You’re not imagining things, there is a serious chip shortage

CPUs, GPUs, and memory are all in tight supply due to manufacturing issues and high demand.

170217 chips
Magdalena Petrova

If you’ve noticed components are hard to get these days, you are not alone. The supply of computing components can get a little tight around the end of the year but this year is especially bad, much of it due to Covid-19-related issues.

Intel spent much of 2020 struggling with CPU shortages. In the latter half of the year it was hit with chipset shortages, with the B460 and H410 chipsets reportedly out of stock through the end of last year, and availability of the Z590 chipset is also constrained.

AMD also has a problem: it can’t make enough chips. Some of its Ryzen processors, particularly the Ryzen 5 line, are immensely popular, and there are simply none to be had on Amazon, Newegg, or any other online retailer.

In November, Micron’s biggest memory production facilities based in Taiwan suffered a one-hour power outage. That may not seem like much but it means everything on the manufacturing line is scrap. The process of spinning silicon wafers does not tolerate interruptions, which means millions of dollars’ worth of product was ruined.

And those factories don’t just rebound and go back to spinning wafers. Micron needed several days to get it back to normal. Given that factory accounts for 10% of the world’s DRAM production, that’s a huge hit.

As for GPUs, good luck getting anything based on Nvidia’s new Ampere architecture. GeForce RTX 30x0 series cards are impossible to find and CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said on a recent earnings call the shortage won’t ease up until at least this quarter. What supply is available is outrageously expensive and only getting worse, with some cards selling for up to $1,000.

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