Chipmakers Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) and Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU) have had very different experiences on the stock market so far in 2021, even though both companies have been delivering stellar results quarter after quarter. While Nvidia stock has handily beaten the market, Micron shares have remained nearly flat thus far.

Is this a signal that investors should start dumping Micron stock and load up on Nvidia? Well, like many market questions, this one doesn't have a simple answer. Here's what investors need to know.^SPX Chart

^SPX data by YCharts

The case for Micron Technology

Micron Technology is benefiting from the terrific demand for memory chips. The memory specialist's revenue jumped 36% year over year in the fiscal third quarter (ended June 3, 2021), while earnings more than doubled to $1.88 per share from $0.82 per share in the prior-year period.

Micron's fourth-quarter guidance suggests that it isn't going to run out of steam anytime soon. The company's $8.2 billion revenue guidance for this quarter would translate into a 36% year-over-year gain, while the $2.30 per share adjusted earnings forecast means that its bottom line is on track to more than double from the prior-year period's $1.08 per share.

However, the market hasn't appreciated this terrific growth, as the muted stock price performance shows. But that may not be the case forever, as Micron is sitting on a bunch of solid catalysts, which seem strong enough to help it maintain its high levels of growth in the long run.

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Micron's compute and networking business unit (CNBU), which is its largest source of revenue and accounts for 44.5% of its top line, witnessed nearly 49% year-over-year revenue growth in Q3. Micron caters to the personal computer (PC), cloud server, enterprise, graphics, and networking markets through this segment. There is great demand for memory chips in all these markets, which is leading to tight supplies and higher prices.

Memory market research firm TrendForce estimates that the price of dynamic random access memory (DRAM) could increase between 3% and 8% in the third quarter of the calendar year over Q2. The price increase is a result of strong server and PC DRAM demand and constrained supply.

Similarly, the demand for NAND flash has also remained high due to the increased adoption of SSDs (solid-state drives) in both consumer PCs and enterprise hardware. A tight supply means that the price of NAND flash memory is expected to increase between 5% and 10% this quarter, which bodes well for Micron's storage business unit (SBU). The segment produced 13% of Micron's top line last quarter, and its revenue was flat year over year at $1 billion -- but it could improve given the end-market dynamics.

The mobile business unit, meanwhile, has hit a purple patch. Its revenue increased 31% year over year in Q3 thanks to the ramp-up in 5G smartphone demand. With 5G smartphones expected to increase at a whopping pace in the next five years, Micron's mobile business has room to run higher.

The robust memory demand isn't going to go away anytime soon. According to a third-party forecast, memory chip demand is expected to increase 31.7% in 2021, followed by a double-digit increase in 2022, which explains why analysts expect Micron's growth to pick up the pace next fiscal year.

MU Revenue Estimates for Current Fiscal Year Chart

MU Revenue Estimates for Current Fiscal Year data by YCharts

The case for Nvidia

Nvidia's stock market returns in 2021 have been driven by the company's outstanding results. The graphics specialist is growing at a much faster pace than Micron, with its fiscal first-quarter revenue jumping 84% year over year to $5.66 billion. Tremendous demand for Nvidia's graphics cards, which are used in PCs, sent its video gaming revenue soaring. The segment's revenue doubled year over year and accounted for close to half of its top line.

There are two reasons why the video gaming segment is set for terrific growth in the long haul. First, Nvidia dominates this market with a market share of 81%, according to Jon Peddie Research. It is also worth noting that the chipmaker has substantially increased its presence in the gaming laptop market.

The company's dominant position in the gaming graphics card market brings us to the second reason why this segment is built for growth. Jon Peddie Research estimates that gaming graphics cards could generate $54 billion in revenue by 2025, which would be a big jump over last year's sales of $23.6 billion. Nvidia sold $7.76 billion worth of graphics cards in fiscal 2021, so the additional revenue opportunity on offer and the company's huge market share indicates that this business still has a lot of room for growth.

There's a similar story to Nvidia's data center business, which is its second-largest source of revenue. The segment's revenue shot up 79% year over year in Q1, crossing $2 billion in quarterly sales for the first time. With the data center accelerator market expected to clock $53 billion in annual revenue by the end of 2027, according to a third-party estimate, the segment's growth streak seems sustainable.

Nvidia is doing well in the market for data center graphics processing units (GPUs), with large cloud service providers preferring to use the company's chips to accelerate workloads. The data center GPU market alone is expected to generate $20 billion in revenue by 2027. Nvidia sold almost $6.7 billion worth of data center GPUs last fiscal year, and the massive revenue opportunity points toward more upside in this business.

Throw in the fact that Nvidia is now moving to tap the other fast-growing niches of the data center accelerator market, such as server central processing units (CPUs) and data processing units (DPUs), and it becomes easier to see why this segment probably won't run out of steam. Such solid growth drivers make it clear why Nvidia's earnings are expected to jump substantially in the future at an annual pace of nearly 27%.

The verdict

It is evident that both Nvidia and Micron Technology have impressive catalysts that could help them sustain their impressive pace of growth. Value-oriented investors, however, may lean toward buying Micron stock, as it trades at just 20 times trailing earnings, compared to Nvidia's multiple of nearly 91.

But then, Nvidia is growing at a much faster rate than Micron, as we saw above, which is why its premium seems justified. Additionally, Nvidia dominates its space, while Micron faces competition from the likes of SK Hynix and Samsung. Micron reportedly controls 23.5% of the DRAM market, which makes it a smaller player than the other two, while it stands in fourth position in the NAND market, with a share of just 11.2%.

That's why investors with a higher risk tolerance might want to consider buying Nvidia stock to benefit from the tech giant's supremacy in graphics cards, as it seems capable of outperforming Micron in the future like it has done so far this year.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.