Why Finding A GeForce RTX 4090 Graphics Card May Be Difficult This Holiday Season

Aorus GeForce RTX 4090 hero
Reports published by Chinese language computer media indicate that NVIDIA is re-prioritizing its GPU orders. According to unverified sources, it is claimed that NVIDIA is shifting its production mix in favor of enterprise GPUs. Specifically, it will be asking TSMC to produce more Hopper architecture H100 (GH100) GPUs for accelerator cards, thereby sacrificing output of Ada Lovelace architecture GeForce RTX 4090 (AD102) GPUs.

NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 4090 product launch appears to have been a rip-roaring success. Despite the GPU’s relatively high price in the post GPU-cryptomining era, they are still selling by the bucket load—as far as we can determine from watching the ebb and flow at retailers. With the retail success in mind, you might naturally think that NVIDIA would be keen to keep AD102 GPUs rolling quickly from factory to retail, but there are a number of reasons that the re-prioritizing of Hopper over Ada Lovelace tale from MyDrivers may be truthful.

The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 has an MSRP of $1,599 USD in its reference form. Partners shoot for similar pricing for their standard air cooled models, but premium and hybrid AiO cooler models can easily push pricing towards $2,000+. Also at play at the time of writing is a retail stock shortage, with scalpers taking advantage too, meaning prices are seeing unwelcome, supply-constrained, inflation.

For NVIDIA, with pre-booked TSMC N4 production capacity, there is some degree of flexibility about how to balance its output as both the enterprise and consumer GPUs under the spotlight are built on the same process. With its recent financials not nearly as healthy as earlier in the year, and this pre-booked TSMC capacity, the bean counters at NVIDIA seem to have seen an opportunity.

While creating enterprise accelerator focused H100 GPUs is more complex and expensive, it yields magnitudes more cash. An H100 GPU with 80GB of HBM3 can be sold for approximately $35,000 plus tax. Of course this isn’t any use without demand, but fortunately for NVIDIA as we enter Q4 2022, it is rumored to be benefitting from a grace period ahead of US Sanctions on China.

The U.S. Department of Commerce wants to close the door to powerful accelerator chip sales to China, processors that may be purposed into the support of modern warfare. The government, in its wisdom, has decided to give a grace period to electronics firms, so they can ease / transition their business away from China. This means that NVIDIA is free to sell H100-based products to China, via Hong Kong, until Sept 2023.

Inno3d ichill frostbite RTX 4090

In purely business terms, one can’t blame NVIDIA for making hay before the sun sets on this business, but it might mean further tightening will be felt on RTX 4090 supplies. More seriously, China might get the accelerators it needs to significantly boost its high-tech weapons development and harm western interests.