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Why are Video Cards So Expensive? Here's the Answer

Video Cards

There is no such thing as a single price for video cards. Instead, there is a wide range of prices, which makes sense because there is a wide range of video cards with a wide range of capabilities. On the low end, a video card can cost less than $100. In contrast, a video card on the other extreme end of the spectrum can run into the high hundreds, with the result that it can be the single most expensive component of a computer purpose-built for playing games at the highest graphics settings. Like how there is no single price for video cards, there is no single answer for why video cards are so expensive. However, there are a number of factors that can help.

High-End Products Mean High-End Prices

As stated earlier, there is a wide range of video cards. If interested individuals are seeing nothing but expensive options, they might want to look into less powerful options with lower prices. Simply put, consumers get what they pay for, meaning that if they want the best options, they should expect to have to pay the highest prices for them. Unfortunately, there is no reliable method that interested individuals can use to bypass this particular problem other than pure, blind luck enabling them to stumble upon rare and unusual bargains.

Better Tech Doesn't Guarantee Lower Prices

Over time, the tech behind video cards has seen a lot of improvements. Due to this, some people might believe that this means that the prices of video cards should have fallen over time even if they are at the high end rather than the low end of the spectrum. However, it is important to note that technological improvement isn't convenient enough to be consistent from case to case. Certainly, technological improvement can bring about a reduction in price by lowering the costs needed to provide the product or service, thus making it possible for a business to pass a measure of those savings to their customers. Unfortunately, technological improvement is by no means guaranteed to produce this particular outcome. Instead, it is perfectly possible for technological improvement to enable the production of something better that can't be made without more expensive inputs. This problem is particularly serious in the case of video cards because new video cards are introduced on a regular basis. As a result, while the processes used to make the latest video cards can improve, it is a whole other issue whether they can improve fast enough for them to have a notable effect before consumers move on to the next generation of video cards.

Fluctuations in Demand

With that said, people who have been paying attention to the prices of video cards in recent years might have noticed the effect of cryptocurrencies. In short, people can mine new units of cryptocurrencies by using their computers to make repetitive calculations. People used to use CPUs, but it wasn't too long before people switched over to video cards. This is because CPUs are meant to handle a wide range of tasks whereas video cards are meant to handle a much more limited range of tasks again and again at great speed, thus making them much better-suited for mining cryptocurrency.

Interested individuals might have heard various stories about the impact that cryptocurrency mining is having on society as a whole. For instance, just Bitcoin mining was expected to use up about 0.05 percent of the world's total energy by the end of 2018, which might not seem like much when compared to the whole but nonetheless represents a huge consumption of scarce resources. Naturally, this kind of interest has had other kinds of impact as well, as shown by how cryptocurrency mining sent video card prices soaring for a time.

Of course, the thing about cryptocurrency is that cryptocurrency prices are very, very unstable, which in turn, means that the incentives for cryptocurrency miners are seeing dramatic changes on a regular basis. As a result, while cryptocurrency mining might be driving up video card prices in a certain period of time, there is no guarantee that will remain the case in another period of time. After all, cryptocurrencies can see enormous swings in value, thus making for enormous changes in whether the expenditure of time, money, and other resources to set up as well as keep a cryptocurrency mining operation running will be worthwhile. Unfortunately, while cryptocurrency mining's effect on video card prices seems to have died down to some extent, there is no indication that this will remain the case forever. In the world of cryptocurrency, what has come down can come up again, meaning that another surge in demand for cryptocurrency should be theoretically capable of sending video cards soaring upwards once more in the future.

What Can You Do About This?

The overwhelming majority of people can't do anything about the prices of video cards on the scale of the entire market. However, there is a fair amount that interested individuals can do to mitigate the impact of high prices for video cards for themselves.

For example, the simplest and most straightforward solution would be holding off on buying a new video card unless the market prices have settled down to some extent, thus providing consumers with a better set of circumstances under which to buy. However, if interested individuals can't wait, there is the option of buying something cheap for short-term use before moving on to something more expensive and more long-lasting in nature once the market becomes more favorable. On top of this, interested individuals might want to consider buying a pre-built computer rather than build one on their own. Granted, they won't be able to customize absolutely everything according to their desires, but there is a major upside in that computer manufacturers aren't as susceptible to price changes as consumers, meaning that this can be a definite help. Finally, if interested individuals can't justify paying the prices asked for the video card in question, they can consider just making do with what they have because even less high-end video cards can still be very capable.

Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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