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Graphics processor units set to soar in 2021

Global PC GPU market shipments increased by 20.5% in the last quarter of 2020 and increased by 29.1% year-to-year, with massive growth still expected.

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According to a new research report from the analyst firm Jon Peddie Research (JPR), the growth of PC-based Graphics Processor Units (GPU) shipments of all types worldwide reached 20.5% in Q4 2020 and 12.4% year over year. Overall, the installed base of GPUs will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.7% during 2020–2025 to reach a total of 419 million units at the end of the forecast period. Over the next five years, the penetration of discrete GPUs (dGPU) in the PC will grow to reach a level of 21%.

JPR has released its Market Watch report for the fourth quarter of 2020. Before 2020, the PC market was showing signs of improvement and settling into a new normal. The pandemic has distorted all models and predictions, as has the gold-rush in Ethereum. The report confirms that trend for the fourth quarter of 2020, but with cautious guidance for next year.

AMD’s overall market share percentage from last quarter decreased by -2.2%, Intel’s percentage of market share increased 6.6%, and Nvidia’s market share percentage decreased by -4.37%, indicated in the chart below.

Figure 1: Quarterly shipments and market share percentages and year-to-year results (Graphic: Business Wire)

Overall GPU shipments increased by 20.5% from last quarter, AMD shipments increased 6.4%, Intel’s shipments rose 33.2%, and Nvidia’s shipments decreased by -7.3%.

Highlights

  • AMD’s overall unit shipments increased by 6.4% quarter-to-quarter, Intel’s total shipments rose by 33.2% from last quarter, and Nvidia’s decreased by -7.3%.
  • The GPU’s overall attach rate (which includes integrated and discrete GPUs, desktop, notebook, and workstations) to PCs for the quarter was 113%, down -9.2% from last quarter.
  • The overall PC market increased by 30.25% quarter-to-quarter and increased 35.76% year-to-year.
  • Desktop graphics add-in boards (AIBs that use discrete GPUs) decreased by -3.90% from the last quarter.
  • Q4’20 saw an increase in tablet shipments from last quarter.

The third quarter is typically the strongest compared to the previous quarter. Q3’2020 was no exception, showing healthy growth.

GPUs are traditionally a leading indicator of the market since a GPU goes into every system before the suppliers ship the PC.

Table 1: PC dGPU shipment market shares

  Q4’19 Q3’20 Q4’20
AMD 27% 20% 18%
Intel 0% 0% 0%
Nvidia 73% 80% 82%

As a result of the work-at-home mandates due to the Covid-19 pandemic, notebook shipments exceeded 230 million units for the first time. In addition, the year-to-year growth was 49%, the greatest one-year growth on record. And that was accomplished with disruptions in the supply chain due to trade wars, pandemic shutdowns, and material shortage. The forecast for 2021 will be more modest, ~ 6%, but still higher than average. Chromebooks made a substantial contribution to growth in 2020, and we expect to see that taper off in 2021 due to school budget limitations unless the COVID relief package in the US comes through and adds new funds.

The overall PC market increased by 30.25% quarter-to-quarter and increased 35.76% year-to-year.

Jon Peddie, president of JPR, says: “Factors influencing the robust sales of AIBs in the past two quarters have been increasing growth in gaming and the need to outfit home offices due to COVID. There has been speculation that there might be a renewal in demand for AIBs due to crypto mining. Anything is possible, but the power consumption of AIBs greatly diminishes the payoff for crypto-mining. Ethereum, the best-suited coin for GPUs, will fork into version 2.0 very soon, making GPUs obsolete. A person would be very foolish to invest in a high-end, power-consuming AIB for crypto-mining today.”

Most of the semiconductor vendors are guiding up for the next quarter by an average of 1.25%. Some of that guidance is based on normal seasonality, but there is also a Coronavirus impact factor.

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