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Chip shortage? Here's why you shouldn't buy anything electronic now.

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So we all know about the chip shortage, it's why you can't buy a GPU or CPU, or ram, or a car, or pretty much anything...

We've now entered the second stage.
We're now experiencing shortages on all sorts of raw components and companies are desperate to keep things rolling and they will resort to whatever they can get and that's bad.

Some of you may have heard about some Asus motherboards blowing up, reports seem to indicate this was because a capacitor was installed backwards, manufacturers use optical sensors and photography to ensure these parts go on correct so what happened? The most likely scenario is that whoever supplies Asus with these capacitors ran dry and so Asus purchased from another manufacturer. This in itself is not a problem except the sensors (likely) couldn't properly read the polarity marker and instead of reprogramming the machine to identify them and having to reverse it again later Asus just disabled the sensor. Honestly this isn't a big deal so long as the person feeding the machine puts them in the correct way the sensors are just double and triple checking, except this time someone did put them in backwards and the machine wasn't checking and now we have fire.

Things happen, Asus is going to fix it.
The fact that they are working so hard to fix it right away is good, it's how companies work to resolve problems that matters and Asus is trying. I'm not trying to demonize them, they make good stuff, I have my own issues with them, but this is not one of them.

So why should you avoid anything electronic at the moment?
Because all companies are seeking out alternate suppliers.

Have you ever wondered why motherboard boxes used to make such a big deal about solid state capacitors?
Many moons ago in an act of corporate espionage China stole a capacitor formula from Japan, the problem was this formula wasn't complete and it caused capacitors to start to go bad after a year or two. For years companies like Dell had motherboards fail one after another because of these capacitors. Better companies such as Gigabyte and Asus responded by switching to solid state capacitors to get around the problem, alleviate fear and differentiate from those bad boards, it's only been a year or two they quit becoming a major selling point which is silly since everyone either switched to them or went bankrupt. Unfortunately I still see those bad formula capacitors in various electronics, usually very low quality ones because better companies will spend a bit more and buy better parts but those old leaky caps are still sitting in warehouses in China and are sold at bargain basement prices, it is China after all and if everything else is over priced and these are cheap, someone is going to buy them up. You can read more about the capacitor plague here.

As companies fight to keep supply lines going they are using alternate suppliers, you may not get plague capacitors (let's hope), but we will see more instances like Asus had. We're going to see garbage capacitors, recycled capacitors (we already see recycled GPUs and lcd screens in new systems and GPUs!) and much much more. And people will buy it, why? Because it's all they can get. Companies know this and many simply will not care, they'll ship it anyway and you will buy it. We are also going to see more and more garbage built hardware such as OEM GPUs, Dell recently shipped an RTX 3070 with a heatsink that looks like it was built for a old 700 series GTX GPU. A 200+ watt GPU with 100 watt heat sink, needless to say, it throttles like crazy and yet I guarantee you someone bought one and scalped that GPU for what they paid for the entire computer because of course they would.

So what brought this on?
I recently tried to buy a new car (HA!) and due to shortages I actually ended up with lightly used, certified model built in late 2019 instead, as I was driving home I got to thinking about Asus and realized it may have been one of the last cars built before shortages caused companies to skimp and prior to assembly lines running short staffed due to Covid or running with a bunch of miserable workers because they have Covid and worked anyway. I'm not sure I'd actually want a 2021 or 2022 vehicle because nothing is being assembled like it was 2 years ago.

At this point, even if I could find a new GPU, I wouldn't buy one. It's the same for cars, cell phones, TVs, motherboards and power supplies, this entire generation of parts is now questionable. If you can wait don't buy anything like this new if you can avoid it. When new parts do come out and the supply chain issues are fixed, don't go buying this generation either. Yes, some earlier parts are fine, and even some later parts are going to be fine but you have no idea which is which.  Do I question CPUs? No, they're super high tolerance and largely avoid the problem but you still need a motherboard to put it in, this is one of the dirty secrets of buying used hardware, you can find certain generations of CPUs really cheap but they're cheap because there's tons of cpus but no (cheap/functional) motherboards to put them in.

You're probably okay with parts made in 2020 as companies held out hope and used up existing inventory, but anything built in 2021 and going forward until all of this is completely resolved is going to be of questionable quality. If you can live with it possibly blowing up and suffering an early death go for it but I wouldn't make any long term product purchases right now.

With this in mind am I right in thinking if you must buy a motherboard you'd may as well buy cheap and plan to replace it sooner or will companies still be trying slightly harder with QC on high end models?  The Asus fire scenario is scary and my computer hasn't died for years so I'm sure it will soon.

Sort of...

Intel board will work with only 1-2 generations, after that they stop making them. It's bad they stop making them but good in that at least we know good from bad.
AMD tend to last longer, good if buying new later but will make it more difficult to identify bad ones later.

I know about the generations and am quite happy on my Z97 so whatever forced upgrade I have to make next was hoped to last for five years, as this one nearly has.  It was supposed to be the best AMD APU and 2x16GB DDR5 meaning if the mobo did die chances are I could pick up a newer one and carry on with the same CPU and RAM.  But if it's going to be crap I could just buy a cheap B series chipset instead of something upper mid tier, then when things return to "normal" pick up a nice mobo and maybe it would last five years from then.  Though if DDR5 remains practically vapourware maybe I should be picking up something from 2020 now before everyone else does.  I've joked for years that something will die meaning I have to buy some DDR4 just before it's obsolete (my first and last DDR3 is in my Z97) but never thought I'd be considering doing so because of a human virus!

Okay, that makes sense if you're wanting to upgrade a product.  But if you dont have a GPU, or a TV, or a car... you can't really wait a few years.  So just buy knowing it's not idea circumstances or buy used from 2019 or prior :(


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