It’s the month before Christmas and gamers the globe over sleep, yet Santa’s little helpers over in Santa Clara still creep. You see there’s a chance for the scrappy team all donned in red this year, something many thought would never come near. While Intel and Nvidia usually push their way to the top, AMD might finally be able to put their seasonal reign to a stop.
In other words, Intel and Nvidia are both reportedly halting or significantly lowering product shipments for the next quarter – two sides of the same supply issue coin – leaving AMD solely pushing affordable desktop product throughout this most wonderful time of the year. But I’m pretty sure the poem got all that information across.
The CPU market has been rejuvenated in recent years thanks to AMD’s efforts, with Intel recently matching AMD core-to-core in an ongoing battle for supremacy and gamers’ love. But just when that eight-core showdown was kicking-off between Ryzen and 9th Gen Coffee Lake Core chips, reports emerged suggesting Intel can no longer sustain its entire range of CPUs going into Q4. AMD must be counting its lucky stars.
It’s no secret Intel has been struggling with 14nm production, itself a symptom of a wider malady due to the stagnant shift over to the denser 10nm node. Intel interim CEO, Bob Swan, announced capital expenditure increases to combat the slowdown – to the tune of $1bn for the year – but, despite this, reports keep flooding in of Chipzilla’s inability at getting stock out to the market and keeping prices reasonable.
The latest report from industry insiders indicates Intel’s hand has been forced, stuck making sacrifices in DIY CPU shipments ‘for the greater good’. The result could be two million orders cut to keep Intel’s mobile and server businesses ticking over in time for Christmas. Essentially handing the entire quarter – a time of songs, family, and consumerism en masse – over to the red team.
And AMD doesn’t have to change much to take advantage of Intel’s falter. The company has enjoyed a rather trouble-free year on the CPU front, with pricing and stock seemingly no issue whatsoever. Ryzen is reportedly gaining market share – currently somewhere in the region of 13% of the market – and has become quite a crowd-pleaser thanks to its price/performance ratio. From the scalable Zen design to AMD’s flexibility in manufacturing going forward, the company is playing to its strengths. Out of the two x86 behemoths, AMD alone can afford to capitalise on Black Friday and the giving season this year.
But in the graphics card department AMD seems to be playing a far more cunning game. AMD’s Polaris RX 580 is our pick as the best graphics card of the moment, but over the course of the last few years since its release it’s been swapping top spot with the Nvidia GTX 1060. That continual switcheroo looks to be over as these cards hit their geriatric final months. The high-end Pascal cards may have already left to go get cigarettes and never returned, but the mainstream GPUs are all sticking around for one more seasonal hurrah… and this is where AMD is, yet again, playing to its strengths.
The red team haven’t had much luck competing with Nvidia’s high-end, instead taking it to Nvidia in the only market it stands a chance with a rather uninteresting, yet auspicious product: the RX 590.
That might sound a little unfair, but for all its utility in the sub-$300 market, the RX 590 is essentially just an RX 580 with a fresh lick of paint and, somewhat confusingly, GlobalFoundries/Samsung’s 12/11nm process. That doesn’t mean it’s not exactly what the red team need right now, a brand new card in the mainstream could reignite the market and shift the stale Polaris cards left over from the great mining boom of 2017/18.
Both AMD and Nvidia have professed that the sudden dip in demand for GPUs from cryptocurrency miners has left them in a bad way. During both companies’ Q3 earnings calls, the higher-ups confessed the channel was filled to the brim with mainstream cards. Nvidia has made it clear that it will abstain from supplying any further shipments into the channel for at least a quarter to let retailers and partners sell through what they’ve got.
Nvidia’s stock plummeted on the announcement, dropping by over 15% on the day and currently sinking over 28% down. The announcement has also left investors questioning Nvidia’s hopeful goal of shifting the oversupply in the next two quarters, and querying whether the green team has thrown so much into Q3 that Q4 will fall wildly short of expectations.
You’d think AMD would only be compounding the problem by launching a brand new card into the market, and you may well be right. But, there’s a chance its wily scheme might just be crazy enough to work. The RX 590 offers only a slight bump in performance over the RX 580 for an equally small bump in cost, but it makes the RX 580 just that much more convincing at a time when Nvidia can do little else but hope the 1060’s current sales inertia will carry it through the holiday season.
And so the scene is set to play out with neither Nvidia nor Intel making a peep this Christmas season. AMD has a chance to capitalise on the stifled pair in the short-term before AMD Navi and Zen 2 take to the market in 2019. With Intel hamstrung by its own production, so long as AMD isn’t outmanoeuvred by a convincing bundle or Nvidia can convince retailers to drastically cut their margins, AMD is the one to look out for bargains this Black Friday and holiday season. So, happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.