“Don’t build a high-end gaming PC just yet,” Tom’s material declared in November. “It’s a bad time to build a high-end gaming PC,” ExtremeTech echoed last month. But it looks like worst the time to build a new gaming platform is yet to come. That’s because a perfect storm pushes the price of components like essential Nvidia or AMD graphics cards even further – and because Donald Trump is now part of that storm.
The Trump administration now imposes a 25% tax on graphics cards imported from China, and at least one PC component maker has announced it will pass some of that cost on to consumers.
We’ve known for two years that PC components have been swept away by Trump’s trade war with China. In 2018, GamersNexus, in particular, explained in detail how PC parts could see a 10-25% price increase due to the categories the Trump administration tried to tax. Apple has approached Trump to avoid some (but not all) of the import taxes on PC parts, allowing him to build his Mac Pro in the United States using parts imported from China. (Apple did not respond to a request for comment on pricing.)
But PC gamers and other graphics card buyers also managed to avoid the price hike in September 2019, when the Trump administration granted specific exemptions for “graphics processing modules” and “accelerator modules”. And like The New York Times reported last week, the government has extended several of its tariff exemptions until the end of the year.
But on December 31, 2020, came and went with additional expansions – and The edge can confirm that the exemptions for graphics cards and motherboards (classified under declaration number 8473.30.1180) were among those that expired at the end of the year.
According to the US government’s Harmonized Tariff, these PC components would normally be exempt from import taxes. Now, under “List 3” tariffs that were intended to tax $ 200 billion of Chinese goods, vendors of graphics cards and motherboards must find where to find the extra 25% to pay the tariffs.
I contacted the major GPU and motherboard manufacturers, and they all declined to comment (Nvidia, Asus, MSI) or did not respond to my emails (Gigabyte, EVGA, Zotac, XFX, PNY) . It’s kinda weird.
“MSI cannot answer your questions at this time. Thank you for your interest and understanding, ”a representative from MSI told me.
I’m still waiting for a response from AMD.
Intel says the tariffs have yet to make an impact. “As far as prices are concerned, so far this is not significant and has not affected our prices,” a spokesperson told me. But Intel doesn’t make a lot of motherboards or GPUs yet, and that doesn’t speak for the partners there.
But we don’t really need to speculate if that might affect the price you pay, as Asus, the biggest motherboard maker and reputable GPU supplier, has said it will. and has already increased some of its prices, as reported Videocardz. Here is the statement the publication received:
Update on MSRP prices for ASUS components in 2021.
This update applies to graphics cards and motherboards *
We have an announcement regarding MSRP price changes that will take effect in early 2021 for our award-winning series of graphics cards and motherboards. Our new MSRP reflects the increased cost of components. operating costs, logistics activities and maintenance of import tariffs. We have worked closely with our supply and logistics partners to minimize price increases. ASUS greatly appreciates your continued activity and support as we navigate this period of unprecedented market change.
* additional models may see an increase as we go into the first trimester
– Juan Jose Guerrero III, ASUS Technical Product Marketing Manager
Now the bigger question is whether the price hikes could become permanent.
When we looked at this year’s batch of next-gen PC graphics cards, we had to give Nvidia and AMD the benefit of the doubt that you would actually be able to buy them at their sticker price.
It turned out to be a dangerous bet. Although it is clear from social media that some people have been successful in buying them at retail, it’s also clear on eBay that the actual price of an RTX 3090, 3080, 3070, 3060 Ti, RX 6800 XT, or RX 6800 is way above the MSRP.
AMD’s RX 6800 series cards, in particular, have never reappeared in retail for long enough to even make an impact. I have personally waited and watched to jump on one since my review, and have never even seen an opportunity – unlike Nvidia cards where I just couldn’t beat the swarm of buyers at the digital checkout almost every time I have tried.
Trump’s tariffs aren’t the only thing that could make buying a GPU worse. Bitcoin prices are now at an all time high, briefly crossing $ 40,000 for the first time earlier today. The price of Ethereum has doubled over the past month and is also approaching its previous high.
Tom’s Material points out that at the MSRP of a given graphics card, it could take much less than a year to recoup the money from your GPU mining. The last time bitcoin prices exploded, it caused a huge GPU shortage that lasted for many months. It was news in May 2018 when Nvidia tweeted that you could finally find a graphics card again at MSRP.
But this time around, we’re already in a GPU shortage due to pandemic manufacturing shortages and pent-up demand for the performance offered by the new wave of next-gen graphics cards and consoles. More than half of Americans turned to video games during the pandemic, and graphics-intensive games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Flight simulator inspired people to build new PCs that only the latest GPUs could perform well.
Even though GPU makers didn’t have a 25% tariff to deal with, eBay pricing makes it clear that they were already leaving money on the table. Manufacturers can take this opportunity to create more expensive versions of the exact same graphics cards with more sophisticated cooling systems and higher clocks, and many of the cards gamers may have purchased are. You can certainly pay $ 600 for a $ 400 inflated RTX 3060 Ti if you can find this model at retail or $ 780 for a $ 500 RTX 3070.
Now, however, I wonder if the base price of these cards is also at risk. At the end of November, AMD declared Unpackaged material that the AMD RX 6800 XT is expected to be available from its partners at an initial MSRP of $ 649 within eight weeks. Almost six weeks later, it doesn’t seem so likely.