In spite of major chip shortages, PC sales surge 55 percent in Q1 2021

2020 was all about impressive growth in PC sales, the cause we’re all familiar with. And it seems that 2021 has continued in the same fashion. According to the latest IDC report, global PC shipments (desktops, laptops, and workstations) increased 55.2 percent year over year, which is quite impressive. What’s even more impressive is that we have a growth of this size despite the massive chip shortages that grow more worrying with each passing day. These days, everything from routers to fridges and microwaves (yup, you read that right) are affected by the 2021 chipocalypse. 

Other kinds of shortages that happened in Q1 2020, caused by the massive influx in PC demand due to the start of the global pandemic, are to blame for this unusually high year-over-year growth. But it seems like the global trade logistics has adjusted to the increased demand since we’re seeing just an 8% decline in PC sales compared to the Q4, 2020. According to IDC, Q4 to Q1 decline is normal (holiday season and all), but a decline this low hasn’t happened since 2012 when sales fell 7.5 percent between Q4 2011 and Q1 2012. Impressive. 

Image: IDC

Speaking in numbers, we have 83.981 million PCs shipped in the first quarter of this year. Lenovo holds the chunkiest piece of the PC market pie, with 24.3% of the market, which translates into 20.4 million PCs. HP is in second place, holding 22.9% of the market (19.23 million PCs). And the bronze medal goes to Dell, which shipped 12.94 million PCs, enough for 15.4% share. Apple and Acer hold fourth and fifth place, with 8% and 7% market share, respectively. 

Company1Q21 Shipments1Q21 Market Share1Q20 Shipments1Q20 Market Share1Q21/1Q20 Growth
1. Lenovo20,40124.3%12,82623.70%59.10%
2. HP Inc.19,23722.90%11,72221.70%64.10%
3. Dell Technologies12,94615.40%10,49519.40%23.40%
4. Apple6,6928.00%3,1645.80%111.50%
5. Acer Group5,8377.00%3,3646.20%73.50%

The explanation for the massive year-over-year growth is found in “unfulfilled demand from the past year.” The demand “has carried forward into the first quarter and additional demand brought on by the pandemic has also continued to drive volume,” explained Jitech Ubrani, a research manager for Mobile Device Trackers, a division of IDC. Ubrani also states that “the market continues to struggle with setbacks including component shortages and logistics issues, each of which has contributed to an increase in average selling prices.”

In other words, while the logistics adjusted, the chip shortage caused many orders to be delayed, which has fed a portion of the 55% year-over growth. An interesting point is that “The continued resurgence in the PC market, as well as increases in average selling prices (ASPs), have primarily been driven by growth in gaming, the need for higher performance notebooks in the enterprise, and an increase in demand for touchscreens within the education segment.” We have expected for the enterprise (millions moving to work from home) and education (online classes) to be the two major causes for the increased demand, but seeing gaming as one of the forces behind the increased demand is a pleasant surprise. 

And gaming was a massive force in 2020. According to the IDC’s gaming PC and monitor 2020 report, we’ve seen a 26.8% increase in gaming PC and monitor shipments, leading to 55 million units shipped in total. This is the largest growth rate ever since IDC started tracking the gaming PC market in 2016. Gaming notebooks were in huge demand, but the biggest growth took place in the gaming monitor market, with 77% increase over 2019.

As for the future, it seems that the chip shortage will cause additional order delays. But not all is blue. While he believes the shortages will lead to extended order delays, Ryan Reith, program vice president for Mobile Device Trackers believes that “a fundamental shift has occurred around the PC, which will result in a more positive outlook for years to follow.” He continues by explaining that “All three segments – business, education, and consumer – are experiencing demand that we didn’t expect to happen regardless of many countries beginning their ‘opening up’ process.” 

The gaming PC market should also see a bright future. While IDC predicts that desktop PCs will see a decline after the pandemic ends, notebooks and monitors should continue selling in increasing numbers. Especially monitors, which are on the course of achieving a “five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 10%.” The reason? The continually increasing trend of using gaming monitors in combination with gaming notebooks. And don’t worry, while the gaming desktop market is expected to decline, the DIY gaming PC market should see a steady increase in demand. 

As for when will we see the end of the chipocalypse, Reith believes that “component shortages will likely be a topic of conversation for the majority of 2021, but the more important question should be what PC demand will look like in 2-3 years.” So yeah, if you’re planning to snag a new GPU once the chip supply is improved and prices are normalized, it seems like there’s a good chance you’ll have to wait for 2022.