By now, news of the chip shortage shouldn't come as a surprise. It's not been a great year for the tech supply chain for a spate of reasons, and as the holiday season marches closer with each morning frost, there's one question further embittering the autumn chill: Which products will be most affected by the chip shortages?
The bane of these supply chain issues is particularly worrying now that we're staring down Black Friday. It's that time of year when, in the eyes of your average shopper, tech seems to morph into a sort of collective One Ring. And though admittedly we've not heard news of brother strangling brother over GPUs drenched up from a riverbed, high demand has seen people doing some terrible things.
We've seen bots and resellers running rampant around GPU launches, people trying to smuggle components over borders by strapping CPUs to their legs with cling film, even news of a literal GPU truck heist just surfaced.
Considering all this scrambling for tech, CPUs don't seem to have been hit too hard. And despite Intel and TSMC (two of the largest chip manufacturers around) being convinced the chip shortage could last until 2022 or beyond, there are plenty of Intel CPU deals, as well as AMD CPU deals to choose from, even as we skirt around on the lead up to Black Friday.
Intel has a very positive outlook for CPUs, in fact, as they mentioned to us: "Intel expects to ship hundreds of thousands of 12th Gen Intel Core desktop 'K' processors by end of year and more than 2 million by the end of March 2022."
SSDs are in pretty good stead too. So why are these components easy to find, while others are disappearing like hot cakes? Well the clue is in exactly which components have been affected most: graphics cards.
As Nvidia CFO, Colette Kress, explained back in 2020 "some constraints are in substrates and components." Third party manufacturers were pretty put out by this lack of materials, of course, but that's not the only thing sending GPU stock down the drain.
Over the past year and beyond, the lack of materials has been exacerbated by a lack of fab capacity as well as transportation hiccups, but it's our insatiable tech addiction that's really breaking the camel's back.
Increased demand for tech has played one of the largest roles in the chip crisis we're witness to now. With more people in need of work from home stations, and the fact that PC gaming is still one of the fastest growing hobbies on earth, demand for components has shot up exponentially.
But it seems a vast majority of strain on the market has come in the form of a rise in the profitability of cryptocurrency. With proof-of-work still one of the most popular models for crypto, GPUs are top of the list for the growing horde of cryptominers. CPUs and SSDs, not so much. Those building gigantic mining rigs desire GPUs above all other components, except of course super powerful PSUs to keep all those graphics cards chugging away.
Black Friday 2021 deals: the place to go for the all the best early Black Friday bargains.
Acer had seemed confident back in April that the chip shortage should ease by the second half of 2021. Here we are in the latter part of the year, after Acer revised it's estimation to mid 2022 following admission that it could only fill half of demand, and it's still looking pretty dire.
I'm holding out hope for GPUs thanks to the fact Ethereum, one of the biggest cryptocurrencies in the world, will soon be moving toward a proof-of-stake model. It could see a massive ease on the market, or people may just move on to mining other cryptocurrencies—only time will tell.
What we do know is that the fabs ain't broke, and despite supply chain experts foreboding, things may yet start to look up for the tech industry's supply chain. Even the US Senate has been getting involved in trying to even the market out, so it's something that's actively being addressed.
And while you're unlikely to get a new GPU for Christmas, there are plenty of other Black Friday deals to check out, even now. Everything from PC peripherals to monitors.