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Businesses The Almighty Buck Upgrades Windows Hardware

Why Is RAM Suddenly So Cheap? It Might Be Windows 209

jfruh writes: The average price of a 4GB DDR3 memory DIMM at the moment $18.50 — a price that's far lower than at this time last year. Why is it so cheap? The memory business tends to go in boom and bust cycles, but the free availability of Windows 10 means that fewer people are upgrading their PCs, reducing RAM demand. Analyst Avril Wu said, "Notebook shipments in the third quarter fall short of what is expected for a traditional peak season mainly because Windows 10 with its free upgrade plan negatively impacted replaced sales of notebooks to some extent rather than driving the demand for these products." And prices might stay low for another two years.
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Why Is RAM Suddenly So Cheap? It Might Be Windows

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  • Cheap you say? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @06:33PM (#50675087)
    Well I've already got 16GB in my home PC and I don't seem to use more than 3 or 4GB of it, but I guess I could squeeze in another 16GB...
    • Re:Cheap you say? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jon3k ( 691256 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @07:47PM (#50675647)
      This might not apply to you, but thought I'd share it, because it's a common misconception. So here's my computer right now. [imgur.com] Notice the yellow arrow? Looks like I'm only using half of my 16GB of memory right? Now, notice the blue arrow? That's the total actually available memory. The rest is currently in use as cache. The reason windows shows it as free is because it could be freed if something actually needed to use it.

      Worth mentioning, the only thing I have open in that screenshot is Chrome with ~20 tabs. Point being, a lot of people see memory usage below 100% and assume the memory isn't being used by the OS. The reality is, more memory might actually improve performance significantly even though you're not "using" 100% of your system's memory.
      • Yeah depends on what you are doing, if you are reading the same files over and over (or opening and closing the same apps over and over). However where do you draw the line? You could cache your whole hard drive in ram...
        • by Xenx ( 2211586 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @09:14PM (#50676135)

          However where do you draw the line? You could cache your whole hard drive in ram...

          Right there. That would be amazing.

          • Had a friend that did this. Created a virtual hard disk in RAM and used it to play his games. The 64 gigs of ram where wholly unnecessary, but damn... those frame rates...

            • Re:Cheap you say? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @12:54AM (#50676981)

              I do this.

              Have 32 GB RAM with 8 GB RAM DRIVE + 256 GB SSD

              Having tons of RAM means you can spin up VM's and give each one 2 - 4 GB each.

            • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

              Ramdisk reduces loading times, not framerates. If anything, it reduces framerates because there might be moments when that memory mapped to ramdisk could be used for caching.

          • At work I have a box with 64GB RAM. I configure VMs with 50GB filesystems so they usually fit completely in RAM. The performance is nice :(

        • Weeel.
          This whole argument became a hell of a lot less compelling now that even crappy SSDs will read random files at a couple of hundred meg a second.

          The number of workloads where you actually need to reread files at over a couple of hundred meg as second, and have that working set be between 2 and 10 gigabytes or so, I suspect is going to equate to almost zero.

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            In my workplace there is a rather braindead application that sorts a lot of data on disk instead of in memory (closed source - otherwise would have been fixed ten years ago), even when the dataset is a lot smaller than memory. So we fed it a striped set of disks. Then we fed it an SSD. Then we fed it a couple of striped SSDs. Now it's using a RAM disk and it's an order of magnitude faster than even striped SSDs. Instead of going through a controller and other bottlenecks - bang - in and out almost as q
            • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @11:38PM (#50676741)
              Now here is why the above example may be relevant to you - several popular image editing programs do a lot of operations on the working data from your current image on disk instead of in memory no matter how much memory you have. Put it's cache on ramdisk and some operations speed up by an order of magnitude or more and let other operations happen.
              I've seen a machine lock up for twenty minutes rotating a large TIF file despite having a lot of free memory because it was thrashing the disk flat out.
      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
        Cached means used, not used as a disk cache. Notice your numbers don't add up. Cached = "in use" + modified. Available = standby + free. Use Resource Monitor (that little button at the bottom of task manager) to get a more detailed usage.

        Where you'll see more performance without using the memory is when free is small. Standby is the OS's guesses as to what will end up in Cached. When it guesses right, you get better performance. This is closer to a "cache" in the way I think you are thinking of it.
      • Re: Cheap you say? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by loufoque ( 1400831 )

        I have 16GB and my computer frequently warns me about being out of memory. More than half of this RAM is consumed by Chrome, of course I have way more than 20 tabs open.
        Different strokes fof different folks, but the point is that web browsers nowadays require an absurd amount of RAM.

