How to Tell a Graphics Card Deal From a Dud This Holiday Season

If you’re in the market for a new graphics card this holiday season, it can be pretty tough to discern a deal from a dud. The latest Nvidia RTX cards are brand new and often selling for more than the entry-level MSRP. So don’t expect many--if any--deals on an RTX 2070, 2080, or 2080 Ti in 2018.

Older and more mainstream cards, meanwhile, have finally come down off of year-long highs due to fading interest (and falling prices) of cryptocurrencies. But retailers will often use those previously extreme prices to make a card seem like it’s a steal when, in fact, it may just be selling at its initial 2016-era launch price.

How, then, do you tell if the sale price on a specific card is a good deal or not? A good place to start is to look up that original selling price/MSRP, which you can always find in our graphics card reviews. That at least will give you a baseline and let you know whether or not the current price is inflated. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see plenty of cards these days that are still selling above their two-year-old suggested price points.

The next step is to check the specific card or cards you’re considering on a price-tracking site like camelcamelcamel. While this site is focused on Amazon, knowing the history of Amazon pricing is also a useful baseline.

Taking an MSI-made AMD RX 580 Armor 8G OC as an example, we can see that the card was briefly available in 2017 for about $230 in the first half of 2017 before spiking as high as $466 in March of this year and then plummeting back below $300 sometime in June. And the $225 asking price when we wrote this is the lowest price the card has ever sold for--though still not much lower than when it launched back in April of 2017.

You can find similarly useful data on Nvidia cards, though you’ll mostly find pricing info on third-party cards, since Amazon generally doesn’t sell Founders Edition models (except from third-party sellers who often inflate prices).

Armed with the MSRP and a detailed history of pricing, you’re in a pretty good place to tell whether a “sale price” is a legit deal or just a slight dip down from an inflated price. But what cards / GPUs do we specifically expect to see deals on this holiday season?

For starters, as we said up top, don’t expect any major (or even minor) price slashes on RTX cards as the year draws to a close. Despite high prices, stock seems to be light--at least on 2080s and 2080 Tis. These cards are still very new, and early adopters appear to be buying them about as fast as Nvidia and its partners can churn them out.

You may see some deals on older 10-series Nvidia-based cards, but that all depends on how long the stock remains robust now that the GPU maker is shifting to a new architecture. There is a new variant of the GTX 1060 with faster GDDR5X memory. But again, that card is brand-new and so unlikely to see a heavy discount in 2018.

If you are, though, looking for a card in the same performance range as the 1060 at a bargain price, we’d suggest keeping an eye on AMD’s RX 580 cards. The company’s recent earnings call indicated that the crypto crash has left its partners overstocked with graphics card inventory. And now that AMD’s Radeon RX 590 is official (and officially power-hungry), the prices of the now previous-gen RX 580 cards have started to drop significantly, with some cards already selling for well under $200. Given that we now know (from our testing) that the RX 590 adds just a few percentage points of gaming performance over the RX 580 while using significantly more power, the RX 580 is looking more and more like a good buy this holiday season for those looking to game at 1080p—particularly if you see it priced at or near $150.

We intended in this story to offer up a chart with all current cards, their original MSRPs and a baseline price at or below which we’d consider a given card a good deal. But as 2018 winds down, it seems that the stock of many cards--even older mainstream models--continues to fluctuate wildly. Prices are changing accordingly, jumping up and down through even a given day. Because of this, any deal price suggestions we make today would effectively be out-of-date by the time you’re likely to read this story.

So instead, we’ll leave you below with a list of current gaming-centric cards and their launch MSRPs. Keep in mind that for many cards--even models that have now been out for well over two years, real-world pricing is often still higher than the original suggested price.

So while the crypto craze may be over, we’re likely still feeling its effects this holiday season, as card makers juggle existing stock after decreasing demand, and preparing for new and upcoming cards, while attempting to keep their profit margins under control.

We generally don’t recommend paying more than the suggested price, particularly if you’re after a deal. But even if a card’s current street price is consistently higher than than the 2016-era launch pricing, it could still be considered a “deal.” We hate to be a GPU grinch. But It looks like the 2018 holiday season will again be disappointing for those of us who’ve come to expect the passing of time to bring better gaming performance at lower prices.

