People can end up doing questionable things when they're desperate, and the current GPU shortage has definitely made some people desperate, with many spending way above MSRP on GPUs and game consoles from scalpers. But by now you've probably heard enough pleas to not give your hard-earned money to shady resellers. So what are some other really bad ideas you should avoid?
Well, some common GPU scams are relatively easy to spot. Someone on a marketplace-style site claiming to sell a coveted GPU for well under market value or even MSRP? That could easily be an invitation to a mugging, so at the very least, bring a bulky friend. Just remember that old adage about things that seem too good to be true.
But some scams are a lot less obvious. Be wary of listings on sites like AliExpress and Wish that allow third-party sellers to peddle their wares, 'cause they could result in you getting something different than what you expected.
Now, thanks to buyer protection schemes on sites like eBay, and AliExpress for that matter, it's relatively uncommon for a seller to simply ship a brick to you, unless you get in touch with the seller, and they con you into paying off-platform with crypto or something. Please don't do that.
But even if you're paying through the platform, that doesn't mean it's always safe either. A long-running scam that we've actually covered before involves scammers getting their hands on obsolete GPUs by the truckload, remanufacturing those onto new boards, and then modifying those boards to report a modern model number. They then sell these at too-good-to-be-true prices. Take this example where the buyer thought they were getting a 1050 Ti, and in fact, their system even reported that it was a 1050 Ti, but they couldn't install NVIDIA drivers and it turned out they got a GTS 450 instead. Some of these scammers have even gotten so brazen that their listings straight-up say that the performance of the card won't match the reported model number, and this example is from the Newegg marketplace. So the point here is that you should exercise extreme caution when you're buying a no-name card from a third-party seller.
Buying a used card from a seller that you trust, though, can be a good idea. Just be wary of heavily used GPUs, especially if they've been used for mining. Now, many miners actually run their cards at lower voltages and do take care of their equipment, but careless miners could have them running full tilt in an overheating or dusty warehouse, which could have an effect on a GPU's life expectancy. And something to note is that failed GPUs, due to overuse, can be resurrected with tricks like baking them in the oven to reflow the solder joints. But from talking to Louis Rossmann about this technique, he feels that it's not a proper repair, and if you bought a GPU that was subjected to a procedure like that, it probably wouldn't last for more than a few more weeks.
Additionally, be very wary of listings that say "for parts" or "untested." The seller might claim that it's untested, so you might be tempted to take a gamble on a cheap card like this one and see if, "Well, maybe it'll work in my rig." But with how much a GPU is worth these days working, odds are that the seller did test it, and it simply is broken.
Another key is that if you find a used card at a price that looks kosher, just be sure you're not buying anything too old. Even though that card might still perform well enough on paper, it could suck back a prohibitively high amount of power for that performance, or it might not be getting updated drivers anymore, in which case it might not play nicely with newer games.
The other big category you should probably avoid, outside of marketplace scams, is low-end GPUs. You know, those small ones that typically take up a single slot in your case and might not need an additional power cord coming from your power supply.
On the NVIDIA side, these are typically branded as GT rather than GTX or RTX, and for AMD these mostly take the form of older cards from the Radeon R5 lineup as well as a few R7 models. The problem with these cards is that even though you will get exactly what you thought you were going to get, and they are cheaper than the midrange and high-end cards that people go gaga over, they're still generally too expensive to justify for the performance that you get.
Older ones such as NVIDIA's GT 730 often lose out to even integrated graphics solutions like Intel's HD 520, yet they're still going for around $80 at the time we wrote this video. And then you've got newer ones like the GT 1030 with GDDR5 memory, which is a definite step up from your typical IGPU, it's just that the problem is that, with the appropriate precautions, you can get something significantly better, like a used 1050 Ti, for a relatively small amount of additional money. Also, beware the DDR4 version of the 1030. That thing really sucks.
Now, we know that money is a huge issue for a lot of people, especially right now, but the thing is, we also don't want you to waste what you have on something that's objectively a bad value. So the bottom line is if you have an otherwise fairly modern system, it's probably a better idea to just roll with your integrated GPU for the time being unless you know a specific low-end card can hit the FPS targets that you have in the games that you want to play. Fortunately, it's not all doom and gloom because we're hoping that Intel's upcoming Arc GPUs will swoop in and save the day. Or maybe just give us three brands of GPUs to have a shortage of instead of just two.