The increase in the cost of RAM has been slow but it has been steady.
Outpaced by the more widely reported increase in GPU prices, the random access memory price increases have gone largely under the reader to those who are not quite as tech-savvy as those looking to build their own computer systems.
This article will be exploring why memory prices can fluctuate so much and explain what RAM actually is and the role it serves. As well as that we will also be looking at what analysts predict to happen in the coming months and look at how much the average selling point has changed over the last few years.
The Typical Cost of RAM:
Although not very widely reported, random access memory prices have hugely fluctuated in the last few years with GamerNexus reporting that the sale price of DDR4-2400 jumping from $81 in 2016 all the way to $196 in 2018.
It would be easy to say that this specific example is not representative of the market but this is not the case. DDR4 prices rise at every single cost point and performance level, leaving many with having to go with older, slower models which are available for less.
PC PartPicker has a price index that has shown that even newer models have seen sharp cost surges while older models which are seen by many as ‘budget’ choices have also seen their prices bein inflated on the second-hand market.
PC PartPicker have, for example, shown that 16GB of DDR4-3000 set buyers back only $70 in 2016 while in 2018 that very same piece of equipment sold for in excess of $200 in 2018. To make that even clearer, that is an increase of over 280% in just two years. That is both hugely unfair to computer builders and those looking to upgrade their existing systems. It is unsustainable because it prices out those who would have otherwise likely have wanted to buy newer RAM.
What is interesting though is that over the last couple of years RAM has again changed in price with prices slowly dropping over the last 18 months. Prices are now roughly half of what they were during the Holiday season in 2018 when prices were at their highest. Now would seem like a good time for hobbyist builders to get great value for money with random access memory costs being at a low point.
Building a PC can be a great hobby for anyone who is a fan of electronics and technology and with retailers seemingly always having a sale on, now would be a great time to get yourself a great value for money deal.
Three Reasons Why the Price of RAM Has Increased:
1 – The Market is Volatile and Always in Flux
It isn’t strange for industries to experience big fee changes but it is nowhere more clear than in the technology world where supply and demand are seemingly never balanced. It isn’t just RAM that is inconsistently priced wither with graphics cards also experiencing serious price fluctuations in 2017 and 2018.
The top brands are of course always going to sell for more than the ‘budget’ options but you get what you pay for with the top of the range Corsair Vengeance RGB RAM kits being widely accepted as the best. Random access memory costs are of course, as we have already said, hugely in flux but even the bigger brands experience big price changes that are related to how the market is behaving and how much demand there is.
2 – Intel’s CPU Sales
Some professionals believe that the boom in Intel processing unit sales could have caused a small uptick in RAM price in the backend of 2018. This is because companies decided to update their dated servers with newer hardware and thereby increasing demand for higher-performing DRAM.
Technological growth over the last few years has already put a strain on the supply chains but with this latest wave of server refurbishment, DRAM prices will likely continue to fluctuate instead of leveling out.
The older DDR3 hardware is being slowly phased out by data centres with the newer DDR4 being gobbled by to replace it and thereby reducing the amount available on the public market. The best thing customers can do it try to stick in between the 8GB and 16GB range so that they can get the most bang for their buck and only really buy that they need.
3 – Huawei’s Buying of DRAM in Bulk
The Chinese giant’s purchasing of DRAM memory chips has resulted in prices not being reduced as previously expected by analysts. TrendForce observed that Huawei’s intention to stock up on the memory kit pieces before the US ban on their products comes into effect is likely to have driven the price up for the foreseeable future.
Demand dictates price and with the availability being cut by Huawei’s buying spree, those still on the market are being treated somewhat as a rarity with many willing to pay higher prices to obtain them. The analysts at TrendForce do not expect Huawei’s meddling in the market to have long term effects but in the short term they do believe that RAM will sell for a premium.
