As the PC market goes, so goes graphics cards. After "defying gravity" in the third quarter of 2008, the market for graphics processing units (GPUs) came crashing down to earth in the fourth quarter, according to Jon Peddie Research.
The industry shipped a total of 72.4 million GPUs in the fourth quarter, compared with 100.5 million in the same quarter a year earlier and 111.3 million in the third quarter. That's the first time that shipments have dropped from the third quarter to the fourth quarter since the year 2000, though the steep drop-about 35%--was due as much to an unusually strong third quarter as it was to a very tough fourth quarter.
Everyone experienced the pain--AMD, Intel and Nvidia all shipped fewer GPUs in the fourth quarter. But after a difficult year, Nvidia started to gain back some share. Both Nvidia and Intel increased shipments of notebook GPUs and gained some market share, while AMD's share shrunk to 17%--about where it was a year ago. Desktop GPU shipments have been declining overall, but AMD and Nvidia both picked up a little market share from Intel during the fourth quarter.
Nvidia now has a much stronger product lineup including the GeForce 9400M hybrid graphics solution in Apple and Toshiba laptops, and more recently, the GeForce 100M series for mainstream notebooks and GeForce GTX 285 and GTX 295 high-end desktop graphics solutions, which were announced at CES earlier this month. Both desktops solutions use an updated version of the GT200 GPU (compared with the 65nm GTX 280), but the GTX 285 has a single GPU while the GTX 295 has two GPUs. Though $500 cards only account for a fraction of GPU sales, the GTX 295 is important because with it Nvidia clearly regained bragging rights to world's fastest card from AMD, which owned the title for much of 2008 with its 55nm dual-GPU solution, the ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2. Here are some recent reviews of the GeForce GTX 295:
In response, AMD has cut its suggested prices on graphics cards based on the HD 4870 X2 from $549 to $449. Many sites have also speculated that AMD will also release 45nm, or even 40nm, mid-range and high-end GPUs sometime on the first half of 2009. At CES, AMD also updated its mobile graphics lineup with the release of the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4000 series.