Nvidia announced its RTX 3060 during CES last week, but according to one report, the company has actually restarted production of its RTX 2060 and RTX 2060 Super. If true, it would mean Nvidia doesn’t think it can alleviate the graphics card shortage quickly enough if it relies solely on 7nm GPUs.
The rumor comes from French site Overclocking.com, which claims to gotten confirmation from several brands. Reportedly, Nvidia shipped out a new set of RTX 2060 and 2060 Super GPUs to re-enable the manufacture of these cards. If true, Nvidia could potentially alleviate the GPU shortage by relying on TSMC’s older (and presumably, less-stressed) 12nm product line.
Nvidia showed the following slide during the RTX 3060 launch. It gives some idea how the two compare, though it does not look as though DLSS is being used for the RTX 2060, and there’s no 2060 Super.
Either way, there should be some room in the product market beneath the RTX 3060 to carve out space for the 2060, 2060 Super, or both.
How’d We Get Here, Anyway?
We’re in this position today because Nvidia wanted to avoid a repeat of Turing’s disastrous launch. Back in 2018, Nvidia repeatedly told investors that the huge spike in GPU sales through 2017 and into 2018 was being driven by gamers, not by cryptocurrency mining. It’s never been clear how true that was — and Nvidia has been sued by shareholders over the idea that the firm knew full well where its demand was coming from. But whether the company misread the market or not, it appears to have been genuinely caught off-guard when the crypto market cooled off. This left a lot of Pascal GPUs on shelves that had to be moved.
Turing’s second problem was its pricing. Nvidia decided to raise prices with Turing and increased the prices of its GPUs accordingly. It proved unwise to raise Turing prices when Pascal cards were hitting some of the best prices of their lives, and sales of the cards suffered.
Turing’s third problem was that its major feature wasn’t supported in any shipping titles yet. This is not unusual when major new features are introduced to gaming — hardware support has to precede software support, because the arrow of time is annoying and inconvenient — but it still counts as a drag on the overall launch.
This time around, Nvidia wanted to avoid these issues. Turing production was discontinued well before Ampere launched. The end-user community was deeply unhappy with Nvidia’s Turing pricing, and Nvidia, to its credit, adjusted its prices. The non-availability of ray tracing, similarly, is not a problem here. While the number of ray-traced games remains small, there’s now a small collection — including AAA titles — with RTX / DXR support integrated.
Nvidia did everything right, in terms of building appeal for gamers. The one thing it didn’t count on was the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on semiconductor demand. Bringing back the RTX 2060 and 2060 Super could give Nvidia a way to respond to this problem without sabotaging its new product lineup.
Frankly, it’d be nice to see the RTX 2060 and 2060 Super back in-market, if only to bring a little stability to it. Here are Newegg’s current top-selling GPUs as of 1/20/2021:
Newegg’s best-selling GPUs are bottom-end Pascal cards. The last-gen RX 580 and the GTX 1660 Super are the only two consumer cards selling for under $500. Both of them are terrible deals at this price point.
There’s always a bunch of low-end garbage stuffed into the GPU market. Typically, these parts live below the $100 price point, where you’ll find a smorgasbord of ancient AGP cards, long-vanished GPU micro-architectures, and rock-bottom performance that almost always costs too much. Today, the garbage has flooded into much higher price points. Want a GTX 960? That’ll be $150. How about a GTX 460 for $145 or an HD 7750 for $155? There’s a GTX 1050 Ti for $170, which is only $40 more than the GPU cost when new, over four years ago.
Right now, it’s impossible to buy any GPU for anything like MSRP. If bringing the RTX 2060 and RTX 2060 Super back to market actually provides some stability and some kind of modern GPU to purchase, I’m in favor of it. At this point, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if AMD threw the old Polaris family back into market, either. While they wouldn’t be a great value at this point ordinarily, the cheapest RX 5500 XT at Newegg is $397. Under these circumstances, any midrange GPU manufactured in the last four years that can ship for less than $300 would be an improvement.
The past five years have been the worst sustained market for GPUs in the past two decades. Currently, GPU prices have been well above MSRP for 24 out of the past 56 months, dating back to the launch of Pascal in late May, 2016. This isn’t expected to change until March or April at the earliest. When cards aren’t available at MSRP for nearly half the time they’ve been on the market over five years and two full process node deployments, it raises serious issues about whether we can trust MSRPs when making GPU recommendations. Right now, the best price/performance ratio you can get in the retail market might be an RX 550 for $122.
The GPU market in its current form is fundamentally broken. Manufacturer MSRPs have the same authority as any random number you might pick out of a hat. There are a lot of factors playing a part in the current situation, including manufacturing yields and COVID-19, but this problem started four years before the pandemic.
AMD and Nvidia need to find a better way to ensure that customers are able to buy the cards they actually want to purchase, or they need to delay their launches for a sufficient length of time as to build up a meaningful stockpile of hardware, sufficient to supply launch demand for a matter of days, not seconds. Alternately, they may need to delay launches until yield percentages and availability are high enough to ensure a constant stream of equipment to buyers.
Right now, we have launch days that sell out instantly and interminable delays between new shipments. If these rumors are true, and we hope they are, Nvidia bringing back the RTX 2060 and 2060 Super will help a little in the short term, but what we obviously need is for AMD and Nvidia to take a fundamentally different approach to product inventory management. As things stand, these aren’t product launches. They’re product teases.