It isn’t just Huawei that has been influencing the market over the last couple of years though, many of the top smartphone manufacturers/companies such as Apple and Samsung have stockpiled stock due to the general economic uncertainty.
What is RAM and what does it do?
Many PC enthusiasts consider RAM to be the most important part if a computer because of how it affects the rest of the machine. The quality of the random access memory influences how quick the machine can run and overall performance level of the system – this means that buying the correct type of RAM to suit your needs is imperative.
Memory or RAM (Random Access Memory) is a vital part of a computer or mobile device because it is where data is stored. Everything runs through the memory and without it the machine would be unable to complete even basic functions and it would not know what to do. Understanding RAM can seem quite confusing due to the different capacity and speed levels but it really is nothing to worry about.
The type of RAM in the device is just as important as the CPU as a high-performance processing unit can only perform as efficiently as the RAM will allow it to. Having low-level random access memory in a top of the range PC is just like having a Ford Focus engine inside of a Ferrari – it might look great but it is only as good as the parts inside.
RAM speed is vital because it dictates how fast the processor can work at and if the RAM is running at a slower pace than the CPU, the processor will end up waiting for a response every time it needs to access the device’s memory storage. Likewise, there is little point having very fast RAM if the processor is old and cannot perform at high speeds. It is vital to match the RAM and the CPU to ensure that the laptop or PC can work at its maximum capacity.
RAM is not just vital for the processing unit but also is important with regards to what kind of software the system can support. Every downloaded piece of software usually requires a minimum amount of space that must be free in order for the application to run smoothly and if this cannot be provided, the application may not run smoothly or even run at all.
Why are RAM prices so high?
As listed before, it is impossible to pinpoint one single reason as to why RAM prices can be so high just as it is impossible to say with one reason why the prices can fluctuate so much.
Despite this, it is safe to say that much of the deviation in cost can be attributed to supply and demand. Big companies which require large quantities of hardware often stockpile RAM and other items when the market is uncertain and this often leads to an increase in demand.
These increases often impact technology fans and people who enjoy PC building the most as they are unable to compete financially with the cash-flush manufacturers. RAM cost is at a low point right now but as explained above, that wasn’t the case just 18 months ago and it only takes a small change in demand for the whole market to feel the effects.
Why is RAM more expensive than SSD?
SSD is simply not as quick as RAM with commercial SSD (flash) being capable of speeds of around 4GB per second while DDR4 RAM can run at speeds of 15GB per second and can even hit around 25GB per second.
To get technical, to implement SSD you won’t need as many transistors as you do for DRAM and this affects the general prices because more transistors means more money due to the more space they take up.
If you are working with a limited budget it would be wise to prioritze random access memory capacity over flash memory because the quality of theRAM dictates how quickly the machine can work at while flash memory (HDD/SSD) is ultimately limited by the aforementioned random access memory.
Will RAM prices go up in 2021?
It is almost impossible to predict just how much RAM will set buyers back as we edge towards 2021 with the marketplace being so uncertain at the moment with all that is going on in the world. This is in combination with how Huawei responds to the effective blacklisting of their items in much of the western market. We can already see how they have been bulk buying RAM in response to their upcoming ban but its almost impossible to say what will happen once it comes into effect.
Despite this, a number of analysts are predicting that costs will drop in the final quarter of 2020 perhaps due to the fact that both Micron and SK Hynix report that they are expecting lower than usual demand for their products. This will likely not just stop once we reach 2021 though with low consumer confidence almost certainly continuing into the immediate future.
These predictions regarding low demand may also be related to the fact that many buyers panic bought excessive amounts of hardware at the start of the pandemic in anticipation of a potential shortage and as a result this has created a surplus in the market and thereby increasing the supply temporarily.
This will no doubt be bad news for sellers and will likely eat into their profits but for buyers this will be a great opportunity to head to the store and grab a great deal. Despite this, buyers should definitely pay attention to the news and make sure they act fast as we know how fast things can change.