Should you purchase a used graphics card? Every few years, cryptocurrencies appear to go nuts and the greatest graphics playing cards all disappear into the keen palms of miners. Combined with the pandemic already inflicting GPU shortages in 2020, the previous 9 months have been a horrible time for PC avid gamers trying to improve their most important part. If you want a new graphics card, turning to the used market would possibly appear to be a good thought, however proper now even that presents issues.
The GPU shortages are so unhealthy that playing cards from two or three generations again proceed to promote on eBay at drastically inflated costs. Basically, if it is at present tracked on our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, it is going to be overpriced. Let’s take only one fast instance. The GeForce GTX 1060 6GB launched method again in July of 2016 — 5 years in the past! The preliminary launch worth for the Founders Edition was $299, with third social gathering playing cards beginning at $249. Toward the tip of 2019, you may discover used GTX 1060 6GB playing cards on eBay for round $150–$175. Today, utilizing the identical methodology as we use in our GPU pricing index, common costs on eBay for bought GTX 1060 6GB playing cards have been $314 over the previous two weeks — for an previous card that may not even perform correctly!
It’s a comparable story for different GPUs, however we’re skipping forward a bit. Here are the issues it is best to know if you’re contemplating shopping for a used graphics card.
Price and Performance: Searching for a Deal
There’s a course of to figuring out what GPU you should purchase, and it begins with figuring out your price range and setting real looking efficiency expectations. Whatever price range you are contemplating, hold our GPU benchmarks hierarchy useful. That’s one of the simplest ways to see how the assorted GPUs from completely different generations stack up. You will not discover a card that performs like a $700 GPU for $350 proper now, however you would possibly discover a $400 card that performs like a $500 card in some instances. At least, that is the hope.
Some time within the subsequent few months, we’ll most likely begin to see extra used GPUs hitting locations like eBay because the China shutdown of crypto mining farms continues. The sage recommendation tends to be that it is best to skip shopping for a used card, as you do not need to inherit another person’s issues simply to avoid wasting a couple of bucks. Except, we’re probably not speaking about saving simply a couple of bucks. The GeForce RTX 3060 is a sexy newest era GPU, with efficiency that is not too far off the GTX 1080 Ti — it is solely about 5% slower, plus it helps ray tracing and DLSS. Our newest have a look at eBay costs nonetheless pegs the RTX 3060 at $742, 2.25x greater than the official MSRP. Meanwhile, the GTX 1080 (slower than the 3060) goes for round $442, and the GTX 1080 Ti prices round $625.
If you may get comparable efficiency whereas saving $125–$300, simply by buying a used card, that may be value contemplating. If you do not need to lose ray tracing and DLSS help, the RTX 2070 (non-Super) performs almost on par with the RTX 3060 12GB, so it may be value a shot. Except, proper now it prices about $755. An older card with much less reminiscence for more cash is not a good thought.
In different phrases, you might want to decide whether or not a used card represents a deal or not. And a “deal” would not essentially imply that it is promoting at a particularly low worth. For the time being, MSRPs are a little bit of a joke — they’re value remembering, however most playing cards will promote for greater than the unique worth proper now. Maybe that may change within the coming months, however a whole lot immediately could be a current-generation card that prices inside 25% of its MSRP, or a one-generation previous card that is proper round MSRP.
There’s excellent news in that eBay costs for the newest era GPUs (Nvidia Ampere and AMD RDNA2) all dropped about 15% prior to now month. We count on older era playing cards will drop in worth much more rapidly since these playing cards are much less fascinating (see beneath). The RTX 3060 for example is simply a bit slower than a GTX 1080 Ti and makes use of 30% much less energy. By these metrics, a used GTX 1080 Ti would solely make sense if the worth was lower than the price of an RTX 3060, significantly if you may get the latter new (which you most likely cannot proper now, since RTX 30-series playing cards stay bought out in every single place we have regarded, a minimum of within the US).
