slump, and desktop models in particular are shifting from the shelves a good deal faster.

The fresh GPU sales data comes from analyst firm Jon Peddie Research (JPR), showing that for Q3 2023, the overall shipments of graphics cards have gone up quite a bit compared to the previous quarter – hitting 71.9 million units, a rise of almost 17%. That’s for all graphics cards, desktop and laptop models (including integrated graphics, too).

The real story, though, as we know is comparing to the same quarter the previous year, and in that case, total shipments actually dropped by 5.1% year-on-year.

That’s framed in a positive light, however, as JPR observes that this is the “lowest year-to-year decline in half a decade” – but clearly, it’s still a fall.

What’s interesting, though, is that desktop graphics cards are showing stronger signs of progress. JPR provides a separate figure for the growth of these boards, and they’re up a much more robust 37.4% from the past quarter (more than double the growth of the overall GPU market).

Analysis: Pricing concerns

What we aren’t told is any shipment numbers, or the proportion, of desktop graphics cards with these figures, but in some ways that doesn’t matter. With the growth level being so much higher than the overall market (discrete, laptop, and integrated GPUs, mainly in notebooks themselves, of course), this is a clear enough indication that desktop boards are moving pretty quickly all of a sudden.

Why does that matter to the consumer? Well, if this demand is sustained, we could be looking at prices rising, perhaps.

Now, before you start to panic, we don’t foresee any major price hikes. That seems unlikely, and Jon Peddie, president of JPR, goes out of the way to caution against reading too much into this uptick in overall shipments and taking the figures to mean that the GPU market is in some kind of complete turnaround.

Peddie warns against the “overenthusiastic forecasters” seen in the past, observing that: “This bounceback is no different and is being overpraised, when it largely reflects a cleaning out and straightening up of the distribution channel. All through the last three quarters, add-in boards sold, not at the normal volumes, and albeit with complaints about prices, but sold, nonetheless. The mistake is the constant search for sensationalism. It’s fatiguing.”

Point taken, and indeed we have to put in perspective that the overall figure for Q3 is still a drop – but not for desktop graphics cards. The difference between the overall rise of 17% (quarter-on-quarter) and 37% is surprisingly pronounced, and at least suggests to us that there’s a decent prospect that prices won’t fall any further, even if they aren’t going to head upwards. If the latter happens, though, you might be glad you bought now rather than waited, of course.

Finally, this news comes with somewhat awkward timing, as Nvidia is likely to be deciding on the final configuration and pricing of its incoming Lovelace GPU refreshes, which should be revealed at CES 2024 in a month if the rumors are right.

Maybe Team Green might feel encouraged to go towards the higher end of the pricing spectrum it’s mulling for the likes of the RTX 4080 Super and 4070 Super (or whatever revamped models turn up in the end).

Of course, if you're mulling a graphics card in that territory, rather than buying now, the sensible tactic is to wait and see exactly where these refreshed upper-mid-range-to-high-end boards will be pitched price-wise.

Via Tom’s Hardware

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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).