You’ve probably heard about the chip shortage somewhere in the past couple of years, or at the very least, you’ve probably noticed how expensive electronics are. The bad news is in: the chip shortage is not about to end, according to Intel’s CEO. So, in this article, we are going to tell you why the shortage of chips is not going away and why consoles, computers and the like will remain expensive.
What is this “chip shortage” and why is it important?
When we say “chips”, we’re not talking about Lays or even computers in general. Chips means microchips. Semiconductors. These types of basic technological building blocks. Chips, in this sense, permeate almost every industry, and in many ways the global economy is totally dependent on their production as demand for smart devices continues to explode.
From cars and medical devices to phones, game consoles and computers, we need a steady supply of chips to build the everyday devices we all rely on, directly or indirectly. Suffice it to say they are important.
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The problem started with, as you might guess, COVID-19. Around the world, production in manufacturing plants has plummeted during the pandemic, but that’s not all. COVID has also created the need for a wide variety of electronics which chipmakers, in turn, have focused on building, further limiting their production.
Then, when relations between the United States and China began to deteriorate and sanctions were imposed, chips became even more expensive and harder to acquire. On top of all this, there has been an extraordinary demand for electronics caused by the pandemic: millions, if not billions, are staying indoors, and there is not much to do at home without Internet, computers, televisions, video games or telephones.
Recently, there has been another major development: fabs that actually produce chips require, as you would expect, a wide variety of chips themselves. The production of microchips requires an almost unbelievable level of precision, while the chips used in electronics to make chips are also in short supply.
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This means that the new factories that companies like Intel are building in Europe and the United States will inevitably be delayed, and these kinds of factories already take a huge amount of time, money and resources to create. And even when they are up and running, chip manufacturing also takes some time.
Essentially, the entire chip supply chain continues to experience major bottlenecks, causing Intel’s CEO to revise his prediction of when the world can expect the end of the shortage of chips: what was once 2023, maybe 2024, has become 2024, maybe 2025.
What does the chip shortage mean for gaming and consumer tech?
First, it means the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will continue to be flagships that may not be the easiest or cheapest things to release and acquire. This is not something new, however, unfortunately. While the same can be said for other types of consumer technology and gaming hardware, some things have changed as well.
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When the chip shortage first hit, NVIDIA was on its 3000 series of cards. These cards offered a major leap forward in performance over NVIDIA’s 2000 series which was quite widely criticized as being an expensive half-step that really didn’t fully deliver the ray-tracing experience. As a result, the 3000 series cards were extremely popular and as a result they became incredibly expensive.
Even to this day, GPUs are expensive and difficult to lock down. Especially if you’re in line to pick up something remotely high-end. Many have seen the unfortunate reality of cards that were released two, three, four, five years ago, sold second-hand for what they were originally sold for when new.
In 2022, rumors about NVIDIA’s 4000 series are gaining momentum, and there would be plenty to be excited about. In general, the 4000 series cards should deliver another major performance boost with up to twice the power of a 3000 series card with similar specifications. These are rumors, and this kind of performance differential may not translate perfectly to the real world, but it’s still a major cause for concern (as well as excitement).
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If these cards end up being another must-have, especially for those who failed to buy a 3000 series and may not have wanted a 2000 series at launch or later for 3x the price, it could well be an even more insane GPU gold rush that once again skyrockets the price and availability of all PC hardware.
How can you avoid overpaying for electronics?
First and foremost, you need to do your research and stay informed. Regardless of what you want to buy, the best chance you’ll have of acquiring it is to harass something from a pre-order that you plan to go live well in advance.
This means you’ll want to set up Google Alerts, or something like that, to get daily updates on a product you plan to announce soon. You might even want to bookmark the company’s website and check it daily. You might consider making this particular page your homepage for a while.
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Once you know when pre-orders for a product are going to happen, make sure you’re ready the same day and, most importantly, watch social media. Often pre-orders will be activated later or earlier than expected, and during the process people may discover significant issues or ways to avoid inconvenience.
Unfortunately, pre-orders are going to be highly sought after by other consumers, bots, and scalpers, so you might be out of luck. Naturally, using a VPN or multiple phones/computers to monitor a pre-order page as it goes live is a good way to maximize your chances of buying something, but it’s not a guarantee.
Once a product hits store shelves, you’ll want to sign up for stock alerts. There are a wide variety of apps, services, and communities you can join or sign up for that will deliver notifications to your phone about the latest updates in stock. That way, as long as you’re alert, you’ll probably eventually be able to pick up something.
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Finally, you’ll want to try to think outside the box. If you want a new GPU, for example, consider buying a computer prebuilt with that GPU. Companies make a lot more money if you spend more, so you tend to get ripped off less. And if you have a buddy who might be looking to upgrade their rig, you can throw your old GPU into the shell of the new PC, and away you go.
Another thing to consider is buying used on sites like eBay, Craigslist, etc. Yes, you will have to be careful and cautious so that you don’t get scammed by someone, but often these used sellers are the only way to get a particularly hot product.