AMD expects manufacturing capacity to be tight for the first half of 2021. Over in its Q4 and full-year earnings call, company CEO Dr. Lisa Su told shareholders that AMD expects "some tightness through the first half of the year". On the flip side, AMD expects more capacity to come online in the second half.
AMD utilises world-leading silicon manufacturer TSMC for almost all its chips today, bar a few chiplets here or there from GlobalFoundries. For gamers, it's undoubtedly the RX 6000-series GPUs (opens in new tab) that appear the most aloof and unattainable, while Zen 3 processors (opens in new tab) aren't easy to come by either, though appear to be a little more readily available. Either way, you're still unlikely to find one just sitting on the shelves.
It looks like that capacity, one would suppose largely with the former, is at its limit for the time being, as you might expect for a period of rapid product launches from the company.
We may not see any significant change in the near-future, either, as AMD expects a tight supply of chips to remain until at least the second half of 2021.
"It's fair to say that the overall demand exceeded our planning," Su says during the earnings call (via Seeking Alpha (opens in new tab)). "And as a result, we did have some supply constraints as we ended the year. Those were primarily, I would say, in the PC market, the low end of the PC market, and in the gaming markets.
"That being said, I think we're getting great support from our manufacturing partners. The industry does need to increase the overall capacity levels. And so we do see some tightness through the first half of the year, but there's added capacity in the second half."
At least on the CPU side, AMD paints a picture of overwhelming demand sweeping out most of its Zen 3 desktop processors, of which it says there were more available than any previous Ryzen launch, "doubling the launch quarter sales of any prior generation Ryzen desktop processor."
AMD doesn't offer much in the way of GPU stats and figures, only loosely alluding to there being three times as many RDNA 2 GPUs available during the initial few months post-launch than any other graphics card worth $549 or more during previous launches.
But saying that, the only RDNA 2 graphics cards that exist are above $549, so it's hardly a direct comparison. There have also been very few gaming graphics cards of that value or over in recent history. The Radeon VII (opens in new tab) one of few cards in the past half-decade to top that at $699, which was hardly a GPU launch in earnest, or the famously tough to find RX Vega 64 Liquid for the same price.
We were hoping for a little more clarity on stock from AMD during the call, but it never came. The company has kept quiet ever since the RX 6000-series launches regarding further availability, and in this regard I suspect no news is probably not good news.
Nvidia has spoken to supply in a little more detail. Its CFO, Colette Kress, says that we'll see supply return around May (opens in new tab). That's only a month ahead of AMD's earliest expectations for more capacity mid-year.
Whichever way you look at it, we're facing low stock until sometime in the summer. And it's not just GPUs and CPUs that are tough to find, chips of all type and use are vying for what available capacity there is right now. There's simply not enough to go around.