Assume the Worst and Prepare for it
There’s no method to inform what the earlier proprietor(s) might need accomplished with a graphics card if you’re procuring on-line, so our recommendation is to imagine the worst. Don’t belief the vendor to provide truthful info. Any itemizing that claims it was “by no means used for mining” at this level might be a lie. Some sellers will really let you know that a card was used for mining, however even then we might assume most overclocks and redlining, with playing cards probably pushed past secure limits. We’d even be cautious of “like new,” “open field,” and even “manufacturing unit sealed” listings, as all will be faked.
Murphy’s Law is in full impact right here. If one thing might have been accomplished with a GPU, it most likely was. But that does not imply a card cannot be salvaged. Thermal pads and thermal paste can deteriorate over time, and dirt can construct up within the fan blades and heatsink fins. It’s attainable a little bit of cleansing and TLC will make a card that was struggling run like new. Factor in the price of new pads and even new followers, in addition to the time required to wash a card.
There’s an exception to this, nonetheless: If you may meet up in particular person for a buy, you may inform a lot about a card simply by taking a look at it. Check for mud, and examine to see if the screws holding the cardboard collectively have been eliminated. (Those “guarantee void” stickers do even have some profit.) If somebody has a card in hand and it seems clear, particularly within the nooks and crevices, there’s a good probability it wasn’t mining flat out for a couple of years.
Graphics Card Age Matters
Like any product, age could make a huge distinction. We’re not coping with antiques, the place older means higher. It’s extra like shopping for a used automotive. If one thing is simply a yr previous, even when it was pushed exhausting, it ought to nonetheless have a guarantee and is much less more likely to have critical issues. A automotive that is ten years previous with over 120,000 miles then again might simply be asking for hassle.
If you discover a affordable deal on an RTX 3060, worst-case, it has been used 24/7 for mining since late February 2021. While 24/7 mining will put extra put on and tear on a card than gaming 4 or 5 hours a day, we might nonetheless count on a card that is lower than a yr previous to run video games with none critical points. A GTX 1080 Ti in the meantime might have been used on and off for mining over the previous 4 years. And even with out mining, it may be a soiled mess.
In quick, shopping for a used GPU that is from the newest era tends to be safer than shopping for a earlier top-tier GPU from a number of years again. You would possibly get fortunate with a pristine GTX 1080 Ti, or you may find yourself with a 1080 Ti on its final legs, with VRMs or different parts on the board which can be beginning to go unhealthy. Plan accordingly.
Also, in the event you’re digging deep within the cut price bins, do notice that AMD has now formally retired all R9 300-series and earlier GPUs, together with the R9 Fury / Nano playing cards. Only RX sequence playing cards nonetheless have energetic driver help. Nvidia has additionally retired driver help for GTX 500-series and earlier GPUs, and it introduced that it’s going to retire Kepler help (GTX 600- and 700-series GPUs) later this yr. It most likely will not matter an excessive amount of, a minimum of within the quick time period. But Windows 11 and future video games might not run on older playing cards. If you need to play the newest releases, you may need a minimum of an RX 400-series AMD GPU or a GTX 900-series Nvidia GPU.
Pay Close Attention to Return Stipulations
Generally talking, in the event you purchase one thing off eBay, even when the vendor says “no returns accepted,” you may nonetheless ask for a refund if the product would not work. But it is higher to take care of somebody that has a regular 30-day return coverage.
Related to this, you may be higher off shopping for one thing from inside your nation of residence. While returning a defective product to China may be attainable, it takes a lot longer, and transport will probbaly price extra. Plus, it would take a week or extra to get to you within the first place, which is not enjoyable in the event you simply need a working graphics card.
You also needs to have a look at the vendor’s historical past. Don’t purchase something from a brand-new vendor, significantly if the deal seems too good to be true — it most likely is! Someone with a whole bunch or hundreds of previous transactions will not need to injury their repute. Many graphics card firms even have eBay shops, which must be safer than different choices (assuming they’ve any stock in inventory).
