Yesterday, we covered news from Mercury Research showing that Intel had regained market share from AMD in both desktop and mobile. The news, however, wasn’t all bad for AMD. According to Dean McCarron, president of Mercury Research, AMD shipped nearly a million Ryzen 5000 CPUs in Q4 of 2020.
AMD ramped up sales of the Ryzen 5000 family so rapidly, it beat its own record by more than 2x. “The Ryzen 5000 supply ramp was record-breaking for AMD by a very wide margin,” McCarron told PCMag.
The reason AMD CPUs are hard to find right now isn’t because of yield problems at TSMC. It’s because, even though Ryzen 5000 already accounts for about 20 percent of AMD’s desktop business, the company is selling every single CPU it can make.
We suspect Intel was well-positioned to take back market share in desktop and mobile this year, thanks to its earlier capacity expansions in 2018 and 2019. Intel was capacity constrained then. Low yields on 10nm required Intel to devote more capacity to ramping Ice Lake than the company had initially anticipated, while increased core counts in consumer products meant fewer CPUs per wafer.
Intel increased its 14nm capacity by 25 percent throughout 2019 and had similar plans to increase it by 25 percent in 2020. While a lot of attention has been paid to TSMC and its 7nm output capabilities, Intel has been boosting its own ability to ship hardware.
If we had to guess, we’d guess AMD plans to increase Ryzen 5000 availability in the desktop channel before the end of March. Intel’s Rocket Lake ships in that time frame and AMD will want to have enough Ryzen 5000 chips in-market to challenge the company by then.
Before Christmas, we didn’t have as much clarity into why everyone’s hardware was so hard to find, and some rumors suggested poor yields at TSMC as a culprit. While it’s possible that low yields may have hampered any chip just out the door, all evidence today suggests that the foundry is yielding just fine. The fact that Intel was able to take market share from AMD indicates that Intel’s yields are fine as well.
The big consumer CPU battles of the year, for those of you keeping track at home, are: Rocket Lake versus Ryzen 5000, Alder Lake versus Ryzen Mobile 5000, and whatever ARM silicon Apple ships into higher-end Macs later this year. In higher-end CPUs, we’ll have a Threadripper refresh, but if Intel is planning an HEDT product launch this year, we haven’t heard rumor of it yet.
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