When we attended E3 in June for AMD’s Ryzen launch event, company CEO Lisa Su made a curious reference to the long-rumored 16-core CPU. According to her, AMD hadn’t held off on announcing the chip due to competitive reasons, or to see what Intel had in its own pocket, but simply because they wanted to provide a little extra oomph to the E3 launch event. The 16-core CPU, we were told, wouldn’t launch until September — several months after the Ryzen 7 3700X and Ryzen 7 3800X.
Several weeks after AMD launched its new Ryzen 7 3700X, 3800X, and 3900X, we have some indication of why the company took this step. The Ryzen 7 3700X appears to be broadly in-market, but the Ryzen 7 3800X and particularly the 3900X are scarce. Prices on the 3900X have spiked on eBay, up to $800 or more in some cases. Don’t pay spiking eBay prices.
We reached out to AMD about this situation and received the following reply from an AMD spokesperson:
AMD is excited to see the overwhelmingly positive customer response to our 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen desktop processors. The consistently high demand continues to exceed supply for certain Ryzen processors. We are working to replenish stock with global etail and retail partners as quickly as possible. We are thankful for the fast-growing AMD Ryzen community, and appreciate the patience of all gamers and enthusiasts who are actively pursuing specific harder-to-find Ryzen models.
Is this the specter of the dreaded Paper Launch? No. At the very least, not yet. Manufacturers stockpile hardware months ahead of time for the parts they expect to sell, but they have to feed both the retail channel (sometimes just called “the channel”) and the network of OEMs that buy chips in bulk. We don’t know how AMD prioritized its early shipments.
So why isn’t this a paper launch? Two reasons: First, a review of sites like NowInStock.net shows that Ryzen 9 3900X’s are available — just not for very long when they show up in stock.
The second factor is time. We historically give companies more than just three weeks to demonstrate product availability. I took both AMD and Nvidia to task back in 2016 for their mutual failure to bring 14/16nm GPUs to-market in sufficient quantities to avoid the appearance of a paper launch. In that instance, however, far more time had passed.
Nvidia launched Pascal at the end of May but Pascal cards were still quite difficult to find in early September, over three months later. AMD had launched the Radeon RX 400 series in late June/early July, which means these cards had also had 6-8 weeks to hit regular availability. The 3800X and 3900X have been in-market for just over three weeks.
We don’t know exactly when the Ryzen 7 3950X is launching beyond “September,” but if we hit that date and the availability issues on the 3900X haven’t cleared up, that’ll look pretty poor. Our bet, however, is that the company held off on introducing its 16-core CPU precisely to avoid putting even more pressure on its early launch. By the time we get to the 3950X’s debut, availability on lower-market parts will hopefully be a solved problem. If not, you’ll read about it here.
As a final note, AMD reports Q2 results on July 30, but we won’t see any sales results for 7nm Ryzen chips in these figures. We won’t know the impact of the Ryzen 7 3700X, 3800X, and 3900X until the end of Q3.