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How Nvidia tricked everyone into buying a $1,600 GPU

Nvidia’s RTX 4090 is intensely powerful, but at the first glance, it’s hard not to call it overpriced. Spending upwards of $1,600 on a graphics card is a lot, especially if you consider that you can build an entire gaming PC for the same amount of money.

Of course, the flagship RTX 4090 only sounds like a rip-off until you look at the $1,200 RTX 4080. Has Nvidia really managed to trick us into thinking that a $1,600 GPU is a great deal?

Nvidia’s RTX 4090 is a beast with a scary price

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 GPU.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

When Nvidia first launched its Ada Lovelace flagship, the RTX 4090, and the reviews started pouring in, it was clear that the GPU was a real beast. It’s easily the best graphics card right now, and I dare say it will remain so until Nvidia eventually drops an RTX 4090 Ti, or perhaps even resurrects the Titan.

The RTX 4090 blows other graphics cards out of the water, no questions asked. Based on our testing, it’s 68% faster than the 3090 Ti in 4K gaming, it unlocks DLSS 3, and despite previous warnings and wild speculations, it’s somewhat power efficient. For today’s standards, it’s almost too good; so much so that it’s begging for a new AAA game to come out and fully take advantage of it.

It also costs $1,600 for the Founders Edition, but you’ll find many versions of the card up for sale for $2,000 to $2,500.

Nvidia’s choice to price the RTX 4090 the way it did was not the most popular decision it has ever made. After a couple of years of GPU shortage, most of us are tired of having to pay insane prices for our PC hardware. To see Nvidia not just continue that trend, but also tell its customers outright that cheaper GPUs are a thing of the past, was disheartening.

Still, the RTX 4090 sold out and came back at scalper prices, with some eBay sales on launch day reaching as high as $5,000. There was a single sale for $9,999, but it’s hard to believe that this was a legitimate purchase.

The RTX 4080 doesn’t make much sense

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 lays on a pink surface.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The insanity of these prices made some of us actually look forward to the (also overpriced) RTX 4080, set with an MSRP (recommended price) of $1,200. Unfortunately, once the card arrived, the taste of excitement grew bitter with a large heap of disappointment.

Comparing the RTX 4090 to the RTX 4080 reveals a flaw in Nvidia’s pricing plan for this generation — the numbers just don’t add up.

If you look at the RTX 4080 alone, regardless of the price, it is a really good graphics card. It outperforms every GPU from the previous generation, including the RTX 3090 Ti, by a considerable amount.

The sales of the RTX 4080 are showing us what gamers truly think.

It’s also around 30% slower than the RTX 4090 while only being 25% cheaper, and this is where things get complicated, because, at MSRP, the RTX 4090 is a much better deal than the 4080 — even if it’s more expensive.

It offers much better performance per dollar, which historically hasn’t been the case. The flagships were aimed at enthusiasts who didn’t try to get the best deal; they just wanted the best performance. Take one step down from the top and the good deals start, where the performance is still great but the price is less ridiculous.

That hasn’t been true in this generation, and the sales of the RTX 4080 are showing us what Nvidia’s customers think about this.

Tough luck, scalpers

MSI RTX 4080 Suprim X installed in a PC.

Every time a new GPU drops, scalpers can be counted on to buy it en masse and then throw it up on eBay at a huge markup. This was often the only way to get a graphics card during the GPU shortage, when regular users faced a lot of competition from scalpers and crypto miners during the brief windows of time when GPUs were actually in stock.

Of course, scalpers tried their luck with the new Ada cards too, and while they were successful with the 4090, it seems that their success with the 4080 has been moderate at best so far. We only really have sales data from eBay, but let’s see how these numbers compare.

Since the launch of the RTX 4090 on October 12, a total of 3,050 units have been sold through the U.S. version of eBay, at an average price of $2,328.

It’s barely worth it to resell these cards right now.

Around the time of the RTX 4080 launch (November 16), the sales of the 4090 started rising and have been on a steady, albeit slow, rise ever since. The prices are now close to what they were around the time of launch.

The RTX 4080 is not doing so well. Only 281 units have been sold since November 16, at an average price of $1,496. For scalpers, this means that the sales are just about enough to break even when you consider shipping and fees. It’s barely worth it to resell these cards right now, and with only 281 GPUs sold in 3 weeks, the demand is scarce. The average sale price has also been gradually trending lower ever since launch.

Nvidia’s flagship RTX 4090 can be found at various online retailers, such as and , but the cards priced near MSRP are all sold out. Meanwhile, or near it, and there are plenty of cards . Some models are just $50 shy of hitting the recommended list price of the 4090 — by default, without any scalper tax.

It almost feels like people would just rather buy the RTX 4090 instead.

Some retailers won’t even refund the RTX 4080

Three RTX 4080s sitting side-by-side.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Having looked at the eBay sales numbers for both GPUs, I can tell you one thing — the RTX 4090 doesn’t seem to have slowed down just because the RTX 4080 launched. On the contrary, it benefited from the release.

While the RTX 4080 appears to be selling at a snail’s pace and scalpers are desperate to get rid of it, the 4090 thrives, and it’s still a catch at MSRP. Considering the vast chasm of performance between the two, the 4090 remains a better deal if caught at the recommended price of $1,600, however expensive that might be.

It seems that Nvidia’s customers are aware of this if you look at the large number of 4080s that the scalpers can’t seem to make a profit on. Newegg actually made 4080s non-refundable, seemingly because too many scalpers wanted to get rid of their cards.

NVIDIA 4080 shipment units:

🟢30,000

NVIDIA 4090 shipment units:

🟢130,000

Total RTX 40 shipment units:

🟢160,000

NVIDIA's 4090 was pretty much sold out at launch.

Retailers still have 4080 in stock. 😶‍🌫️😶‍🌫️

— Hassan Mujtaba (@hms1193) November 19, 2022

I almost feel sorry for these scalpers, but I’m not that benevolent. Talk about miscalculated risk.

Wccftech’s Hassan Mujtaba claims that the 4080 initially shipped in much smaller numbers than the 4090 — 30,000 units versus 130,000. If this is true, and the 4080 is still laying around at MSRP, then the community has truly spoken — people just don’t want those decent, but questionably priced RTX 4080s. Might as well get an RTX 4090 if you’re spending that kind of money, assuming your budget can stretch to it.

Has Nvidia played itself, or have we been played?

The RTX 4090 sitting on a table.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

In short — the RTX 4080 seems to have done the 4090 a favor. It made an overpriced GPU suddenly appear much more desirable than it ever should have been.

Now, the question is, was this Nvidia’s plan all along, or did it simply overestimate the enthusiasm people would have for the 4080?

Considering the fact that Nvidia is planning to strategically cut the MSRP of the RTX 4080 soon, it might be that it never intended for the 4080 to serve as a crutch for the sales of the 4090.

Nvidia also has some serious competition on the horizon. AMD will soon be launching the next-gen Radeon RX 7900 XTX and 7900 XT, both of which are supposed to rival the RTX 4080, but at more reasonable prices — $999 and $899, respectively.

With the upcoming price cut, the RTX 4080 might become a more worthwhile contender. For now, if you manage to spot the 4090 for $1,600, it is a better deal — but only if you can make use of it. If you’re a casual gamer, save your money and get the 4080 without worrying about benchmarks and comparisons.

Personally, I’m still waiting for the 7900 XTX, and judging by the performance per dollar of the RTX 4080, I really have no regrets.

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