AMD's Lisa Su announced during an MSNBC interview last week that the company tripled its processor sales this year during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The company also experienced exceptional GPU sales during the same period.
During the interview, Su said that "Ryzen" processor sales had tripled year over year for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday events. Ryzen processors were not on the market the year prior, so it's logical to assume the mention was a slip and that the figures represented total AMD CPU sales.
We followed up with AMD representatives and clarified that Su was specifically comparing total AMD CPU sales on Black Friday/Cyber Monday in 2016 vs. 2017. The numbers come from sales data at Amazon and Newegg.
This year's Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales were interesting for several reasons. AMD's MSRP for its Ryzen lineup has largely been a symbolic number; the majority of models have sold well below MSRP for months. The recent Coffee Lake debut found many Ryzen models experiencing further markdowns, but during Black Friday, some models retailed for nearly $200 below MSRP.
Intel's Kaby Lake and AMD's Ryzen processors changed leadership spots on Amazon's best-selling CPU list frequently over the biggest shopping weekend of the year. Intel has its Coffee Lake processors on the market, technically, but it was next to impossible to buy them during the sales. Instead, retailers discounted the existing Kaby Lake models to contend with AMD's Ryzen. For instance, the Core i7-7700K, often the No. 1 bestselling CPU on Amazon, fell as low as $265 during the sales. That's ~$75 below normal pricing. The depth of the Kaby Lake price cuts was somewhat surprising considering Intel's overall refusal to lower pricing, even after Ryzen's debut.
AMD's Ryzen 7 1700 spent a considerable amount of Black Friday at the top of Amazon's best-selling CPU list, though it frequently traded positions with the Core i7-7700K. Some shoppers defaulted to buying Kaby Lake processors, but that is a particularly poor long-term investment. AMD's aggressive Ryzen pricing stood out as a particularly good value, but Intel's Coffee Lake models also offer more value than Kaby Lake models due to their lower per-core pricing. In fact, Coffee Lake's 50% more cores on i5 and i7 models and 100% more cores on i3 models represent the biggest gen-on-gen change to Intel's lineup in a decade. Unfortunately, supply has been limited, leading many to speculate that Intel's shortage is intentional and designed to reduce the number of Kaby Lake processors in the channel before widespread Coffee Lake availability.
That tactic would make sense. Intel's choice to boost core counts, while entirely unavoidable with Ryzen on the market, has put it in an odd position with its previous generation products. Once Coffee Lake is widely available, Kaby Lake processors will gather dust on retailers' shelves if they aren't offered at a significant discount, especially in light of the big step forward. In fact, the Core i7-8700K even outpaces Intel's own HEDT i7-7800X. Meanwhile, AMD is forced to cut prices to compete with Coffee Lake models that aren't even readily available.
AMD also did well in the graphics market. AMD told us that sales of its graphics cards were also up a "strong double-digit percentage" at Newegg and Amazon over the prior year, as well. It's natural to assume that the cryptocurrency mining boom comes into play for the excellent graphics cards sales, but Su downplayed the impact:
“Its really a very small percentage of our business, we think a mid-single digit percentage of our business[…]Put Bitcoin aside, no one can predict what it is going to do on a daily basis, but talk about the underlying technology which is around blockchain. And I view that as a positive foundational technology that can change the way we interact on a daily basis."
AMD released a blockchain-optimized driver earlier this year, so it's clear the company isn't ignoring the rise of the technology. Su has said in investor calls in the past that the company does not specifically track the number of GPUs that end up being used for cryptocurrency mining. GPU supply seems to be stabilizing, and prices are at sane levels, but Bitcoin's continuing stratospheric rise might lead to another boom as miners search for the next big cryptocurrency. Vega certainly is in short supply and overpriced, but that is likely due more to limited HBM2 supply than mining demand.
AMD has had a great year as it rolled out its Ryzen processors, and we expect the company to begin pounding the drums soon for the 12nm LPP refresh that it recently announced. That will bring a much-needed boost that could offer up to 10% more performance.