DRAM Price Increases in Q3 May Be Smaller Than Expected

Good news for anyone anticipating buying DRAM in the next few months. While DRAM prices spiked in Q2 2021 thanks to high demand and limited supply, the bulk of the price increase is thought to be behind us. While Trendforce expects prices to increase in Q3 2021, the jump should be smaller than typical.

Trendforce now predicts DRAM contract prices to grow by 3-8 percent in Q3, down from 18-23 percent in Q2 2021. The company also believes that DRAM supply will continue to grow in Q3 and Q4 of this year, which should limit further price increases.

While mobile demand has been aggressive, PC manufacturers are holding a consistent 8-10 weeks of inventory. Trendforce notes that this is fairly high and believes manufacturers will be relatively conservative in their DRAM purchases as a result. The reason we’re still seeing an overall supply crunch is that server DRAM demand is rising, but not enough to offset the relatively high levels of inventory also being carried by server manufacturers. As a result, server DRAM prices are expected to grow by 5-10 percent in Q3, in line with PC DRAM estimates.

The mobile DRAM market (this appears to mostly mean smartphones) is in a different shape. The company notes that mobile DRAM pricing will “defy market realities and increase by 5-15 percent QoQ, with potential risks of high price and low demand.”

GDDR6 prices are still expected to increase 8-13 percent next quarter, in line with reports from early June. Trendforce notes that demand for GDDR6 still vastly outstrips supply and that fully 90 percent of graphics DRAM products have migrated to the new memory standard. Memory manufacturers are expected to prioritize server DRAM requirements first and foremost, so graphics DRAM prices will increase as well.

News of modest GPU VRAM price increases will be met with rejoicing — or at least something near enough to it — provided GPU prices come down overall. The price of new GPUs has been as high as 300 percent above MSRP in recent months. China’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies has sent demand for new GPUs plunging and we’re hoping to see evidence of cheaper GPU prices in weeks to come. An 8-13 percent increase in VRAM price is literally a small price to pay compared with the sky-high cost of new cards since last fall.

The implication of these trends, in aggregate, is that PC hardware prices should start stabilizing over the next six months. We’re still in a situation where demand is likely to outstrip supply, but no one is forecasting additional demand surges at the moment. Chip production is slowly increasing quarter-on-quarter as manufacturers bring more capacity online, and this will help buffer the seasonal increases in demand that normally occur in the back half of the year. Trendforce does not mention DDR5 at all in its statements, but we should see early DDR5 shipments by the end of the year. This may not have much impact on the total market, but it may take some pressure off the demand for DDR4, depending on just how popular these systems are.

Feature image by Pete, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

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