Sales of discrete GPUs in the first quarter were up both sequentially and year-over-year due to high demand for PCs in general and gaming PCs in particular, according to Mercury Research. Nvidia continued to dominate the market,
AMD has been gaining CPU sales and market share in the recent years particularly in the gaming segment as many of its processors do not have any direct rivals. But at the same time sales of the company’s discrete GPUs have been a roller coaster and its market share has been declining. In the recent months the situation with AMD’s standalone GPU supplies were tougher because of chip shortages and its market share in Q4 2020 declined to a multi-year low, according to Jon Peddie Research.
Shipments of discrete graphics processors in the first quarter reached 22 million units (which includes graphics chips for desktops and notebooks as well as for crypto mining), a 1% increase sequentially, according to data by Mercury Research cited by Capital Markets (which was cited by Barron’s). Typically, shipments of standalone GPUs decrease in Q1 versus Q4, but this was not a usual quarter.
Nvidia commanded 81% of standalone GPU shipments in Q1 2021, which was 5.2% higher than in the same period a year ago, based on data from Mercury Research. AMD commanded 19% of shipments, almost flat with the previous quarter and a decline compared to Q1 2020. Meanwhile, since unit sales increased sequentially and AMD’s share remained flat, it means that the company sold more GPUs in Q1 2021 than it did in Q4 2020.
GPUs used to mine Ethereum contributed to additional GPU sales in the first quarter, said Dean McCarron, the head of Mercury Research. Yet, it is hard to estimate how many of GPUs sold in Q1 are now used to mine cryptocurrency. McCarron estimates that sales of Nvidia’s custom crypto mining processors (CMP) totalled 1 – 2 million in the first quarter, which is well below his expectation of around 4.5 million.
Both AMD and Nvidia said recently that their shipments in Q1 2021 were constrained by shortages of production capacity at foundries as well as tight supply of components. Since AMD has contract obligations to supply its custom SoCs for the latest game consoles from Microsoft and Sony as well as CPUs to PC and server makers, it is not particularly surprising that the company could not increase shipments of its own GPUs significantly in the first quarter. Meanwhile, AMD hopes to boost sales of its graphics processors later this year.