Memory chip makers haven't had much reason to celebrate in a long, long time, and while it's way premature to go popping the champagne bottles, there's at least a glimmer of hope. According to inSpectrum, the DRAM spot market witnessed all mainstream DDR3 chip prices jump by 10 percent, pushing the price of 2Gb (gigabit, not gigabyte) to $2.03.
inSpectrum says the much needed price hike in the spot market was the combined result of low inventory levels and improving market sentiment. After the Chinese New Year holidays, inSpectrum expects pricing to stay strong, and most leading DRAM makers seem intent on avoiding any more price drops.
There's more good news. Market research firm iSuppli says "DRAM shipments for tablets are expected to explode by a factor of more than nine this year." If iSuppli's crystal ball is working correctly, DRAM shipments this year for tablet devices will climb to 353.3 gigabits, up a whopping 834.7 percent from just 37.8 million in 2010.
We've been closely following the plight of memory makers, most of which haven't had much reason to celebrate in a long, long time. Underscoring just how bad the situation has become, OCZ, a major memory vendor and pioneer in the enthusiast memory market, recently announced it was accelerating plans to phase out its RAM business to focus on the more profitable (and stable) SSD market.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, albeit still dim. DRAMeXchange says that while prices are likely to remain flat or drop a little bit for the rest of the month, prices could start to recover in the second quarter, DigiTimes reports.
That's good news for DRAM makers, who so far in 2011 have seen prices for 2GB DDR3 modules fall 5-6 percent to just $17. Prices did slide at a slower rate compared to previous declines of 10 percent, but that could just be a sign that the market is nearing rock bottom.
As we've said before, the upshot to all this is that OEM system builders have started equipping their rigs with more RAM, with 4GB (and higher) quickly becoming the norm.
With memory prices continuing to decline, OCZ has made the decision to duck out of the DRAM market completely and focus its attention on solid state drives, the company said as part of its fiscal 2011 third-quarter announcement.
"In August 2010, the Company announced a strategic optimization of its memory products whereby it discontinued certain unprofitable commodity memory module products with the intent to continue only with certain high-performance memory products," OCZ said. "However, since that time, there has been well-chronicled, continued weakness in the global DRAM markets.
"Having balanced this DRAM market weakness against the capital needs of the Company's growing SSD products, the board has determined that it is in the best interests of the stockholders to accelerate plans to discontinue its remaining DRAM module products by the end of its current fiscal year of February 28, 2011."
On one hand, the announcement's a little surprising, considering OCZ helped pioneer the enthusiast memory sector. But the move is also understandable given the sorry state of the DRAM market. Maybe OCZ saw the writing on the wall a long time ago, as evidenced by its robust product portfolio. Long gone are the days where OCZ only served up memory, and now the company kicks out SSDs, flash drives, cooling products, power supplies, peripherals, and even do-it-yourself notebook kits.
DRAM pricing continues to free fall to new lows, declining yet again in December and plummeting to their lowest point of the year, according to data by market research firm iSuppli.
"DRAM prices in general have been affected by soft PC demand -- especially during the first half of 2010 -- as well as by greater supply of commodity memory following a solid increase in bit shipments during the second half," said Mike Howard, principal analyst for DRAM and memory at iSuppli. "That lethal combination of falling demand and growing supply has coalesced to place a great deal of pressure on DRAM ASPs."
By the second week of December, the contract price for a 2GB DDR3 module was only $21, more than 50 percent below the $44.40 price point of just six months ago. The same trend applies to DDR2 modules, which dropped from $33.80 in June to $21.50 in December.
The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that there's no where to go but up, right? That might be the case, but the DRAM market has yet to completely bottom out. According to Howard, there's absolutely nothing to stop prices from plunging even further during the next six months.
Today marks the pre-launch of Intel's much anticipated Sandy Bridge architecture, which has vendors lining up to be first out the door with related products. One of those vendors is G.Skill, who tells us they've just launched a new memory line -- RipjawsX series -- designed specifically for Intel's newest silicon.
There are a whopping 25 new DDR3 memory kits in all, ranging in frequency from 1333MHz (4GB/8GB/16GB) to 2300MHz (4GB), some with fans and some without. But what really separates these kits from your standard fare is that G.Skill purportedly hand tests each one on an Intel Sandy Bridge platform "in accordance with G.Skill's strict internal testing procedure, to ensure best in class performance, compatibility, and reliability."
