In an Age of Overpriced GPUs, Used Cards Provide Excellent Value

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The ongoing state of the GPU market is a topic we’ve returned to repeatedly in the past few months. Prices have come down somewhat — the cheapest GTX 1080 is now “just” $ 619 compared with its $ 500 MSRP, but they remain substantially elevated. Gamers are also likely aware that new cards from Nvidia are expected later this year, which dampens enthusiasm for dropping so much cash on a brand-new card.

We’ve discussed the use of used graphics cards as stand-ins for new ones before, and TechSpot has done an in-depth comparison of a whopping 44 cards to check how well they perform in modern titles. The comparison is simple: Take three games (Battlefield 1, Rise of the Tomb Raider, F1 2017) and compare how well they run on an entire suite of older cards with a 1080p resolution target and Medium detail settings. Cards that can’t deliver even this modest level of performance wouldn’t really be worth buying, so it serves as a solid entry-level window into overall performance characteristics.

We’re not going to share all of the results, but the Radeon benchmark averages are shown below.

Radeon_FPS3

TechSpot has some commentary on which GPUs make the most sense based on their relative prices, but in terms of the raw performance figures it’s easy to see how things break down. The Fury derived cards are still excellent performers, as are some older models. The 2013-era R9 290X maintains a 1 percent frame rate of 92fps, for example. Even the R9 380 manages to keep a minimum frame rate above 60fps.

AMD’s results are dominated by the top-end 28nm GCN cards from 2015, followed by the RX 580, followed by older cards from the 2012-2014 period. Some of these GPUs were markedly more efficient than others — the R9 390 and R9 390X are both power hogs, even by GCN standards — but if you’re buying a used GPU, you’ve obviously decided to balance these factors against lower overall prices. And the good news is, there’s plenty of leeway to balance with.

The bigger question is, should you pull the trigger on a used card at all? TechSpot notes that these GPUs are still selling used for higher prices than they were before the cryptocurrency boom kicked off, and that means you’ll be paying a premium for a product you won’t be able to resell for the same value a few months later. Our suggestion is this: If you’re considering a used card, either buy something for an amount of money you won’t miss if the market cools down and you can buy a newer card later this year, or grab a card with secondary value as a GPU for a different PC under the same circumstances. Newer cards will tend to be more power-efficient, all else being equal, but depending on how much horsepower you want the gap may not practically matter all that much relative to your electric bill.

Whatever buying decision you make, make it with the knowledge that new cards will launch this year, that they’ll be both faster and more power efficient than anything you’d find on eBay today for a reasonable price, and that one might reasonably expect to see launches within 3-6 months. That way, no matter how things turn out, you won’t be left chewing on buyer’s remorse. And as we’ve said before, in the era of mining, approach used GPUs with caution.

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