All Eyes On Graphics Card Shortage, Few Answers Forthcoming

July 27, 2017

As the GPU shortage continues, OEMs are struggling to keep their shelves stocked. We have been investigating the shortage over the last couple of weeks, and according to the OEMS we spoke with, they would be happy to sell every graphics card they can manufacturer, including mining-specificones. It’s notable that some OEMs refused to comment on the shortage at all.

Sources with knowledge of the matter point directly to the ultimate source of GPUs. In short, it’s a supply issue. The sources said that all of the OEMs are having difficulties getting sufficient quantities of GPU cores from Nvidia. One source went on to say that Nvidia is likely having trouble getting enough GPU cores from TSMC. Orders are typically made to the fab months in advance, and because TSMC services several companies, it is unlikely that the fab is able to quickly increase production for Nvidia. And Nvidia may not want it to.

Nvidia would be required to predict roughly how many GPU cores it will sell several months down the road. Because the rapid rise of Ethereum popularity was unpredictable, there is no way for Nvidia to responsibly prepare for such an event.

Conversely, it would also be difficult for Nvidia to predict when that demand would suddenly vanish. Potential sudden excess inventory could also have a negative effect on the value of graphics cards. One company explicitly told us that it does not plan to increase production of its graphics cards for this exact reason.

We asked Nvidia to comment on the situation, but a spokesperson had no comment on the matter, also citing the company’s quiet period.

It should be noted, however, that one OEM — EVGA — is enduring the GPU shortage noticeably better than the others, with more graphics cards in-stock on retail sites. The company also offers the least expensive GTX 1050, GTX 1050 Ti, GTX 1060 3GB, and GTX 1060 6GB on the market. We asked EVGA directly if it was having difficulties getting GPU cores from Nvidia, and a representative told us it wasn’t. However, the representative went on to say the company is experiencing tremendous demand, however, which is why several of its graphics cards are also sold out.

AMD is likely stuck in a similar situation with production of its Polaris GPUs (via GlobalFoundries). The company’s only statement to Tom’s Hardware emphasized that gamers were its primary priority, and characterized Polaris demand as “solid,” based on both gaming and cryptocurrency mining. AMD board partners have been reluctant to comment on the situation.

Both AMD and Nvidia are also boxed in due to the upcoming launches of new GPUs. Vega’s arrival is imminent, and production focus is surely on the new products customers are anxiously awaiting. Although Nvidia’s next GPU architecture will arrive a bit later, it’s still too close to consider a major and unplanned ramp in existing GPU parts.

The supply issues paint a rather grim picture for now. The unpredictable nature of cryptocurrency demand makes it exceedingly difficult for companies to plan inventory levels, especially in the face of imminent new GPUs. Until something shifts — waning cryptocurrency demand or a more predictable demand — this is the state of consternation the graphics world we may all have to live with.

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