        • Re: Cheap you say? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @01:51AM (#50677143)

          The point is that bad web design nowadays require an absurd amount of RAM (and CPU cycles).

          It really is quite easy to hand write rich looking designs. But instead of doing this, most web developers tend to use a metric shit ton of linked script libraries, make stupid non-optimized calls from these non-optimized libraries and generally just make bad design decisions. I puke in my mouth a little every time I see a web design that has jQuery (or even multiple versions of it) and several third party libraries linked *just* to produce something equivalent to a newsletter subscription overlay popup. This means there will be a lot of unnecessary HTTP calls for something that could be done in a one single GET and a result that could be produced with maybe five lines of pure JavaScript.

          My customers have been amazed at how fast I can make my sites run even though they look "complex" and more often than not have a lot of graphical elements embedded throughout the design. It's just a question of optimization and having a tiny clue about what you're doing.

          • I agree with you that there are clean ways to do things in plain ECMAScript 5 and HTML DOM [youmightno...jquery.com]. So long as you don't absolutely need to support obsolete* versions of Windows Internet Explorer, you might not even need jQuery [garstasio.com].

            * IE 8 and especially 7 cause the most problems, but all currently supported Windows operating systems (10, 8, 7, and Vista) can upgrade to at least IE 9.

    • My machine came with 16GB. A year ago one of the 4GB DIMMs died on me. I pulled it out and chucked it. I was planning on replacing it, but never got around to it.

      I occasionally look at my memory usage. with 12GB ram and a 5GB swap, I almost never use more than 4GB of the ram and 3% of swap space.

      tl;dr : Memory might be cheap, but we need less than we think we do.

    • I expect that is may be mostly do the fact most apps made today still are created with the idea of 32bit in mind. (For Windows and Linux). When designing software there is a sweet spot where of how much RAM to use, vs how much to read off of slower storage such as a hard disk or download from the cloud, vs. how much you should calculate in real time. As technology progresses and prices changes this balance fluctuates. MS DOS and those old DOS apps were designed around the under 640k RAM. and reading data

  • RAM is not cheap (Score:5, Interesting)

    by danbob999 ( 2490674 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @06:38PM (#50675127)

    3 years ago, I bought 2x8 GB desktop DDR3 memory for about $70 CAD. It is now about $100. Where is Moore's law when we need it?
    And DDR4 is even more expensive.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Yeah, DDR3 prices hit rock bottom right before Christmas 2013. I was considering upgrading to 32GB just because it was so cheap, but really I had nothing maxing out 16GB. Still don't really, even now running a ton of crap I'm only using 8-9GB and the rest is cache. For prosumer money ($1000) you can even get 8x16GB DDR4 for an X99 motherboard, prices have bottomed out but so has demand for most people too. Faster CPU, GPU, SSD and so on great.... more memory? Meh. I suppose it could be cheaper, but at least

    • Re:RAM is not cheap (Score:4, Informative)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @07:52PM (#50675685)
      RAM has some of the slimmest margins in the computer industry (typically around 1%). So its price is highly sensitive to supply and demand. Manufacturers try to predict how much demand there will be 3-6 months in the future and produce an appropriate amount of RAM. If they underestimate, there's a shortage and price increases. If they overestimate, there's a glut and prices will actually drop below manufacturing costs. But the long-term trend has still been towards lower prices [statisticbrain.com].
    • You can get 2x8GB DDR3 for around $70USD now from newegg
      3 years ago CAD and USD were around the same. $70USD is worth $90CAD now, hence your ~$100

      • by danbob999 ( 2490674 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @10:32PM (#50676499)

        Still, RAM prices should be lower after 3 years, not the same. RAM is definitely not cheap. We need more RAM than 3 years ago, but the price is the same, or more. RAM is not produced in the USA, so I don't think its value has much to do with the USD. The CAD decreased by about 15% against the Taiwan New Dollar, however.

        • Why would it get lower? Are they using newer, cheaper process technology?
          Or are they producing the same stuff from the same machines for the same cost?

          • Because newer technology and Moore's law allows them to produce higher density chips. Less chips = cheaper to make. I don't recall any other 3 year period where RAM prices didn't decrease.

