Why I spent a fortune on a new graphics card

Work in progress – July 2020

When I assembled my new gaming rig almost exactly a year ago I decided to keep using my old GTX 980, pictured above, for the time being. It seemed like a good idea at the time, what with Nvidia and AMD both being relatively close to releasing their new lineups, presumably offering me the choice between either jumping onto the new hotness or getting one of the older cards on the cheap in the near future.

My plan was to buy the new card, whenever and whichever one it would have been, with a water cooling block pre-installed, and then swap the CPU block too and cool the whole system with water. Maybe sometime around (last year’s) Christmas or so.

I obviously should have had more foresight than that. I’m not sure when, exactly, the first news about silicon shortages in general and graphics card shortages in particular made the rounds last year, but I’m just going to assume that people who keep themselves informed about such things most likely saw this coming from a mile away. Well, I didn’t.

Oh well, I thought, I can’t really complain too much about performance issues even with my old card in there, so I’ll just wait until availability and prices have gone back to normal.

Yeah, no such luck of course.

Two weeks ago I was happily playing Grim Dawn when my PC suddenly shut itself down, accompanied by a sharp popping noise and a clearly visible flash from inside the case. The various LEDs were still alight, so I knew at least that the power supply hadn’t kicked the bucket, but other than that everything went dark and silent. Also, after a few more seconds I started to smell that something had actually burned up in there.

I immediately cut off the power and opened the case to see what’s what. I already kind of assumed that it was the graphics card, given that at almost 6 1/2 years it was by far the oldest component, and sure enough it was clearly where the smell emanated from. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it on the outside, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to plug it in again and risk damaging other parts too.

So…what to do?

As not having a functioning gaming PC even for a week is out of the question for me – I know, I have a (first world) problem – I knew I had no choice but to start looking for a new card right away, and also that I couldn’t afford to be too picky about its brand and exact features, let alone the price tag. With that in mind off to the interwebs I went.

I obviously wasn’t going to risk plugging a new card into my rig without knowing whether anything else might be damaged too though, so I simultaneously tried to figure out how to verify that beforehand. Fortunately a friend of Lakisa’s seems to always have old PC parts lying around. We asked him for a cheap PCIe card that he wouldn’t miss if it blew up, and luckily he had one. It was the tiniest graphics card I had seen in a very long time, but hopefully it would do the trick.

I installed it, crossed all my fingers, toes and other parts that shall not be mentioned here, and turned the PC on. It seemed to boot normally, Windows came up, and once the card had acquainted itself with my preset screen resolution everything looked just as usual. Phew. I launched Genshin Impact for good measure, which ran without problems too. Well, I say ran…at about 5 FPS it was more of a slideshow, but I still deemed that a successful test. Now all I needed was an actual gaming card.

Which wasn’t going to come cheap, that much I’d found out in the meantime. Since I’d never done proper research about whether I preferred the current generation of Nvidia’s or AMD’s cards up to that point, and was too impatient to do it then, I decided to just stick with Nvidia out of habit and best practice. Well, “best practice” apart from the last card blowing up, that is.

Hence I basically had the choice to either buy an RTX 3070, a slower card than I’d originally planned, to cut the cost at least somewhat (but still pay close to a thousand bucks), or to buy what I actually wanted, an RTX 3080, and pay whatever I needed to.

Since I’m fortunate enough not to be in any financial straits right now I chose the latter.

On the very next day this arrived at my doorstep, while almost 1500€ vanished from my bank account. The exorbitant price hurts for sure, but at least I should now be set for the next five years or so.

Since this card obviously does not have a pre-installed water cooling block the idea to switch was off the table, but I still wanted to get rid of the original AMD cooler because it got too noisy for my taste during heavy CPU load. I went for a be quiet! Shadow Rock 3, which isn’t too expensive, does a solid job and is, well, quiet.

Yeah, the cables are a mess…I just couldn’t be bothered after all that hassle

So now my “new” gaming system is finally complete, and thankfully the performance is as great as it should be. To test it I launched Cyberpunk 2077 (for the first time in months), set all graphics options to max – some of which I didn’t even have before – and still got just under 100 FPS during firefights and car chases. Not bad, I guess.

As for what killed the old card? To be honest, I have no idea. Maybe the fan(s) croaked after all those years and the chips overheated. I unwisely didn’t have an alarm tool for that kind of thing running – now I have. Whatever the reason, the event forced my hand, and now my rig is quite different than I’d originally planned. Oh well, maybe the next one will actually be water cooled. Or the one after that…

Blaugust 2021 post count: 2

3 Replies to “Why I spent a fortune on a new graphics card”

  1. Oh wow, that sucks. I really have to consider myself lucky to have been able to grab a 3070 around christmas for a “normal” price, because I’d done the same thing earlier. Replace the whole PC but keep the old card in there. But it didn’t die, but had been a little flaky or a year… But good to hear it’s working again.

    Liked by 1 person

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