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GPU shipments grew 30% in 2021 with 50 million units sold

Tens of millions of AIB cards shipped in 2021

Updated: Apr 6, 2022 12:55 pm
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According to a report by Graphic Speak, over 50 million graphics cards were sold in 2021, this is despite the fact that there have been consistent stock shortages throughout, with many GPUs retailing for well over their MSRP in some cases. Due to the constraints thanks to significant demand for graphics cards, AIBs shipped over 50 million cards, which is a 30% year on year increase in sales when comparing it over to sales from 2020.

This is reflected in AMD’s recent financials, with GPU manufacturers making cash hand-over-fist thanks to the huge demand for GPUs, which is now beginning to taper off in 2022, with ample supply, and a drop in GPU pricing across the board. It follows the same general rules of supply and demand. When demand goes up, so does price, and 2021 is emblematic of that.

AIB shipments reach 50 million

As previously stated, Graphic Speak found that AIB card shipments were around the 50 million mark. In terms of quantity, 2020 saw fewer GPUs reach the market, with 42 million units being shipped. However, the report also suggests that the total value of the transactions in 2021 means that we saw GPU prices reach over $1000 per unit. An absolutely eye-watering number that is once again, in line with the increase in demand that the product segment has experienced over the past 18 months.

This loops back around to companies making more cash than ever in their consumer GPU segments. The report additionally suggests that Nvidia still has a stranglehold on the market, dominating when it comes to market penetration by comparison to AMD. They pip this number at around 77.2% in the year 2021. This number could just be attributed to Nvidia’s better reputation when it comes to shipping graphics cards and is a testament to their strong driver support, in addition to tertiary functionality such as the game-changing DLSS, Nvidia Broadcast, Shadowplay and CUDA rendering. AMD just doesn’t have an answer to this mature software suite quite yet, and it means that consumers are voting with their wallets for more than just pure performance in the hardware’s silicon.

AMD is making some effort to bolster its software offerings in the consumer GPU space, but Nvidia is pulling significantly further ahead and is a go-to choice for many users that are looking for a high-end card, they want the tried and tested high-end features that go with it, and that makes total sense. But, this isn’t to say that AMD isn’t enjoying success in the consumer GPU market with their RDNA 2 offering, as their year on year GPU shipments increased 35.7%, meaning huge success for Team Red getting their graphics cards into consumer systems. But, this isn’t the entire story for the reasons behind the GPU crisis that has plagued the industry over the past 18 months, over the course of the pandemic.

Crypto’s role in the spike in demand

Cryptocurrency mining is responsible for a lot of the uplift in demand for consumer graphics cards, with the prices of multiple currencies steadily rising over the past 18 months. However, the market experienced a crash a the beginning of 2022, meaning that it’s no longer profitable to mine many consumer graphics cards on the market. Additionally, some manufacturers like Intel and AMD are both tapping into the market with their own discrete mining cards, lessening the impact on consumer GPU supply chains, to boot. Regardless, the Crypto boom and bust directly impacted consumer GPU pricing in several different ways:

  • Crypto miner’s demand for GPUs lifted the aftermarket pricing
  • As a result, GPUs became expensive, and unattainable at MSRP
  • A bust in crypto mining has coincided with the availability of GPUs in early 2022

GPUs are getting cheaper

Curiously, while other factors are indeed in play, the MSRP of graphics cards have steadily begun to come down. However, it remains to be seen if this will indeed make a direct impact on the profits of Nvidia and AMD. It’ll also be the source of heightened competition, with Intel soon entering the dedicated desktop GPU market imminently. We also have the future generation to look towards, as we’re now seeing Nvidia and AMD’s rumours flowing with new details on Lovelace and RDNA 3 3 offerings, which might have slightly lesser demand due to the proliferation of Ampere and RDNA 2 cards that we’ve seen over the last two years since the 50 million shipments must count for a significant portion of the customers who are lining up for cards.

Next-generation GPUs need to be something special

To keep up the momentum, next-generation cards from both AMD and Nvidia need to be something special in order to continue this kind of momentum that the market is experiencing. We need fewer things like the RTX 3090 Ti, with its eye-watering price and demanding TDP, and more things akin to the RTX 3070 instead, which offered the performance of a $2000 card (a 2080 Ti) and a budget price point of less than $500, making sheer power more accessible to users. It’s very unlikely that we see a 4070 match the performance of a 3090 Ti at this point, which points out that Lovelace might be more of a ‘tock’ than a ‘tick’ generation, showcasing improvements, but not a huge, groundbreaking increase in performance.

The GPU market was stagnant for years before the current generation of cards, and it needs something like that to happen again in order to see further success as prices begin to trend towards their announced MSRPs. This would be a consumer-friendly move that should give gamers the sheer PC power that they hunger for at the perfect price point, and with reasonable TDPs that allow them to access the power that the latest generation of gaming, streaming and productivity applications demand.

Dedicated GPUs still have a distinct advantage over ARM-based solutions unlike what Apple likes to claim with its M1 Ultra, but this burgeoning segment could pose a good risk to the traditional dedicated graphics card, so undoubtedly chip manufacturers will be keeping a keen eye on the power and efficiency of ARM in the future.

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