The Nvidia RTX 3000 family isn’t going to be any easier to find as we head into Christmas, 2020. Any hope to the contrary was dashed during the company’s conference call for calendar Q3 2020.
According to Colette Kress, executive vice president and CFO of Nvidia, continued incredibly strong demand has kept the card difficult to find. “While we had anticipated strong demand, it exceeded even our bullish expectations,” Kress said. ” Given industry-wide capacity constraints and long cycle times, it may take a few more months for product availability to catch up with demand.”
Jensen echoed these comments, calling the demand overwhelming, and then pivoting to pinning it on the idea that Nvidia has “invented a new type of computer graphics.” Right. Albrecht Dürer invented ray tracing, conceptually speaking, in the 16th century. Extensive work was being done on ray tracing algorithms by the late 1970s. Beyond these points, the degree of ray tracing integration into modern game engines is insufficient to declare this new feature a “new type of computer graphics.” Nvidia deserves credit for being the first company to integrate hardware ray tracing capabilities in a desktop GPU, and for bringing the feature to market. Early benchmarks against the 6800 and 6800 XT show that top-end Ampere cards outperform Radeon GPUs with this feature engaged.
Nvidia is, in other words, doing a lot of good work to help push real-time ray tracing to market and bring products to market. It has certainly helped popularize real-time ray tracing. It’s a vital part of the reason RTRT is now part of the discussion for gaming going forward. But inventing a new type of computer graphics? That’s a bit much. Nvidia has invented a new type of computer graphics in exactly the same way that Apple’s new M1 is faster than 98 percent of PC laptops. Like the M1, Ampere is a genuinely great product, just not quite that great.
Separately from that, it’s still not clear how much of Nvidia’s Ampere problem is being driven by demand. Demand for Ampere is undoubtedly high — the RTX 3080 and RTX 3070 are great GPUs, full stop, and the ray tracing performance levels they achieve make them far better investments than the old Turing GPUs — but none of the data we can find suggests these cards are making it to the channel in significant quantities.
Most of the top-selling GPUs for-sale on Amazon and Newegg are a mishmash of lower-end Nvidia cards, a handful of midrange Turing models, and AMD cards like the 5600 XT and 5700 XT. As of this writing, there are only three Ampere GPUs in Newegg’s Best Selling Top 20. Amazon has four in the Top 21. Reports from other vendors have suggested there aren’t many Ampere cards in-channel.
That doesn’t mean Nvidia can’t manufacture them — it may just mean that the company is choosing to prioritize the OEM boutique market above the channel right now. Alternately, there’s always the chance that Nvidia’s 8nm yields with Samsung are fine, but supplies are limited due to poor availability of underlying components. Nvidia, after all, is not the only company having trouble getting brand-new products into customer hands.
Finally, we have to acknowledge that both AMD and Nvidia had real problems getting their new GPUs into market back in 2016, when there was no pandemic and both companies were working with TSMC rather than Nvidia utilizing Samsung. Even in the best of times, it can be difficult for manufacturers to ensure reliable supplies of their products. These are not the best of times.
Rumors suggest AMD isn’t going to have much better luck with availability than Nvidia has had. We’ll see what happens in the weeks to come.