Custom RX 7000 graphics cards from third-party card makers are set to release later than reference cards and can be quite expensive to boot, if the latest in the GPU vine is to be believed.
VideoCardz (opens in new tab) reports that the Board Channels forum (in China) claims that the only RX 7900 XT and 7900 XTX graphics cards to initially emerge on AMD’s launch day (Dec. 13) will be reference cards.
Those are the ones built to AMD’s own benchmark specs, but there will also be models with beefier configurations – higher clocks, better cooling – as usual. However, the latest third-party variants won’t be released until a week or two after the reference frames hit shelves. That would point to a late December sale date for these custom plates (and perhaps things could even be pushed back to early 2023 given that late December is a bit of an odd place in terms of time).
Worryingly, the Chinese source – treat all of this with as much caution as any speculation – further claims that custom boards could be “much more expensive” compared to early reference models.
Analysis: A sticky situation for AMD?
These high end custom graphics cards naturally feature increased clocks as mentioned and often better quality components, cooling solutions and so on to maintain the temperatures these faster clocks can raise. In summary, it is no surprise to see that the more robust models of the 7900 XT and XTX will be more expensive, it is perfectly expected.
However, what is a little troubling here is the way things are presented as being a lot more expensive, and that sounds ominous. In the same way that the RTX 4080 ended up with a very high price tag with some third-party variants compared to the MSRP, will we see the same sort of thing for AMD’s new RDNA 3 GPUs?
That seems to be the suggestion, which would be disappointing – as we’d very much expect AMD to keep its RX 7900 variants relatively affordable, at least compared to Nvidia’s RTX 4080. (Remember, Team Red isn’t going to try and compete with the RTX 4090, but rather the 4080 – that’s clear from what we’ve seen in AMD’s press and positioning materials).
There’s another key element here, and that’s the kind of volume that AMD and its cardmaking partners will be amassing in the initial launch of RDNA 3. Obviously, this will be critical for pricing, as if inventory isn’t plentiful and it runs out quickly, well it becomes a vicious circle as the cards will sell even faster as the scalpers put on their price rigging hats and buy shares to resell.
According to Board Channels’ source, the supply of RDNA 3 graphics cards is initially expected to be “sufficient”, but that’s a tricky judgment to make at this stage, and one we’d take with several handfuls of salt.
AMD and its cardmakers could be in a tricky position in terms of judging inventory, really, as Nvidia has been selling expensive Lovelace GPUs for some time now – changing a lot of units from the RTX 4090 in particular. (And also the RTX 4080 to a lesser extent, although given its price relative to the 4090, that GPU was received far less enthusiastically, shall we say).
Expensive graphics cards are a niche proposition – especially when a cost-of-living crisis is in full swing, complete with sky-high energy bills – so is there a danger for AMD that Nvidia has already eaten too big a slice of that pie? Keep in mind that while the RX 7900 XT and XTX are certainly more affordable than Nvidia’s RTX 4080, they’re still expensive cards – benchmark or otherwise. And perhaps that kind of thinking is fueling AMD’s concerns that the company doesn’t want to overstock RDNA 3 initially.
This is pure speculation, of course, but could be related to why you want to hold off on the third-party custom models until a little later, and spread out the supply to perhaps better match anticipated demand early on.
Overall, it’s clear enough that AMD may have some tricky judgments to make and a number of possible considerations to balance. So it’s not unimaginable that maybe there’s some last-minute deadline reworking behind the scenes as Team Red looks at Nvidia’s sales sheet with Lovelace – which apparently has around 160,000 units and counting for the RTX 4090 and 4080 – and tries to figure out the best approach to launch strategy and volume.