4GB memory modules jumped in price by more than 11 percent last month, DRAMeXchange says.
Anyone remember when a 2GB overclocking kit would run a couple hundred dollars? Those days are long gone, replaced by the current landscape in which you can scoop up a 32GB DDR3 memory kit for around $150 or $160. DRAM prices are dirt cheap, as they have been for some time now, and it's taken a toll on DRAM makers. According to DRAMeXchange, top tier memory makers continue to reduce shipments of commodity DRAM to drive up prices, and it's working.
Historically speaking, if there's one thing memory chip makers could count on, it's that a new operating system from Microsoft would lead to double-digit percentage increases in quarterly DRAM shipments. That is, until now. According to IHS iSuppli, Windows 8 will have a positive impact in DRAM shipments, but quarterly growth this time around is expected to stay in single-digit territory.
DRAM makers have been struggling with falling memory prices for a few years now, and at one point in 2008, Adata chairman Simon Chen declared the DRAM market was the worst it's been in 15 years. Fast forward to today and DRAM players have found their saving grace in the mobile sector. While PC memory is still dirt cheap, mobile DRAM is on a record pace in terms of revenue.
Remember when high-end memory kits would set you back several hundred dollars? Those days are long gone, and for various reasons (all of which are great for consumers but stink for manufactures trying to flip a profit), they might never return. One of the reasons is that overclocking no longer carries such a heavy reliance on RAM. Memory is still important, but not like it was in the Pentium IV and AMD 64 era. But the biggest reason manufacturers are stuck in a low price rut is because they're caught in a "vicious circle of oversupply," GBI Research says.
What's the future of memory look like? NAND flash? Hybrid memory cubes? The memory makers over at Micron have their hands in both of those technologies, but they're also banking on a third form hitting the streets before too long, bearing a striking resemblance to the DDR3 we all know and love. This weekend, the company announced that "its first fully functional DDR4 DRAM module" is up and running and should make it to market in 2013.
It was being reported last week that Micron Technology issued a bid of $1.5 billion to take over Elpida Memory, which had fallen on tough times after a prolonged slump in the DRAM market, and it now appears as though Micron is the frontrunner to acquire the bankrupt memory maker. Toshiba and Globalfoundries were two other names that had been thrown around as potential suitors, but either they didn't bid, or they were outbid by Micron.
Running low on RAM? The sooner you stock up, the less you'll end up paying, which doesn't sound like a big deal when you consider how rock-bottom RAM prices have become, but don't be fooled into thinking that will always be the case. Memory prices have already started to creep upwards, and various sources warn that this is going to be the trend through March and possibly beyond.
The dirty little secret about DRAM is that we're all underpaying for computer memory, and most of us know it. When the DRAM bubble burst, prices plummeted faster than Lindsay Lohan's career, which is why OCZ moved away from selling memory and starting hawking solid state drives, a segment that's overpriced just like DRAM used to be. It's starting to look like the DRAM market might never regain it's swagger from a decade ago, but there are still times when you should consider stocking up on memory. This might be one of them.
It was over three years ago when Adata chairman Simon Chen frustratingly noted that 2008 was the worst year for DRAM in the past 15 years, and not much has changed since then. Memory chip makers have tried a number of different strategies since then, from consolidation to, more recently, choking supply in hopes of stopping free-falling prices. Now we're hearing DRAM production is about to kick up a notch.
The red hot tablet and smartphone sectors are leading to increased mobile DRAM production ratios among first-tier DRAM manufacturers, but only Samsung seems to be benefiting from it all. According to market research firm DRAMeXchange, Samsung was the only semiconductor to remain profitable in the fourth quarter of 2011, which it accomplished by attacking the global market with its Galaxy S2 and Note products.