Nvidia’s new RTX 4090 graphics card has been flying off the shelves, despite the weighty price tag attached to it, and the bad news for well-off would-be buyers of the flagship Lovelace GPU is that it could soon be even thinner on the ground.
At least if the rumor mill is right, because word is that Nvidia has told TSMC – the company that makes its Lovelace GPU chips – to shift some RTX 4090 orders over to produce H100 GPUs instead (a heavyweight chip from the Hopper line, rather than Lovelace).
But we must be very careful here, as the source is Chinese forum MyDrivers, which is not always the most reliable for nuggets from the rumor mill. So add a bit of extra caution on top of the pause for consideration you might take with every piece of speculation around the GPU industry.
At any rate, Tom’s Hardware (which first spotted this) points out that while it couldn’t confirm this rumor, there are reasons why it could hold true – so let’s dive into what they are next.
Analysis: A profit-related pickle, perhaps?
The theory is that US sanctions against the Chinese supercomputer sector could be coming into play here. Those sanctions would interfere with Nvidia’s ability to ship GPUs to China if the company does not get a waiver, and as Tom’s notes, the cost of that could be $400 million potentially.
What that might mean is that Nvidia may want to switch production from AD102 chips (RTX 4090) to H100 to get more of the latter shipped before that chip ban kicks in.
While RTX 4090 graphics cards do, of course, carry quite a premium and profit level therein, the serious computing arena where the H100 sits is a different world in terms of the profit levels (we’re talking $10,000 products here, remember). So, in the short-term Nvidia would theoretically want to get as many of those H100 chips out and sold as is possible.
What does this mean for the gamers and PC enthusiasts who are looking to fork out for an RTX 4090 graphics card? Well, it doesn’t take a shrewd detective to realize that with less GPUs coming through, graphics card stock could become thinner on the ground – the worry being that it’s already scarce enough. (Certainly in the US, where major retailers are out of stock of RTX 4090 models at the time of writing).
That would make the RTX 4090 more of a target for scalpers, too. Speaking of them, though, anecdotally, prices are dropping for scalped RTX 4090s, which is a hopeful sign that runs against the idea of stock drying up further.
And furthermore, even if this speculation does pan out and come true, it’ll take some time for TSMC orders to be switched around for Nvidia – meaning that any impact won’t be felt in the near future. As ever, we’ll have to wait and see with this one, and demand for the RTX 4090 is something of a niche proposition anyway – though clearly not so niche that the GPU can’t sell out, as we’re seeing right now.
Those seeking to buy Nvidia’s fastest desktop graphics card should keep a close eye on our guide on where to buy the RTX 4090.
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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).