There’s no denying that 2021 has been a tough year for GPUs and for PC enthusiasts overall. We all hoped that the GPU shortage would be over before the end of the year, but in early 2022 the situation hasn’t improved. When it comes to graphics cards in 2022, however, there’s a lot to be excited about.
From the entry of a third major competitor to cautiously optimistic signs of increased supply, 2022 is shaping up to be an inflection point. Now that the ball has dropped and our calendars have reset, here’s what you can expect from graphics cards this year.
Perhaps the most exciting GPU news for 2022 is Intel’s Arc Alchemist graphics cards. Intel makes a lot of GPUs, but Arc Alchemist marks the company’s first time developing a slot-in desktop GPU that’s focused on gaming.
Rumors suggested that Intel would be showcasing the cards at CES, which is sort of true. Intel announced that Arc Alchemist will be in over 50 desktops and laptops at CES “coming soon,” but the company gave no details on what cards are in the lineup, when they’ll arrive, or how much they’ll cost. At the moment we know of some laptops – like the Alienware X17 – with an Arc GPU, but no further details beyond that.
The rumor mill is saying that the flagship card in the lineup will perform around par with an RTX 3070, but I’ll wait for Intel to share more. Intel has already shared some information about its XeSS upscaling feature that will be included in these graphics cards. It works similarly to Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), and that’s what Intel has announced hit man 3, the crack breaker, and Death Stranding: Director’s Cut will support the function at startup.
It’s been too long since the GPU market has been caught up in the AMD-Nvidia rivalry, so I’m excited to see what Intel can do with Arc Alchemist. XeSS looks disruptive enough, and as long as the cards work as the rumors suggest, we’ve got a third contender in the ring. However, we’re already in the launch window that Intel announced for Arc Alchemist and we still know very little about the cards.
Nvidia recently launched a 12GB variant of the RTX 2060 Super, and at CES, Nvidia and AMD came out with new desktop announcements. AMD brought the RX 6500 XT for $199 and Nvidia showed off the RTX 3050 and RTX 3090 Ti for $249. Nvidia also quietly launched a 12GB variant of the RTX 3080, which was missing from their CES keynote.
That’s it for desktop announcements. For the first half of the year, Nvidia and AMD will focus on mobile graphics. AMD brought eight new mobile GPU designs to CES, including the new RX 6000S cards. A counterpart to Nvidia’s Max-Q offerings, these cards focus on performance per watt rather than raw performance.
Nvidia has only introduced two new mobile GPUs, but they’re good ones. The RTX 3080 Ti Mobile and RTX 3070 Ti will eventually replace the non-Ti models in laptops and should offer a sizeable performance boost. According to Nvidia, the mobile RTX 3080 Ti is more powerful than a desktop titan RTX, which is really impressive.
I don’t think we’ll see more mobile GPUs from Nvidia or AMD, at least not from the current generations. We might see some special editions, but AMD and Nvidia stacked mobile lineups after CES.
I would normally expect GPU prices to fall as the generations start showing their age. But the GPU market is not normal right now and I can’t tell you where GPU prices will go. Prices fell towards mid-2021, showing hopeful signs that GPU shortages were finally slowing. Now that we are in early 2022, prices are going up again.
Component costs are skyrocketing, and graphics cards are still subject to a 25 percent tariff. Nvidia and other companies have asked the US government for an exemption from these tariffs, but the exemption has not been granted at the time of publication. There are also rumors that AMD could apply a 10% price increase to its RX 6000 graphics cards.
It goes without saying: GPU pricing is a mess, and it likely will remain a mess for most of 2022. My guess is that we’ll see a fall in prices early in the year, a spike in the summer, and another fall in prices (hopefully one that falls further). But that’s just speculation. There’s no way to predict where prices are headed given how the GPU market has been going for over a year.
Prices will eventually fall, but they may not reach the same levels as before. The coronavirus pandemic has massively increased demand for PCs and graphics cards, and that demand hasn’t gone away — even as many people return to the office. While there are signs of sub-$200 GPUs from AMD and Intel in the future, we don’t have those options. Graphics cards may never be as affordable as they once were.
As with pricing, I don’t have a GPU crystal ball to show where the market is headed. However, there are signs that supply will increase throughout 2022. Nvidia recently said it expects the GPU shortage to end around mid-2022. Intel’s CEO said something similar, stating that the chip shortage will improve over the course of 2022 and hopefully create a stable supply chain by 2023.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a price drop. Supply and demand are important, but component costs and tariffs could still make graphics cards more expensive than they should be. Looking ahead over the next year, I expect you’ll find graphics cards more easily from online retailers, but their prices will remain high.
I’m already seeing signs. Although graphics cards can be hard to find, major retailers currently have cards in stock. They’re mostly cheap options – the Radeon RX 6900 XT, a great graphics card, is likely in stock given its price – but cards are available. This situation should improve next year.
Although we may not hear about it for months, AMD and Nvidia have next-gen graphics cards in the works. For Nvidia, it’s the RTX 40 series. A fall 2022 launch would be in line with Nvidia’s usual release cadence, and several leakers have pointed to a release around that time.
Rumors suggest that Nvidia will drop Samsung as the manufacturer of choice for these cards and instead develop them on chipmaker TSMC’s N5 process. The smaller process indicates a massive increase in performance, although leakers say the extra performance comes at the cost of increased power consumption.
We know a lot less about AMD’s RX 7000 graphics cards. Originally, rumors claimed AMD would launch these cards in late 2021, but it seems the launch date has pushed back to 2022. We might see them sooner than the RTX 40 series cards, but I still assume AMD will wait until the middle of the year, at least.
These cards will also reportedly use the N5 node, which could offer up to a 2.5x performance boost over AMD’s current offerings. RX 6000 cards achieved performance parity with Nvidia, so I’m excited to see what AMD has in store for its next-gen cards.
For 2022, I expect the conversation about upscaling and image quality to heat up. In 2019, Nvidia shifted the focus to real-time ray tracing. Now that consoles and modern GPUs support ray tracing, that’s old news. In 2022, Nvidia and AMD will focus on performance.
We already have the two main upscaling features: Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR). These two technologies work differently and produce different results. But both are upscaling tools to improve your frame rate while maintaining as much image quality as possible.
We haven’t heard the end of these technologies yet. I’m expecting a new version of FSR that works similar to DLSS. AMD would have to wait for RX 7000 GPUs to be released as the current cards don’t have the required hardware. Assuming we get RX 7000 cards next year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see FSR 2.0 alongside them.
However, I am not confident that we will see a new version of DLSS next year. Nvidia quietly released DLSS 2.3 not too long ago, and it seems like these iterative updates will be the order of the day for the next year. Based on our testing, Nvidia has a comfortable lead when it comes to DLSS, and I imagine Nvidia will be riding that wave for as long as possible.
However, Intel XeSS could throw a wrench into these cogs. Intel plans to release two versions of XeSS, one specifically for Intel graphics cards and one for all GPUs. The main weakness of DLSS is that it only works on the latest Nvidia graphics cards. XeSS works on everything, so we may see a bigger response from Nvidia to counter XeSS.
I expect Intel, Nvidia, and AMD to go back and forth on image quality and performance for their upscaling capabilities, based on what’s most beneficial to them at the time. Both are important, but I suspect that as 2022 progresses we will hear more about one being more important than the other.
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