AMD Loses Share While GPU Revenue Soars As A Major Crytpo-Mining Shakeup Looms

msi radeon rx 6900 xt
In case you've been living under a rock, you know that 2020 was a wild year for computer hardware complicated further by the COVID-19 pandemic. PC sales soared, driven primarily by laptops as more people work and learn from home. One sector that saw a massive increase in sales is GPUs. According to a new research report, overall PC GPU shipments ballooned by 20 percent in Q4 2020 compared to Q3 2020.

Even more impressive was the fact that overall GPU shipments increased 29.1 percent year-over-year during Q4 2020 (that includes Intel and AMD CPUs with integrated GPUs). The second half of 2020 was a hot period for GPUs, given that AMD and NVIDIA launched next-generation Radeon RX 6000 and GeForce RTX 30 families. According to the report, AMD saw its overall unit shipments increase by 6.4 percent quarter-over-quarter, while NVIDIA saw a decrease of 7.3 percent. Intel, however, was the big winner with a 33.2 percent increase compared to the prior quarter, primarily driven by a big boom in laptop sales.

Looking just at the discrete GPU market, we must leave out Intel which isn't currently selling its discrete Xe-based GPUs. That leaves only AMD and NVIDIA. AMD, which is supply constrained due to its sole reliance on TSMC to produce everything from its Ryzen CPUs to custom silicon that goes into the Xbox Series S/X and PlayStation 5, is bleeding market share at a rapid clip. During Q4 2019, it captured 27 percent of the discrete GPU market; by Q3 2020, that figure dropped to 20 percent. By Q4 2020, AMD was sitting with just 18 percent of the market.

msi geforce rtx 3090 aero
MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Aero

AMD's loss has been NVIDIA's gain as it, in turn, rose from 73 percent market share in Q4 2019 to its current level of 82 percent. That means AMD shed 33 percent of its market share in just one year.

Crypto miners have now joined enthusiasts seeking new high-end GPUs to bolster their gaming rigs. But the reliance on GPUs for mining Ethereum might be a fruitless endeavor in the coming months.

"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," said Jon Peddie. "A person would be very foolish to invest in a high-end, power-consuming AIB for crypto-mining today."

NVIDIA is looking to ween crypto miners off its mainline GeForce gaming cards with the CMP HX family and is even purposefully crippling its cards' ability to mine efficiently. That may dissuade crypto miners from cornering the market. Still, it remains to be seen if either AMD or NVIDIA will get production numbers high enough to satisfy the demand anytime soon without consumers having to pay 2x or even 3x MSRP to land a current-generation graphics card.