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.
Things have already gone from bad to worse to downright despairing, and unfortunately for DRAM makers, relief is no where in sight. Just when you thought things may have hit rock bottom, market research firm iSuppli says there's going to be a "huge drop in average selling prices" for 2011.
"After the boom year of 2010, the DRAM market is waking up to 2011 with a hangover," said Mike Howard, senior analyst for DRAM and memory at IHS. "With supply exceeding demand, pricing will decline precipitously for the year, causing revenue to decrease."
A hangover might be putting it nicely. According to iSuppli's figures, worldwide DRAM revenue in 2011 will drop to $35.5 billion, representing an 11.8 percent slide from $40.3 billion in 2010, and will continue to drop through at least 2013.
"While bad news for suppliers, the retreat in the DRAM ASP augurs well for consumers," Howard said. "The price of a 2GB module currently is less than half its level six months ago, a development sure to lead to higher DRAM content in PCs for 2011 and provide consumers with more memory per machine. Furthermore, the new predominant memory configuration in 2011 will be 4GB, to be loaded in half of all desktops PCs, with 2GB systems declining to just 6 percent of the total market by the end of the year."
If there's a bright spot for DRAM makers, it's the mobile market. According to iSuppli, smartphones and tablets in 2011 will combine to outship PCs by more than 50 million units. Both of these sectors will help slow the bleeding.
If you plug 11188-01-40G into Google, you'll find it references a Sapphire HD 6950 videocard with 1GB of GDDR5 memory, or half the amount of a standard 6950 part. You can already find a handful of U.K. vendors selling the new card, though it hasn't shown up on familiar U.S. sites like Newegg just yet.
The obvious upshot here is that these cards will cost less than their fully equipped brethren. Sapphire's above mentioned model is the only one we've found, but so far it doesn't appear anything other than the amount of RAM has changed; clockspeeds and other features still match up.
While Sapphire appears to be leading the charge, German website HT4U.net says other vendors will soon follow, offering both HD 6950 and 6970 cards less memory.
Would you be interested in a Cayman card with 1GB of memory?
Is it time to move on from DDR3 already? Probably not, but the shift to DDR4 might be closer than you think. Enter Samsung, who says it just completed development of the industry's first DDR4 DRAM module using a 30nm manufacturing process.
"Samsung has been actively supporting the IT industry with our green memory initiative by coming up with eco-friendly, innovative memory products providing higher performance and power efficiency every year," said Dong Soo Jun, president, memory division, Samsung Electronics. "The new DDR4 DRAM will build even greater confidence in our cutting-edge green memory, particularly when we introduce four-gigabit (Gb) DDR4-based products using next generation process technology for mainstream application."
According to Samsung, the new DDR4 DRAM stick boasts performance of up to 2.133Gbps at 1.2V. Stick these new modules in a notebook and Samsung says you can expect power consumption to go down by 40 percent when compared to a 1.5V DDR3 module.
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.
So here it is, the first ever Class 10 SDXC card in 128GB capacity. Lexar Media announced the new card today as part of its Professional SDXC series, along with a 64GB model with the same 133X speed rating.
"The professional photography industry is at a point where digital photo- and video-capture methods are converging, meaning that professional shooters need a memory solution with the versatility and reliability to safely store both photos and videos," said Pachi Chen-Wong, senior product marketing manager, Lexar Media. "The 64GB and 128GB Lexar Professional 133x SDXC cards combine high-speed performance with large capacities to offer solutions for professionals who shoot large volumes of high-resolution images and HD video."
Lexar says both cards will have no trouble working with any SDXC-enabled devices. They also include the latest version of Lexar's Image Rescue software in case you're a little quick on the draw when it comes to deleting photos and videos.
The cards don't come cheap -- both the 64GB and 128GB models will be available in the first quarter of this year with MSRPs set at $400 and $700, respectively.
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.