Patriot Memory just sent us word that they're releasing a trio of new DDR3 memory kits designed for the upcoming second generation of Intel Core processor. The new memory lines include the Viper Xtreme, Division 2, and G2 series.
Patriot says both the Viper Xtreme and Division 2 lines are appropriate choices for the "extreme enthusiast looking to push the limits of DDR3 memory technology," while the G2 series is best suited for the "serious PC gamer looking for increased system performance for the gaming edge at a cost conscious price."
The two higher end kits are available in speeds up to 2133MHz with "plenty of headroom for adventurous overclocking," Patriot claims. The G2 series comes in a variety of speeds ranging from 1333MHz to 1600MHz.
It's the same old song and tune for the DRAM market, which continues to sing the blues over falling chip prices. How bad is it? According to market research firm iSuppli, "DRAM continued to head down a grim path of unstoppable decline in December." Yikes.
It's the lowest point of the year for DRAM makers, who had plenty of low points in 2010. By the second week in December, the contract price for a 2GB DDR3 DRAM module was only $21, down more than half of the $44.40 selling price just six months ago. And it's not just DDR3; DDR2 modules are suffering the same kind of price drops.
"DRAM pricing appears to be reaching critical levels, and nothing is likely to stop prices from continuing their slide in the next six months," iSuppli says. "In particular, as DDR3 reaches $1 per gigabyte, DRAM manufacturers operating at the 60-nanometer (nm) process node will start to face the painful economics of costs exceeding prices. In 2008 when prices dropped below $1 per gigabyte, manufacturers with lagging process technology were forced to throttle down production."
Things don't look to improve for DRAM makers through at least the first half of 2011. On the flip side, PC makers have been able to load up machines with more RAM without jacking up the price.
Egads. Zoinks. Aw shucks. These are all expressions you're likely to hear emanating from DDR3 factories in Taiwan, because all the more colorful ones have already been used ad nauseum. Things areb't getting any better, either.
Contract prices for 1Gb (gigabit) DDR3 chips averaged just $1.09 for the first half of December, the lowest they've been in all of 2010, DigiTimes reports. That's down 10.66 percent so far for the month, after having already tumbled 13.35 percent in the second half of November.
In terms of actual memory modules, 2GB DDR3 sticks slipped to $20 for the first half of December, a 9 percent drop sequentially, according to data by DRAMeXchange. Looking ahead, DRAMeXchange predicts more of the same (falling prices) through at least the first half of 2011.
Corsair's new Vengeance high-performance DDR3 memory kits don't just look mean, they purportedly back up their aggressive styling with plenty of overclocking potential. According to Corsair, the Vengeance line consists of "carefully selected RAMS to enable excellent overclocking results," whether you're sporting an AMD or Intel processor inside.
"Customers have been asking for outstanding memory with a lower price tag, and we have been listening," said Thi La, Vice President of Memory Products at Corsair. "I believe that our users will love both the exciting new look and the overclocking results they are able to achieve with our new Vengeance memory."
Vengeance kits come in a variety of high tech flavors, including single, dual, and triple-channel kits ranging from 4GB to 16GB in capacity.
Sure, OCZ is all about SSDs these days, but the company hasn't forgotten its roots as a memory maker. To prove it, OCZ on Tuesday unveiled a handful of new kits, including the Blade 2 Series, Platinum XTE (Xtreme Thermal Exchange) Series, and Gold XTE Series.
"Building on our previous lines of enthusiast overclocking memory, the new XTE and Blade 2 DDR3 memory series are designed to set the benchmark once again and deliver the ultimate in performance and stability," said Alex Mei, CMO of OCZ Technology Group. "Featuring new compact, yet highly efficient heatspreader designs, these hand-tested kits are the ideal solution for overclockers, gaming, and productivity applications, and are optimized for th latest generation of platforms from Intel and AMD."
The Blade 2 kits come rated for 2133MHz or 2400MHz in both dual- and triple-channel configurations, while the Platinum XTE and Gold XTE range in frequency from 1600MHz to 2133MHz..