RADEON RX
MSRP
Radeon RX 570$169
Radeon RX 580$229
Radeon RX Vega 56$399
Radeon RX Vega 64$499
GEFORCE GTX
MSRP
GeForce GTX 1050$109
GeForce GTX 1050 Ti$139
GeForce GTX 1060 3GB$199
GeForce GTX 1060 6GB$299
GeForce GTX 1070$449
GeForce GTX 1070 Ti$449
GeForce GTX 1080$599
GeForce GTX 1080 Ti
$699
GEFORCE RTX
MSRP
GeForce RTX 2070$499
GeForce RTX 2080$699
GeForce RTX 2080 Ti$999

If you’re still not sure exactly which card you want to shop for, or current prices have thrown a wrench in your original upgrade plans, you should check out our graphics card buying guideGPU Performance Hierarchy and Best Graphics Cards pages for help narrowing down your options.

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  • McDuncun
    TF Guys, whats with the adds covering the lower 5th of my damn screen!?!?! That is new and not cool!
  • shrapnel_indie
    Not surprising. I've experienced first hand some sneaky stuff in pricing before.

    When they closed the K-Mart in my town, as time got close to the doors closed for good during their inventory liquidation. I noted that as the discounts increased, there were slight increases in their "sale" price... making a 70% discount not quite the deal it seemed when the price between the 50% discount and the 70% discount was bumped up a few percentage points. It was still a better price, but not quite a real 70% discount vs the lowest price it was ever marked combined with the discount. To me it's a bit shady, but unfortunately not that uncommon. Other markets do the same thing... offer a sale price where it's save x%, but not telling you that there's a y% bump in price to offset, either to make the x% look better, or bump the profit margin slightly on the sale price.
  • hendrickhere
    It’s interesting that the 1080ti is left of the list. It’s also interesting that, while often selling for much more, the relatively low price-level value (tough MSRP) you have given to the Vega 56 and 64. It would be a great deal to purchase either one of those at $399 or $499 respectively given their performance vs. their top competitors (1070 and 1080 respectively).
  • mgallo848
    What was the MSRP for the GTX 1080 ti?
  • danlw
    It would be helpful to intermix the AMD cards with the Nvidia cards according to relative performance.
  • islandwalker
    @Mgallo848 It was $699 and have just added it to the chart. Thanks!

    @danlw what you are looking for is linked at the end of the story and can be found here. This was a specific story about how to tell if you're getting a deal, not about which cards perform better than others.

    https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/gpu-hierarchy,4388.html
  • PapaCrazy
    Just evaluate it? I like this story. Went through a similar calculus myself buying a new GPU. Some of the good quality 1080ti still had an enormous premium over launch MSRP. I ultimately decided on a nice 1080 slashed below original MSRP because for me good price/performance ratio is close to #1 priority. Who doesn't want a good deal? I suspect I am not alone, and that many other enthusiast have the same mindset. That is why people reacted so badly to RTX launch and the infamous TH article. Articles like this prove most of you guys still get it.
  • totalinsanity4
    If a Vega 56 card sells for $350 or less I'd be happy, but I also know that that's dreamer talk
  • buzznut47
    I am seeing mostly RX 580s going for $230 and RX 570s going for as low as $150 after rebate. I really think that's a great deal for very similar performance. Best deal I've seen lately.
    I purchased a Powercolor Red Dragon 570 last year on Black Friday, and at the time it was a screaming deal at $200. It has a very good cooling solution, comes with a handsome backplate and it was keeping up with the 580's when I was testing. It was under $180 the other day. In my opinion, the RX 580 cards are still a bit high.
  • Krazie_Ivan
    not sure i agree with the choice to use higher "Founders Edition MSRP" on the older Pascal cards, yet use the lower Nvidia-claimed "Partner MSRP" for RTX Turing cards.
    ...it gives dual impressions; that current Pascal prices are better than they really are (1070 for $390 is $10 more than it's launch MSRP from 30 months ago, but appears as a $60 discount) ...and that RTX Turing prices are far lower than actual street prices (2080ti is a minimum of $240 higher). it also deceptively closes the gap in price-hike from 1 generation to the next.

    simply, it's not an apples/apples price chart. pick one MSRP (inflated Reference renaming scheme to deliberately increase profit margins, or a mostly un-obtainably low price designed to fib value impressions) & stick to it.
  • nimb777
    Buy Radeon for driver update death fun.
  • Tarc Novar
    Anonymous said:
    TF Guys, whats with the adds covering the lower 5th of my damn screen!?!?! That is new and not cool!


