Intel tops semiconductor earnings in 2021 so far but AMD makes great strides

Intel's Ocotillo Fab in Arizona pictured from above
(Image credit: Intel)

A report by IC Insights (via Seeking Alpha) puts some important numbers to what plenty of us have expected—it's been a buoyant start of the year for the semiconductor industry. The top 15 semiconductor companies by revenue enjoyed increased sales of 21% in the first few months of the year compared to the same period last year. 

Intel had the biggest chunk of revenue at $18.7B although its sales were actually down 4% compared to the previous year. Samsung (which manufacturers Nvidia's Ampere GPUs) was up 15% at $17.1B, while TSMC (manufacturer of AMD's Zen 3 CPUs and RDNA 2 GPUs) was up 25% at $12.9B. 

Nvidia comes in at 8th place with revenue of $4.6B and a 51% increase over the same period in 2020. AMD meanwhile jumps up to 11th place with $3.4B in profit and a 93% improvement over the previous year. AMD and Nvidia are fabless companies, and so rely on other semiconductor companies to actually produce their silicon, unlike Intel which designs and manufactures its own chips.

The report points out that Intel is the only company in the top 15 that doesn't boast an increase compared to last year. And if you exclude them, the remaining 14 companies registered a combined sales improvement of 29%. That's an 8% difference if you do include Intel in the figures.

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It's fair to say that Intel has had some problems recently, specifically in hitting its 10nm production process, but also because AMD now offers a genuine alternative for our gaming PCs. Intel does have a new CEO in place, Pat Gelsinger, who is looking to turn things around with the promise of a contract foundry business and appears to be back on track with its 10nm production process too. 

None of this should impact the hardware making it into our machines in the short term, but a healthy semiconductor industry should equate to more investment, which hopefully means we won't see shortages the way we are right now. Fingers crossed.

Alan Dexter

Alan has been writing about PC tech since before 3D graphics cards existed, and still vividly recalls having to fight with MS-DOS just to get games to load. He fondly remembers the killer combo of a Matrox Millenium and 3dfx Voodoo, and seeing Lara Croft in 3D for the first time. He's very glad hardware has advanced as much as it has though, and is particularly happy when putting the latest M.2 NVMe SSDs, AMD processors, and laptops through their paces. He has a long-lasting Magic: The Gathering obsession but limits this to MTG Arena these days.