May 18, 2021

I’m Finally Happy I Bought An “Old” Graphics Card

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Illustration for article titled I'm Finally Happy I Bought An "Old" Graphics Card

Image: Nvidia

Let me tell you about an emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on for the past eight months. It’s a cautionary tale, about the perils of obsessing over PC hardware, but also one of celebration, a triumph against the odds.

In 2015, I purchased an all-new, pre-built gaming PC—the first time I’d ever done that—and had such a fantastic experience with it that I swore I would never upgrade it, I’d just wait a few years and when the time came I’d just buy another new one all over again. It was a good plan in theory, but by 2020 my timing was way off.

The PC I’d bought in February 2015, which had seen me through everything from The Witcher 3 through to Death Stranding, was by the middle of 2020 starting to really show its age, as it struggled not just on newer PC games (Horizon especially), but even on basic stuff like Photoshop.

So five-and-a-half years after my past PC, I bit the bullet and ordered a new one. I was slightly nervous, mostly because of the timing of my purchase; Nvidia’s 2000 series cards had been around for a while, and an all-new series of cards—likely offering massive performance boosts—was surely coming soon.

But I play almost all my work games on my PC, and with Cyberpunk and a new Assassin’s Creed (and loads of other big holiday games!) on the way, I couldn’t afford to wait around for some hypothetical new series of cards that may or may not have been coming soon. You gotta draw a line in the sand somewhere, and necessity dictated that line for me was to be drawn in August 2020.

I won’t bore you with the full details, but I ended up getting a system that included an RTX 2080 Super, a card that wasn’t the absolute best at the time, but which was still a huge improvement over the 900-series GPU it was replacing. I had a nice case, I was getting new PC stuff for the first time in over five years, I was excited!

When it arrived, and I could see what a modern gaming PC could do in 4K on a 32″ monitor, I was so impressed I wrote a blog about rocks. For two weeks I was in heaven, downloading every recent game I’d skipped or suffered through thanks to poor performance (like Control), and just soaking it all up.

Then, just two weeks after my brand new PC arrived, some news hit me like a truck. Nvidia was going to be releasing the 3000 series cards. I felt a little sick. I’d waited over five years, hanging on by my fingernails, and if I’d only waited two more weeks I could have got in on a whole new generation of cards, got better performance and bought myself so much more time before needing the next upgrade.

If this is starting to sound privileged or a stupid thing to whine about, it is! But it’s also a lot of people’s standard operating procedure for buying expensive tech, especially PCs. There is always new and better hardware coming, and so the entire exercise of gaming on a PC is a highwire emotional balancing act, juggling the money you’re spending vs the performance you’re getting vs the window of time until that hardware is replaced and games get fancier to go along with it.

And I’d completely blown it. Spent a ton of money on something that had been instantly superseded. I was an idiot, a fool, a sucker, and as someone pointlessly and stupidly obsessed with top-level performance on a PC, I was going to suffer for it.

OR WAS I.

After only a matter of days my excitement had given way to despair, but only a few weeks after that, stuff started happening. The 3000-series launch was an absolute disaster, and things have not improved since. Between the pandemic and chronic chip shortages, these cards are still hard to find, even eight months later, and often when you can find them they’ve got ridiculously high prices since so much of the stock that does make it to shelves gets snapped up by resellers.

So even if I’d waited that extra two weeks and decided to upgrade to a 3000-series card, I may well have not been able to get one (at least for a reasonable price), and I am far from alone in this situation. With the latest cards out of reach for the foreseeable future, loads of people are deciding to upgrade to GPUs that may be a little bit older, but still work, and have the added benefit of actually being available to purchase.

Things have got so weird that Nvidia themselves have resumed production of 2060 and 1050ti cards, long after it would have been assumed they were dead in the water.

With all of that, I’ve come full circle. Eight months later I’m back to being happy with my purchase and loving my “outdated” 2080, because for all intents the 3000-series may as well not exist. And sure, all it took for that to happen was a catastrophic global pandemic, but it’s been a bad year and I want to take my Ws where I can get them.

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