          • Why would it get lower? Are they using newer, cheaper process technology?

            Largely because of amortization of fixed costs. To build the parts the company has to spend a large amount of money up front on production equipment, buildings, overhead, R&D, etc. Let's call it $1 Billion just for a nice round number. If they just produce on DIMM then to make that money back they have to charge $1 Billion for it. If they make two they cut that in half to $500M each. If they make 1 million of them they can charge $1000 each. So the more units you make the lower the unit price can

            • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

              Its not quite that simple. So I decide I am going to start making memory. I do all my up front capital investment. Now I have to decide how much of my fixed costs I want to try to recoup per unit. One question I might ask myself in the chip industry is how long will this stuff be in mass market demand. Nobody will want my chips if a new tech comes out that doubles density. My current equipment won't be useful anymore. Now I don't know when this will happen so I am going to probably start off with hig

              • Its not quite that simple.

                You are correct that it isn't that simple but I don't think may people want to read about all the gory economic nuances involved. Nevertheless the biggest driver of cost early in the life cycle of a product like a RAM chip is going to be the fixed costs to begin production. The effect on unit costs won't become negligible until quite a lot of units have already been sold. It's not the only factor in play but it's normally the biggest. Once enough units have been sold other factors like the ones you ment

      • Oh man, I wish I could get anything from Newegg. Here in Europe it's not fun seeing the USD prices and then the same amount in Euro + 50% arbitrary addition plus 23% tax plus 15 Euro shipping. :(

        Not to speak of the constant announcement of great new products who will be available here only 1 1/2 years later for twice the price ...

    • http://www.terabyteshop.com.br... [terabyteshop.com.br]

      Here I continue paying double or triple as usual in a third world country
      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        Isn't a large portion of that double or triple price due to import duties/taxes/fees?

        • Depends. If you are importing in person, you have approximately 100% taxes and is likely to never receive because of theft at the post office or customs. But if you shop at a local store you still pay twice anyway because the trader takes advantage of the situation and charges the same price you would pay if you bought abroad with the 100% taxes (a very fat profit margin for the local trader).
    • Re:RAM is not cheap (Score:5, Interesting)

      by unrtst ( 777550 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @08:49PM (#50676031)

      Came here to same just about the same thing.
      Even brought along some facts: http://www.jcmit.com/memorypri... [jcmit.com]

      Price per mb at the end of 2012: $0.0037/mb
      Price per mb Sep 13, 2014: $0.0085/mb
      Price per mb May 15, 2015: $0.0056/mb

      Sure, it fluctuated, but it wasn't a big drop, and definitely not a historical low.
      The better question, is why isn't it going down further (especially on larger modules)?

      Last time it was above $1/mb was in 2000.
      In 2002, it hit a low of $0.19/mb - THAT was a drop.
      First time it dipped below $0.05/mb was 2007 (got as low as $0.024/mb that year).
      It still hasn't hit another 1/10th the price drop ($0.0025 has never hit).

      I'd like to get some more memory, but the last time I got 2x8gb, it was cheaper than it is now. Makes it hard to justify... I've expect it to eventually go down in price, and if I wait long enough, I'll have to get a different format - probably worth waiting at this point anyway (ddr4 instead of ddr3).

  • by Tyrannosaur ( 2485772 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @06:38PM (#50675133)

    I haven't been watching the price of RAM, maybe it's time to profit

    • With regards to the corporate world: The trend for the last year is to purchase all new PCs with 8GB or RAM. Honestly 4GB is the bare minimum once you factor in Windows, Anti-Virus, running browser, and an open MS Office document. And being that you don't just find machines with 6GB, the next best option is to double for 8GB.

      OTOH, if someone wants to upgrade their existing machine, I recommend going to 16GB. My time to scope part, install, and validate + the cost you pay for the part = not worth going to 8G

  • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @06:54PM (#50675237)

    It's DDR3 being shuffled off the stage because DDR4 is now well-established.
    Prices for DDR3 will bottom out and then shoot back up and plateau, and you won't care until you need to upgrade an old system.

  • Windows 10 market share is around 6.5%, so it's definitely not that. The bigger reason is that there's no need to upgrade period. Beyond nearly all operating system vendors (from Desktop to mobile) continually releasing worse OSes than the previous version, RAM is no longer the driving factor behind application performance it used to be. For niche applications like simulation work it still really matters, but even the most hardcore gamer is overkill at 16GB regardless of speed.
    • 6.5% for a few months isn't bad. How many of those would have been new system sales had Win 10 not been free?