    Get an ad blocker, you lazy bum. I have Ublock Origin and that really does solve the issue.
  • nimb777
    It looks like If you twist dud enough you end up with a popup blocker.
  • cryoburner
    Anonymous said:
    not sure i agree with the choice to use higher "Founders Edition MSRP" on the older Pascal cards, yet use the lower Nvidia-claimed "Partner MSRP" for RTX Turing cards.

    Yeah, it's not even all that consistent within a generation. The MSRP for the GTX 1060 was $249, but the Founder's Edition pricing of $299 is listed here. However, the price listed for the GTX 1080 is $100 less than its Founders Edition pricing at launch. Meanwhile, the RX 580 is listed at $229, which might give the false impression that a 1060 at a much higher price is a better deal. I think it would be preferable if the list stuck to the MSRP for partner cards across the board, since those are the cards people will most likely be seeing.

    However, I'm not sure how useful the list is in general. It ignores when each of these cards launched, how pricing compared to the rest of the market at the time of launch, and whether the cards were ever even widely available at these prices. Or the differences in things like coolers or warranties on individual cards. Those things seem like they would be difficult to convey in an article though. Perhaps it's best just to stick with performance recommendations at a given price level, based on current prices.

    On the topic of how graphics card prices have compared over time though, PCPartPicker also provides some good charts depicting this. They have these general trend charts that show the average price and overall price range across all cards of a given model, which only cover the last 18 months, but that at least extends to just before last year's cryptocurrency mining shortages, and definitely shows the impact of the more extreme shortages earlier this year...

    https://pcpartpicker.com/trends/price/video-card/

    They also have similar price charts on the pages for each individual card, showing the price history from all sellers tracked by their service in the selected region. You can filter cards using the left sidebar, then just select a card and scroll down below its list of current prices for the chart. These charts default to 120 days, but you can set them to show prices for up to 2 years. This is good for showing how the lowest sale prices of a given product compares over time...

    https://pcpartpicker.com/products/video-card/

    In my opinion, a card selling at or above MSRP after around 2 years is not a particularly good deal, since the average demands of newly-released games have only increased since then. Or at the very least, such "sales" are probably not something worth jumping on unless one really needs a new card right away.
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    How do you tell a deal from a dud when shopping for a graphics card? It’s not always easy, but we’ll help you figure out whether a sale price is good or bad.

    I would argue that #1 would be to check out Igor's excellent reviews/shootouts. Unfortunately, it seems the last one you guys published was in June.

    Please post up reviews for more aftermarket cards. Thanks.
  • jpe1701
    I agree, I miss Igor's reviews on the US site. I read the German site sometimes but the translation is sometimes hard to understand.
  • average joe
    yeah the 590's primary benefit appears to be to make the 580 cheaper. I was hoping it would be viable for 1440p but its not. HDR gaming monitors are tied to gpu vendor so either pony up for a gsync screen and a 1070 or save on freesync 2 and buy a vega space heater or run medium settings until august-ish.. not a very merry xmas on the gpu / monitor front. i guess ill wait a year because i dont need anything more for 1080p
  • average joe
    freesync 2 monitors are so cheap because you cant buy a card to drive it.. a 4k hdr freesync 2 montior would require 2 vega 56's crossfired to hit the minimum framerates for freesync to work and use 560 watts of power... thats easy bake oven levels of juice
  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    freesync 2 monitors are so cheap because you cant buy a card to drive it..

    Yeah, FS2 is what I'm waiting for, but I actually haven't found any that exactly meet my specs. I don't need FS2 right now, but I would like to get at least 5 years out of a monitor, especially if I spend a lot on it.

    How is software support for FS2? Is it supported by basically a HDR-compatible games, or do they have to use some AMD libraries the HDR features it adds atop FS1?

    Anonymous said:
    thats easy bake oven levels of juice

    Lol. Few will probably understand this point.