Nvidia's GeForce GPU shortage isn't improving anytime soon

RTX 3090 stood next to an RTX 3080 graphics card
(Image credit: Future)

Do you want the good news or the bad news first? I'm going to make the call for you, my rhetorical friend: The bad news is that Nvidia's GPU supply will continue to be royally screwed (a suddenly more now phrase...) throughout the rest of the year. Digitimes (via Sweclockers) is reporting that, despite Nvidia's own hints to the contrary, the graphics card shortage isn't going to be eased by Q3 this year.

Personally, I always like to get the bad news out the way first and leave on a high; that whole peak-end effect is real. 

Back in January Nvidia's CFO, Collette Kress, said that "we expect overall channel inventories… will likely remain lean throughout Q1," with the intimation that moving into Q2 things would potentially look brighter.

Now, Nvidia calculates quarters slightly differently to, well, everyone else, and so the green team's calendar has Q1 finishing at the end of April. The second of Nvidia's quarters then runs from May to July.

Slightly confusing, the timing may be, but the suggestion is that Nvidia expected things to ease moving through May and on into June and July. That may have been an optimistic reading of her statement, however, as Digitimes is now suggesting that actually Q2 is also looking like it's going to be a struggle and that if you were hoping things would change in the summer you might be rather disappointed.

That said, if you're after a new GPU, Nvidia still seems a more viable option, limited though they are, than any of the latest AMD Radeon graphics cards. You just have to be really committed, and maybe do the hard yards at bricks and mortar retailers rather than simply prowling online.

And why is Nvidia's stock so limited? Numerous factors: Covid-19 supply chain constriction is still a thing, meaning individual components, from capacitors to memory, are harder or more expensive to track down; there has been huge growth in demand for GPUs; and there has been a massive recent growth in the demand for compute power, largely driven by another spike in cryptocurrency prices.

"Our overall capacity has not been able to keep up with that overall strong demand that we have seen," Kress said in January. "We’ve seen in terms of constraints, constraints really from the overall global surge of compute and the overall capacity, capacity that may be necessary for assembly and test and/or sub trades as well. But again, we remain focused on this and working each day to improve our overall supply situation."

Nvidia RTX 3060

(Image credit: Nvidia)

But Digitimes is also reportedly suggesting that Samsung's 8nm manufacturing yields for Nvidia's Ampere GPUs is a struggle too, with the Korean manufacturer having trouble getting good numbers of working chips from each wafer. Though the veracity of those rumours is still to be confirmed by anyone credible, and I've a feeling there may be some conscious or unconscious bias coming from the Taiwanese publication given the fact that Samsung's gunning for TSMC's semiconductor manufacturing crown.

Speaking of TSMC brings us to the good news. Or the potential good news. Or at least the potential for the possibility of good news. Look, we're hanging on a thread here in the PC hardware space, we need some good news and so we're going to take it where we can find it.

Thanks to Apple releasing some of the stranglehold it had over TSMC's 5nm and 7nm manufacturing capabilities, Digitimes is stating that manufacturers are grabbing themselves some extra supply for the year. Sweclockers claims that AMD and Nvidia are among these manufacturers and, while AMD might focus its efforts on its high-margin goodies—the Zen 3 EPYC server chips—-Nvidia may actually have some RTX 30-series cards being made by TSMC instead of Samsung.

That's some faint tendril of hope there, I know, but if Nvidia has booked a good chunk of capacity at TSMC for some lower-end RTX 30-series silicon—potentially that GeForce RTX 3050 Ti—and is still producing at Samsung for the duration too, that could herald the release of a graphics card people actually want, at volumes that mean people can buy them.  

That still means nothing good for anyone hoping to get their hands on AMD's fine-ass graphics cards, but one thing at a time people, the red team has its CPU priorities to deal with first.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.