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In brief: Demand for restricted RTX 4090 graphics cards in China has become so high that people are reportedly buying pre-built systems elsewhere in Asia, removing Nvidia's flagship consumer product, and selling them on the Chinese black market – and still making a profit.
With Nvidia's AI/datacenter GPUs such as the H100 and A100 the subject of US export restrictions in China, and even the RTX 4090 falling into the same category, Team Green has released cut-down versions of its products that comply with the export rules, including the RTX 4090D, which lacks 10% of the original's cores.
It appears that Chinese AI firms aren't satisfied with the reduced performance in Nvidia's China-specific GPUs, with many turning to the black market to meet their needs. It's led to an increase in the sale and price of RTX 4090 cards in other Asian nations as buyers look to sell them to Chinese companies who use these products in AI farms.
Knowing that they are being bought by what are essentially scalpers, some Asia-based retailers have stopped selling the RTX 4090 as a standalone product, writes MyDrivers. According to one business in Taiwan, someone circumvented this rule by purchasing 20 pre-built PC systems, each with an RTX 4090, in order to remove the cards and sell them in China.
Each system cost around $4,450, more than double the RTX 4090's $1,599 MSRP, yet the buyer believes they will still make a profit selling the cards to desperate Chinese firms willing to pay a fortune for slightly more power than the RTX 4090D.
Another consequence of the AI-GPU ban in China that we saw last year was companies buying thousands of RTX 4090 cards ahead of the restriction rules being implemented. These were then dismantled and had their components used in different boards with blower-style coolers so they can be sold to AI firms.
Back in June, before the US export restrictions were tightened even further, we heard that businesses and universities in China were paying more than double the price to secure the likes of the A100 from black markets.