CES 2022 once again made low-cost AMD and Nvidia GPUs a reality

Nvidia and AMD announced new budget graphics cards at CES 2022: the $ 199 RX 6500 XT for AMD and the $ 249 RTX 3050 for Nvidia. Even with rumors that these cards are circulating, I didn’t expect to actually see them – and I didn’t expect AMD and Nvidia to sell them for around $ 200.

Graphics card prices have increased, and over the last few generations Nvidia and AMD have continued to pull their main products away from their budget offerings. CES 2022 forced AMD and Nvidia to consider current graphics card prices, and the RX 6500 XT and RTX 3050 appear to be a winning pair at a time when graphics options are scarce.

Coping with the GPU shortage

Jeff Fisher presents the RTX 3090 Ti.
RTX 3090 Ti? Who can afford it?

Nvidia has never released RTX 2050, at least not on the desktop. The company stuck with the $ 329 RTX 2060 as the cheapest card from the previous generation, leaving the older GTX 10 and 16 series GPUs to fill the void for the budget crowd. AMD had a last-gen RX 5500 XT, but that was before AMD had any flagships that could compete with Nvidia’s best.

Nvidia and AMD have had budget options over the past few years – the RX 500 cards for AMD and the GTX 16 series for Nvidia – but they never matched the main cards. And stepping into the current generation of GPUs, it looked like the around $ 200 graphics cards were almost dead, with Nvidia and AMD asking for higher prices and hopeful buyers happy to pay them.

At this year’s CES, AMD and Nvidia faced the GPU shortage that left many machines with woefully outdated graphics cards. The answer: the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT. Priced at $ 249 and $ 199, respectively, these cards represent a return to budget GPUs.

AMD RX 6500 XT graphics card specifications.

You’ll pay more than the list price – I’ll get to that later – but that doesn’t mean the price doesn’t make sense. Older RX 500 and GTX 16 series cards are still extremely expensive in the used market. The goal with these new cards, it seems, is to offer a similarly priced alternative with modern features and performance.

$ 200? Yes indeed

OK, $ 200 is a pipe dream. At least for most of 2022, you can expect the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT to sell for much more than what AMD and Nvidia announced at CES. Unless you can score a card on release day – I recommend waiting for third-party referrals before depositing your money – you’ll likely pay double the list price and maybe more.

Ads for the RTX 3080 on eBay.

It is reasonably unreasonable. You can’t get a current-gen AMD or Nvidia graphics card for around $ 400, with the budget cards I mentioned above filling those prices. The RX 5500 XT, RX 580, and GTX 1660 aren’t bad graphics cards, but they’re not the best options in 2022.

From a performance standpoint, the new RDNA 2 architecture on AMD and the Ampere architecture on Nvidia promise much higher frame rates overall, but that’s not what I’m excited about. The RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT support hardware accelerated ray tracing and most importantly the RTX 3050 supports Nvidia Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS).

It’s no secret that I’m a huge DLSS fan. Since the onset of the GPU shortage, the problem has been that only a few expensive graphics cards can use it. AMD’s FidelityFX super resolution is an alternative, but it doesn’t look as good as DLSS.

CoD Warzone working with and without DLSS enabled.

I don’t expect jaw-dropping performance from these cards, and neither should you. But even at twice the list price, the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT offer graphics options that are sorely lacking in the market right now. Even if the performances are exactly what we’d expect given what we’ve seen of the other options in the current gen is fine.

No good options, only better

AMD RX 6600 among other graphics cards.

There aren’t any great options when it comes to GPU shortage, unless you get the chance to score a card at list price during a store replenishment. The RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT will sell for a lot more than they are worth, and in most cases I wouldn’t recommend buying them at the price scalpers inevitably set.

I also understand the reality of a lot of PC gamers, myself included. Many people have been patiently waiting for the upgrade for over a year and a half, and something has to give. The RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT aren’t ideal options, but they’re better than multi-generation old cards that sell for $ 500 or more.

Hopefully they will help with the supply as well. The RX 6600 XT uses a smaller GPU to deal with shortages, and you can already see it paying off. While still expensive, many RX 6600 and RX 6600 XT models sell closer to their list price than high-end cards in the range. Hopefully we’ll see something similar with the RTX 3050 and RX 6500 XT.

CES 2022 was all about making the most of a bad situation, and that’s true far beyond graphics cards. Hopefully Nvidia and AMD won’t forget these budget options when the supply issues subside and we continue to see GPUs around $ 200 for many generations to come.


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