      Not all of course, but maybe half?

      Supply and demand, it doesn't actually take a lot of demand drop the cut prices by a lot. A 3% demand drop might cut prices 10%.

      Then there is the fact that we have had enough memory for awhile now. 8 year old Core2Duo systems with 2 GB of ram actually run Windows 10 just fine.

      • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tom229 ( 1640685 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @07:48PM (#50675655)
        I think for a "free" upgrade it's actually quite bad. Windows 7 outpaced it [businessinsider.com] and that was an upgrade priced at a few hundred dollars. Also, many of those "upgrades" to 10 we're before release. They were offering RTM and beta as a free download long before release. This is probably when most power users, and people in the industry got on board. These people are still evaluating and still chasing the newest shiniest thing. Time will tell what the overall verdict is.

        People aren't as excited about this new "free" version of Windows as they should be. The reason: most don't like what Microsoft is shoveling. We don't want "the cloud", we don't care about mobile interfaces, SAAS, IAAS, or any of your other marketing bullshit. We aren't interested in a free "upgrade" that further removes user freedom and attempts to monetize their data. We're not morons. You haven't fooled us.
        • Windows 7 was really, really in demand... most people were on XP, not Vista, and were really due for an upgrade...

          Windows 7 was a big noticeable upgrade over XP.

          Windows 10 is less of a big noticeable upgrade over 7.

          Windows 7 also wasn't hundreds of dollars, I paid something like $100 for 3 copies, or about $33 each.

          ---

          I don't think people are rejecting Windows 10 for the reasons you're giving, I don't think the average consumer even knows about them, much less cares. The real issue may be "why upgrade, my

  • by gaiageek ( 1070870 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @07:17PM (#50675451) Homepage
    I upgraded my Thinkpad X230 from 8GB to 16GB because it was cheap enough, and because I was occasionally getting slowdowns in Chrome on Linux from so many windows and tabs open.

    It fixed the slowdown problem, until recently, when Chrome on Linux decided to simply start crashing after so many (not even that many - maybe 40) were open.

    Summary: Latest version of Chrome is total shit on Linux.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tom229 ( 1640685 )
      It's probably CPU. Especially if any of those tabs are running flash or HTML5 video. At least that's been my experience. Flash absolutely murders CPU in linux, and HTML5 video doesn't seem to be much better.
      • The CPU hit is causing the browser to crash? This happens without any video playing, though maybe a YouTube page loaded, not running.

        I've just disabled non-essential browser plugins thinking maybe that's a part of it.
        • by tom229 ( 1640685 )
          Yes. I've had my Antergos (Arch Linux) install crash to a halt if I stream a couple 1080p videos while compiling some source and running a Windows VM. Many times. It really seems like bad resource management to me, but the catalyst of the problem always seems to be the video streaming. Without the video streaming the other CPU applications conflict with one another but result in poor performance with themselves rather than a system hang.
    • You don't need 40 tabs open. I guarantee by the time you get to tab 40 you have no idea what tabs 3 or 19 were even about.

      • Just because -you- can't remember more then 7 tabs doesn't meant the rest of us that have 60-80 tabs open are not functional.

        One of the best Chrome plugins is the vertical tab management window Tabs Outliner [google.com]

    • Latest version of Chrome is total shit on Linux.

      Is there a browser that isn't total shit? Seriously, they're all fucking shit, on any OS! I'm getting tired of telling people of the following "Crashed in Chrome? Try Firefox, or IE" or "Something else just crashed in Firefox, go back to Chrome" and lastly, "That's a compatibility issue within the site, just keep both browsers open for those two different websites".

      Standards? What fucking standards??!

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @07:19PM (#50675465)

    FTFS:

    Analyst Avril Wu said, "Notebook shipments in the third quarter fall short of what is expected for a traditional peak season mainly because Windows 10 with its free upgrade plan negatively impacted replaced sales of notebooks to some extent rather than driving the demand for these products."

    Um . . . maybe folks are just buying Apple and Android critters, instead of Notebooks. Did any "analyst" think of that . . . ?

