Where video cards have had to deal with mining cost, memory and SSD products have had to deal with NAND supply and cost. Looks like video cards may soon join the party, as – according to DigiTimes and sources familiar with SK Hynix & Samsung supply – quotes in August increased 30.8% for manufacturers. That’s a jump from $6.50 in July to $8.50 in August.

It sounds as if this stems from a supply-side deficit, based on initial reporting, and that’d indicate that products with a higher count of memory modules should see a bigger price hike. From what we’ve read, mobile devices (like gaming notebooks) may be more immediately impacted, with discrete cards facing indeterminate impact at this time.

We’ve been writing about the latest memory and Flash price increases for a bit now – and this does seem to happen every few years – but relief remains distant. The memory supply is limited for a few reasons right now, including new R&D processes by the big suppliers (Samsung, Toshiba, SK Hynix, Micron) as some of the suppliers attempt to move toward new process technology. More immediately and critical, the phone industry’s launch cycle is on the horizon, and that means drastically increased memory sales to phone vendors. Supply is finite – it has to come out of inventory somewhere, and that tends to be components. As enthusiasts, that’s where we see the increased prices come into play.

Professional overclocker Toppc recently set another world record for DDR4 SDRAM frequency. Using a set of G.SKILL DDR4 sticks (an unidentified kit from the Trident Z RGB line) bestriding an MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard, Toppc was able to achieve a 5.5 GHz DDR4 frequency—approximately a 500 MHz improvement over his record from last year.

Toppc’s new record is verified by HWBot, accompanied by a screenshot of CPU-Z and Toppc’s extreme cooling setup, which involved LN2. Although an exact temperature was not provided, and details on the aforementioned G.SKILL kit are scant, we do know that the modules used Samsung 8GB ICs. Based on the limited information, we can infer or postulate that this is probably a new product from G.SKILL, as they announced new memory kits at Computex.

With nVidia’s recent GTX 1080Ti announcement and GTX 1080 price cut, graphics cards have seen reductions in cost this week. As stated in our last sales post, hardware sales are hard to come by right now, but we have still found some deals worth noting. We found an RX 480 8GB for $200, and a GTX 1080 for $500. DDR4 prices are still high, but some savings can be had on a couple of kits of DDR4 by G.SKILL.

The finer distinctions between DDR and GDDR can easily be masked by the impressive on-paper specs of the newer GDDR5 standards, often inviting an obvious question with a not-so-obvious answer: Why can’t GDDR5 serve as system memory?

In a simple response, it’s analogous to why a GPU cannot suffice as a CPU. Being more incisive, CPUs are comprised of complex cores using complex instruction sets in addition to on-die cache and integrated graphics. This makes the CPU suitable for the multitude of latency sensitive tasks often beset upon it; however, that aptness comes at a cost—a cost paid in silicon. Conversely, GPUs can apportion more chip space by using simpler, reduced-instruction-set based cores. As such, GPUs can feature hundreds, if not thousands of cores designed to process huge amounts of data in parallel. Whereas CPUs are optimized to process tasks in a serial/sequential manner with as little latency as possible, GPUs have a parallel architecture and are optimized for raw throughput.

While the above doesn’t exactly explicate any differences between DDR and GDDR, the analogy is fitting. CPUs and GPUs both have access to temporary pools of memory, and just like both processors are highly specialized in how they handle data and workloads, so too is their associated memory.

At the tail-end of a one-day trip across the country, this episode of Ask GN tides us over until our weekend burst of further content production. We’re currently working on turning around a few case reviews, some game benchmarks, and implementing new thermal calibrators and high-end equipment.

In the meantime, this episode addresses questions involving “doubled” DRAM prices, delidding plans for the i7-7700K, contact between a heatsink and the back of a video card, and a few other topics. Check back posthaste as we’ll ramp into publication of our i5-7600K review within the next day.

Video below, timestamps below that:

As predicted, DRAM-dependent components continue to grow more expensive as demand outpaces supply. Nanya Technology president Pei-Ing Lee confirmed that their DRAM’s average price will increase in the first and second quarter of 2017.

When we published our “Why Are RAM Prices So High” article in 2014, DRAM was transitioning to 25nm wafers—and now it’s transitioning again, this time to 20nm. Prices in the second half of 2017 are expected to stabilize, but depend largely on how quickly manufacturers gear up for the move to smaller dies—Nanya Technology will be simultaneously increasing 20nm production while cutting down on 30nm going into 2018.

SK Hynix has been busy as of late. We most recently covered their plans for expansion, which offered a cursory foretaste into what 2017 might hold for the semiconductor supplier. SK Hynix has also recently further delineated plans for 2017, trailing behind their still-fresh announcement of the industry’s first 8GB LPDDR4X-4266 DRAM packages aimed at next-generation mobile devices.

In revealing plans, SK Hynix intends to volumize production of new types of memory—not altogether unexpected. Their primary focus on NAND production and expansion over DRAM is most noteworthy, at least for impermanent future. As such, SK Hynix intends to start volume production of 72-layer 3D TLC NAND (3D-V4). For reference, SK Hynix’s 36-layer and 48-layer NAND were 3D-V2 and 3D-V3, respectively. Notable about SK Hynix’s fourth version of 3D NAND is that it will use block sizes of 13.5 MB over the 9 MB sizes of the second and third generation predecessors. Furthermore, SK Hynix intends to roll-out 256 Gb 3D TLC ICs by Q2 2017, with 512 Gb 3D TLC ICs coming in Q4 2017. SK Hynix’s new 72-layer 3D NAND should allow for higher capacity SSDs in smaller form factors and increase performance on a per IC basis.

Optane is Intel’s latest memory technology. The long-term goal for Optane is for it to be used as a supplemental system memory, caching storage, and primary storage inside PCs. Intel claims that Optane is faster than Flash NAND, only slightly slower than DRAM, has higher endurance than NAND, and, due to its density, will be about half the cost of DRAM. The catch with all of these claims is that Intel has yet to release any concrete data on the product.

What we do know is that Lenovo announced that they will be using a 16GB M.2 Optane drive for caching in a couple of their new laptops during Q1 2017. Intel also announced that another 32GB caching drive should be available later in the year, something we’ve been looking into following CES 2017. This article will look into what Intel Optane actually is, how we think it works, and whether it's actually a viable device for the enthusiast market.

CORSAIR today announced updates to their flagship K95 keyboard and their SCIMITAR gaming mouse (the CORSAIR marketing department really likes capital letters). The Scimitar Pro is out now and the K95 Platinum will be available sometime later this month, but both are at Corsair’s CES exhibit. We’ll also be covering Corsair’s RGB Vengeance memory and, albeit briefly, new “gaming” chair.

The K95 Platinum starts at $200 and has already replaced its non-platinum predecessor on the Corsair products page. For comparison, Newegg is selling the older version with Cherry MX Brown or Red switches for $170 (with some extra keycaps thrown in).

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