Shipments of Graphics Adapters Increase Amid PC Sales Slowdown - JPR

Sales of Graphics Adapters Outpace Shipments of Personal Computers

by Anton Shilov
05/04/2011 | 07:26 PM

Even though sales of personal computers were below expectations in the first quarter this year, shipments of various graphics adapters were up both sequentially and annually, according to estimates by Jon Peddie Research, a market tracking and consulting firm. The analysts believe that system makers and channel resellers acquired too much inventory in Q1, which will negatively impact results of suppliers in Q2.


Over 125 million graphics chips and central processing units with graphics shipped in Q1 2011. Intel was the leader in unit shipments for the quarter, elevated by Intel Core i-series "Clarksdale" and "Arrandale", latest generations of  Atom chips for netbooks as well as the latest Core i-series "Sandy Bridge" microprocessors. Year to year this quarter AMD/ATI had tremendous market share growth, Intel had above average growth, and Nvidia slipped significantly.

Around 83 million PCs shipped worldwide in Q1’11, a drop of 5.4% compared to Q4 2010, (based on an average of reports various market trackers), which should have naturally negatively impacted sales of various graphics adapters (including discrete and integrated solutions for desktops and notebooks). Nevertheless, the Q1 2011 change in total shipments from last quarter increased 10.3%, significantly above the ten-year average of -4% raising concerns about an inventory buildup that will have to run down in Q2, according to JPR.

Graphics processing units (GPUs) and chips with graphics (chipsets, microprocessors) are the leading indicator of the PC market. At least one, and often two GPUs are present in every PC shipped. It can take a form of a discrete chip, integrated in the chipset or embedded in the CPU. The average has grown from 115% in 2001 to almost 145% GPUs per PC.

It is unclear why sales of graphics adapters - both standalone and integrated - were growing rapidly amid dropping sales of PCs.

One of the explanations is that PC makers and the channel players got too many discrete graphics cards to sell them to the end-users demanding better performance. However, recent report by AMD indicated that shipments of GPUs actually dropped quarter-over-quarter.

AMD graphics business unit's revenue for Q1 2011 was $430 million, down 3% compared to the Q4 2010. Operating income of graphics division during the quarter was $19 million, down from $68 million from the fourth quarter of 2010. The sequential decrease was driven primarily by a seasonal decline in royalties received in connection with the sale of game console systems. GPU ASP decreased sequentially and year-over-year, the company indicated.

Another explanation is that PC makers simply did not manage to build-in all of the Intel Core i-series "Sandy Bridge" chips into their systems due to issues with Intel's I/O controller, which delayed introductions  and sales of new systems.