    • by tom229 ( 1640685 )
      That market is already established. There's very little new entry into that garbage. Either you've "converted" to mobile because generally what you do with computing is of little consequence, or you've tried and binned the idea already.
  • huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @07:34PM (#50675553)

    "The average price of a 4GB DDR3 memory DIMM at the moment $18.50"

    It is? Newegg is all in the $21 - $23 range. Looking at CamelCamelCamel, it's about the same price it was around this time a year ago.

    2x8GB DDR3 is still in the $80 - $90 range, same place it's been for months.

  • It might be windows! or it might be some farted while typing the price in at the factory! or more likely it might be that we are mid migration to DDR4 or that there is a lot of competition with no recent natural disasters impacting production or it might be that memory requirements simply haven't escalated much in the past decade beyond around 4GB for most users or it might be that PC's purchased in the last 5 or so years are still more than powerful enough for anything a user does or more likely a combinat
  • Back in the days of 386 and 486, 1Mb SIMMs were US$50, each.

    • by yusing ( 216625 )

      Cheapskate much?? Back in the days of the 8008 and Z80, I paid $200 each for two 12KB ram boards (had to stuff 96 1-k RAM chips into sockets on each). A couple years later, I got two 16KB factory-soldered 'used' boards for $25 each(snort, what a sucker!). 56K bytes total !! NOONE will ever need more than 56KB.

  • Faulty logic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @09:10PM (#50676119)

    This is broken logic. Giving away Windows 10 doesn't impact PC sales at all. What IS impacting PC sales is the fact that the need for a more powerful machine is slowing way down. Instead of computers becoming obsolete in a year or two, computers can often go for much longer before they need to be replaced. It's not uncommon to find people who have had the same PC for 5 years now because there's simply no benefit to them to move to more powerful hardware.

    • This! Although aside from RAM and Storage upgrades, components do wear out; specifically the PSU and electrolytic capacitors. And of course, Windows XP has been deprecated and eventually Windows 7 too (but not for quite awhile now). So at some point, the computer is going to be replaced even if the owner is pleased with the existing performance.

  • by williamyf ( 227051 ) <williamyf@hotmail.com> on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @09:47PM (#50676309)

    Bollocks!!!!!

    I have been as of late upgrading the Laptops of my brother's firm, mostly as a favor to mother earth (to keep them out of the landfield, and to avoid buying new ones, increasing resources usage) and as a favor to him.

    Sadly, he is a fan of Toshiba (but then again, it could be worse), the models are:
    One A1235-S2386, one A135-SSP4108, one A135-S4527, one P200 and two P105-S6062.

    All of them were on WinXP (on some, it came, on some, it was a Downgrade). Every single one of them was moved to Windows 10 (with some trickery). Every single one of them got the latest BIOS, an SSD, and more importantly for the article THE FULL AMOUNT OF RAM THEY SUPPORTED (all DDR2, some pc4200, some PC5300).

    That means all the machines went from 1 or 1,5GB to 2GB (in the A series case) and from 1,5 or 2GB to a full 4GB (in the P series case).

    I, personally use a Mac. My current Air has the full 8GB apple ships, my older MacBook has 6GB from the Original two (and an SSD instead of the original HDD). Again, the fact that OS upgrades are free, does not mean LESS sales of memory.

    So, as some other commenters have said, the article has flawed logic, the fact that an OS upgrade is free does not mean that RAM sales volume will diminish. If anything, the fact that the upgrade is free means there is more "share of wallet" available to buy RAM and other upgrades in order to make an upgraded machine more snappy.

    • Most people are NOT upgrading Windows XP to Windows 10.
      Most people who do the upgrade come from Windows 7 or 8.1. This is significant because Windows 10 needs LESS resources than Windows 7, so unless you buy a new machine theres no incentive to upgrade.

    • by jrumney ( 197329 )
      Sales of standalone memory may have increased from people not afraid to open their PC and insert some more RAM buying more to keep old PCs going for longer, but what the article is saying is that sales as part of a new PC (which for the majority of consumers is the only way they will ever buy RAM) have dropped. The overall effect is that sales of memory has dropped.
  • So there may be a low right now and DDR4 may go up while DDR3 may go down even more.

  • by guacamole ( 24270 ) on Wednesday October 07, 2015 @05:20AM (#50677763)

    4GB was a decent amount of memory for a new PC in 2010. It's now five years past since then. Even $300 smartphones now have so much ram.

  • The first time I bought RAM it was $40 for 64K.

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