AMD or Nvidia
We’ve mentioned AMD vs. Nvidia elsewhere, however that is a have a look at the present state of affairs. If you are shopping for a used graphics card, significantly one which’s greater than a couple of years previous, issues could possibly be fairly completely different. You’ll need to take note of options, so ray tracing for example is simply supported on Nvidia’s RTX sequence or AMD’s RX 6000-series elements — not that you just want ray tracing to play most video games. DLSS additionally requires an Nvidia RTX card. Check the GPU energy consumption as properly, and ensure your PSU can present sufficient juice for no matter card you are contemplating.
Outside of these points, we have no main issues with shopping for an AMD or Nvidia card. Again, it goes again to efficiency and worth as the principle issues. If you discover a card that delivers the efficiency you need at a suitable worth, the GPU model is not normally a crucial issue.
Also take note of VRAM, which has grow to be extra of a issue with the newest video games. GPUs with 4GB or much less VRAM might restrict the settings you may choose in some video games, and might even wrestle to run some latest releases at low-quality settings. AMD tends to supply extra VRAM for a comparable worth in comparison with Nvidia. Basically, if you wish to play the newest video games, 6GB must be absolutely the minimal.
Stress Testing and Benchmarking
If you discover a used card that meets all your standards and also you resolve to purchase it, there’s nonetheless one last step as soon as the cardboard arrives: Test the hell out of it! Our graphics card critiques and benchmarks may give you some thought of what to anticipate when it comes to efficiency, assuming you’ve got a equally quick CPU and system, however stability is simply as necessary as velocity for a used half.
We suggest breaking out some strenuous benchmarks when you get the cardboard, to confirm it really works correctly. 3DMark would possibly suffice, nevertheless it’s most helpful in case you have a paid model the place you may inform it to loop a check sequence 50 occasions. FurMark is a good torture check, however any demanding 3D sport can suffice. You’ll need to have another utilities operating to examine GPU temperatures, fan speeds, and energy use. In reality, we’ve a complete article on how you can check your graphics card.
The level is that you just need to throw some critical work on the GPU to make sure it runs correctly. If it would not, the earlier you may ask for a refund and return the cardboard, the higher. You also needs to examine clock speeds and reminiscence speeds. If you are solely seeing 1500MHz whereas gaming on an RTX 2070, or your reminiscence runs at a decrease velocity than it ought to, one thing is improper. (You can rapidly discover the core specs for AMD GPUs and Nvidia GPUs on Wikipedia.)
If you run HWInfo64, MSI Afterburner, or another utility and log the outcomes, search for a decline in clocks accompanied by a quick ramp in temperatures. It’s commonplace to see 70–80 levels Celsius on many GPUs, however something above 80C tends to be worrisome. This does differ by GPU (e.g. AMD’s RX Vega playing cards tended to make use of extra energy than competing GPUs), so perform a little research as properly, however we choose to maintain our GPU temperatures within the 70s.
Final Thoughts on Buying a Used Graphics Card
If studying this has you frightened that you’re going to spend a bunch of cash on a used graphics card solely to finish up with a non-functional lemon, we have accomplished our job. Given what we have seen from cryptomining over the previous few years, we might be hesitant to purchase a used card as properly. But determined occasions name for determined measures, and in case your primary GPU simply went stomach up otherwise you’re hoping to get into PC gaming for the primary time, you would possibly want to contemplate a used GPU.
Dealing with a native vendor (e.g. through Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist or comparable) would possibly give you extra peace of thoughts in some instances, however when you pay money it turns into far harder to get a refund. eBay and public sale websites aren’t essentially nice both, however eBay tends to aspect with consumers much more usually than sellers. Shop from a longtime eBay vendor with a lengthy historical past (years of exercise) and good suggestions, and also you most likely will not get burned.
Given the selection between shopping for a new graphics card for MSRP and saving a bit of cash by going with a earlier era card that may carry out a bit worse, usually we might advise PC avid gamers to suck it up and spend the additional cash. But in a world the place it is nonetheless just about unattainable to purchase a model new GPU with out paying exorbitant costs, shopping for used may be your solely possibility for a whereas longer.
Here’s hoping the GPU shortages finish before later and we are able to put this all behind us as soon as once more, however we’re not holding our collective breath.
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