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Intel running out of wafers – shortage and extreme price jumps expected for Rocket Lake S in Q2 2021

The lack of things never ceases. Products that come from TSMC, such as GPUs and CPUs from AMD, have been in plenty of short supply for some time now (with a few exceptions). Intel CPUs manufactured in their own foundries were quite available from launch (at least some models) and CPU prices were actually also pleasingly affordable. My colleague Usman at WCCFTECH has now been told by Intel that this will change dramatically later this year due to the permanent substrate shortage that is affecting the entire semiconductor industry – including Intel.

What happened? Intel has been reporting substrate shortages to key partners all last week. Intel’s Q1 allocations for Rocket Lake are still pretty good, so the SKUs have been available for at least a couple of weeks, if not longer, near MSRP and still will be. So if you are planning to buy a RKL CPU, you certainly shouldn’t wait too long, because it won’t get any cheaper for a while. More expensive at most. The reason: unfortunately, Q2 allocations for Rocket Lake will be hit hard due to the substrate shortage. Since Core i9 is prioritized, Core i7 and Core i5 should be the most affected.

Considering that Intel is in a far better position than TSMC to manage supply itself, as TSMC is not only substrate constrained but also capacity constrained unlike Intel’s Foundry, Intel partners, including distributors and retailers, are expected to have a decent initial inventory of Intel Rocket Lake CPUs that could last a month or more. This is the Q1 allocation and part of the initial order. The Q2 allocation is a different story, however, as Intel will most likely not be able to match the initial volume for the entire stack. And considering that currently every chip you can possibly make sells best, they will focus on the higher margin stack first, which should drive market prices up hard as a result.

WCCFTECH reached out to Intel for comment and they received the following statement from a spokesperson regarding the substrate shortage:

As we have said in the Financial Outlook press release on March 23rd, demand for semiconductors and Intel products is very strong. We’ve been expanding our capacity to meet this demand and, as a result, we expect to grow our annual client CPU supply double-digits year-over-year versus 2020. However, the unprecedented global demand for semiconductor components and substrates is a challenge for many industries, including ours. We are actively working with our supply chain partners to increase the availability of third-party materials and components to further improve output for our processors and also support the broader PC ecosystem. We remain focused on supporting our customers and we will continue working to increase supply to meet our customers’ needs.


Upstream 300mm wafer manufacturers such as Shin-Etsu and Global Wafers are already running at 100% capacity and there is only a limited supply of substrate left to pass on to downstream foundries such as Intel. As the company has confirmed the shortage to its partners, it looks like regular end users are in for a very difficult year as cryptocurrencies and substrate shortages drift to the moon. Since the shortage is already coming from upstream suppliers, there is very little that foundries like Intel and/or TSMC can do to effectively mitigate this situation.

Of course, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. While price increases due to demand-over-supply are bad for gamers, they will be a boon for foundries and developers like Intel in terms of revenue. WCCFTECH also asked its source if other Intel parts will be affected, but was told that Intel is only talking about Rocket Lake allocations for now, so it’s likely prioritizing the substrate for its enterprise parts like the upcoming Ice Lake processors – which would make real business sense, by the way.

Source: WCCFTECH (Usman Pirzada), own

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About the author

Igor Wallossek

Editor-in-chief and name-giver of igor'sLAB as the content successor of Tom's Hardware Germany, whose license was returned in June 2019 in order to better meet the qualitative demands of web content and challenges of new media such as YouTube with its own channel.

Computer nerd since 1983, audio freak since 1979 and pretty much open to anything with a plug or battery for over 50 years.

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