AMD May Allow Custom RX 6900 XT Cards, Launch Stock May Be Limited

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On the heels of AMD’s Big Navi reveal earlier this week, there are fresh rumors for both good and ill. On the positive side of things, AMD is apparently in talks with multiple AIB partners about the possibility of building their own custom designs for the Radeon 6900 XT. Currently, AMD has only stated that there will be custom variants for the Radeon RX 6800 and 6800 XT families.

On the less-good side of things, there are rumors that AMD’s stock situation may mirror Nvidia’s. According to a comment from a redditor who claims to have spoken with (a Polish e-tailer), they do not expect great stock levels on the RX 6000 series. According to reddit + Google, the translated text reads:

“[W]e don’t know when they [AMD Radeon RX 6000 Series GPUs] will appear on the website yet. Similar accessibility problems may arise.”

This is not great news for anyone hoping to score a Radeon card before Christmas, but it isn’t the most unexpected news, either. TSMC is currently ramping the Ryzen 5000 family, the RX 6000 series, Nvidia’s 7nm Ampere HPC variant, the PlayStation 5, and the Xbox Series X, all of which are using the same node. There’s also the fact that AMD may not have anticipated the GPU shortage Nvidia would encounter, which means they would not have had an opportunity to increase their own shipments to compensate.

A second rumor from the Chinese PPT Forums appears to confirm this, though Google Translate makes absolute hash of it. For example, when asked why everyone thinks AMD has sufficient production capacity to build Big Navi, the respondent states (according to Google Translate):

At present, the console’s first wave of listings has just been digested and Nami can start work directly, but people have not yet come… In terms of the timeline, even if the gods are jammed by the shift star logistics car tomorrow morning 11/ 18 It should be quite difficult to get a new card to be cool. To be honest, it is quite unexpected that Su Ma dared to bet on this release date. I personally think that the heavy volume should start in December. Of course, it may also be to give my fellow villagers time to think about how to cut XD?

“Nami” may actually be a reference to “Navi.” I’m interpreting this passage to mean: “Even if we had the parts sitting right beside the factory, it’s going to be difficult to get a new card. It’s surprising that Lisa Su picked this release date, and volume manufacturing isn’t likely to pick up until December.”

That’s me attempting to interpret Google Translate, not any kind of actual human translation, so if you can provide additional context feel free to speak up.

I don’t know if this low-production rumor should be believed. Rumors of Samsung/Nvidia issues at 8nm have implied that AMD might have made the better call, going with TSMC, but TSMC’s fab lines are full precisely because they’re handling most of the planet’s 7nm production. There have been rumors that Nvidia used Samsung over TSMC because of tight allocation. We don’t know how true that is, specifically, but it doesn’t strain credulity that fab space might be limited given that the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are both ramping towards retail release.

AMD stated in its Q3 2020 conference call that it expects to recognize more revenue from console sales in Q4 as opposed to in Q3, implying a robust ramp to meet expected launch demand. That’s why it could make sense for AMD to have limited card supply at launch — TSMC may be frantically meeting Xbox and PlayStation demand.

I want to stress that this is all theory, not established facts. We always caution readers not to read too much into the experience of any single company when it comes to allocation or product availability, and that still applies in this case. Ironically, AMD GPUs still might be hard to find this winter even if shipments are strong, if customers began buying larger numbers of AMD GPUs as substitutes for Nvidia products.

Given that we saw this exact problem four years ago, the most likely explanation is if yields are low, they’re low because of the intrinsic difficulty of the GPUs themselves. In that case, we can expect overall availability to improve in the coming months as the early manufacturing issues get sorted out.

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