There’s no denying 2021 was a tough year for GPUs, and for PC enthusiasts as a whole. We all hoped the GPU shortage would be over before the end of the year, but on the cusp of 2022, graphics cards aren’t any easier to find. They certainly aren’t as affordable as they should be.
But from the entrance of a third major competitor to the cautiously optimistic signs for increased supply, 2022 is shaping up to be an inflection point. Before the ball drops and our calendars reset, here’s what to expect from graphics cards next year.
Intel Arc Alchemist GPUs
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 first time the company is designing a slot-in desktop GPU that’s focused on gaming.
The cards are set to arrive within the first few months of 2022, so I suspect Intel will share more at CES. Intel hasn’t shared any performance data so far, so it’s possible we’ll see more about how the cards perform at CES with a release date a few months later. Previous rumors suggested Intel would actually launch the cards at CES, though having pulled out of the physical event, that remains to be seen.
The rumor mill says that the flagship card from the range will perform around the level of an RTX 3070, but I’m waiting until Intel shares more. Intel has already shared some information about its XeSS upscaling feature that will be included with these graphics cards. It functions similarly to Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS), and Intel has announced that Hitman 3 and The Riftbreaker will support the feature at launch.
It’s been too long that the GPU market has been wrapped up in the AMD and Nvidia rivalry, so I’m looking forward to what Intel can do with Arc Alchemist. XeSS looks disruptive enough, and as long as the cards perform like rumors suggest, we’ll have a third competitor in the ring.
New mobile GPUs from AMD and Nvidia
Nvidia recently launched a 12GB variant of the RTX 2060 Super, and there are murmurs that AMD is working on a budget-focused RX 6500 XT. But the first half of 2022 will be light for desktop GPUs. Nvidia and AMD are winding down their current generations and looking forward to new launches toward the end of the year.
For the first half of the year, I expect to hear about mobile GPUs. A recent rumor about new RTX 30-series variants seems to focus on mobile options, and AMD only has three current-gen mobile GPUs at the time of publication.
Nvidia’s lineup is missing Ti variants for all but the RTX 3050, and AMD doesn’t have an equivalent to last-gen’s RX 5300M in its lineup yet. Mobile GPUs almost always arrive after their desktop counterparts, so AMD and Nvidia will likely use the first half of the year to build out their mobile offerings.
A roller coaster of prices
I’d normally expect GPU prices to drop as generations start to show their age. But the GPU market isn’t normal right now, and I can’t tell you where GPU prices will go. Prices dropped toward the middle of 2021, showing hopeful signs that the GPU shortage was finally slowing down. Now that we’re at the end of the year, prices are back up again.
The cost of components is up in the air, and graphics cards are still subject to a 25% tariff. Nvidia and other companies have asked the U.S. government for an exclusion from these tariffs, but that exclusion hasn’t been granted at the time of publication. There are also whispers that AMD could be applying a 10% price increase to its RX 6000 graphics cards.
It goes without saying: GPU pricing is a mess, and it will likely remain a mess throughout most of 2022. I suspect we’ll see a drop in prices at the beginning of the year, a boost around summer, and another dip in the fall (hopefully one that continues dropping). That’s just speculation, though. There’s no way to predict where prices heading given how the GPU market has been for over a year.
Prices will drop at some point, but they may not reach the same levels as before. The coronavirus pandemic massively increased the demand for PCs and graphics cards, and that demand hasn’t gone away — even as plenty of people return to the office. Though 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 cheap as they once were.
Like pricing, I don’t have a GPU crystal ball that spells out where the market is headed. However, there are signs that supply will increase throughout 2022. Nvidia recently said that it expects the GPU shortage to cap off around the middle of 2022. Intel’s CEO said something similar, stating that the chip shortage will improve over the course of 2022, hopefully creating a stable supply chain by 2023.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a drop in price. Supply and demand are important, but the cost of components and tariffs could still make graphics cards more expensive than they should be. Looking into next year, I expect you’ll be able to find graphics cards more easily at online retailers, but their prices will remain high.
I’m seeing signs of that already. Although graphics cards are tough to find, major retailers have cards in stock right now. They’re mostly bottom of the barrel options — the Radeon RX 6900 XT, which is a great graphics card, is likely in stock due to its price — but there are cards available. That situation should improve next year.
New generations from AMD and Nvidia
Although we may not hear about them for months, AMD and Nvidia have next-gen graphics cards in the works. For Nvidia, it’s the RTX 40-series. A launch in fall 2022 would keep with Nvidia’s usual release cadence, and multiple leakers have pointed to a release around that time.
Rumors suggest that Nvidia is ditching Samsung as its manufacturer of choice for these cards, instead developing them on chipmaker TSMC’s N5 process. The smaller process points to a massive boost in performance, though leakers say that the extra performance comes at the cost of increased power draw.
We know much less about AMD’s RX 7000 graphics cards. Originally, rumors claimed that AMD would launch these cards at the end of 2021, but it seems the launch date has slipped into 2022. We may see them earlier than RTX 40-series cards, but I still expect AMD to 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 increase in performance over AMD’s current offerings. RX 6000 cards reached performance parity with Nvidia, so I’m looking forward to what AMD has in store for its next-generation cards.
A focus on upscaling and image quality
Going into 2022, I expect the conversation around 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, it’s old news. In 2022, you’ll see Nvidia and AMD focus on performance.
We have the two major upscaling features already: Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR). These two technologies work differently, and they produce different results. But they’re both upscaling tools with the goal of improving your frame rate while maintaining as much image quality as possible.
We haven’t heard the end of these technologies. I’m expecting to see a new version of FSR that works in a similar way as DLSS. AMD would need to wait until it releases RX 7000 GPUs because the current cards don’t have the necessary hardware. Assuming we get RX 7000 cards next year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see FSR 2.0 alongside them.
I’m not confident we’ll see a new version of DLSS next year though. Nvidia quietly released DLSS 2.3 not too long ago, and it seems like these iterative updates will be par for the course over the next year. Nvidia has a commanding lead with DLSS based on our testing, and I imagine Nvidia will ride that wave for as long as it can.
Intel XeSS could throw a wrench in those cogs, though. Intel plans on releasing two versions of XeSS, one that works specifically with Intel graphics cards and another that works across all GPUs. The biggest weakness of DLSS is that it only works on the most recent Nvidia graphics cards. XeSS works on everything, so we might see a bigger response from Nvidia to counter XeSS.
I’m anticipating that Intel, Nvidia, and AMD will go back and forth on image quality and performance for their upscaling features, whichever is most beneficial to them at the time. Both are important, but I suspect we’ll hear more about one being more important than the other throughout 2022.