Vista and the Quest for More Memory
March 19, 2006 8:40 PM
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Peak growths for DRAM memory have occured with major Windows launches - Courtesy SEC Marketing
How Vista will affect your next memory purchase...
With Windows Vista’s anticipated launch later this year, a concern on everyone’s mind is how Vista will tax existing PC platforms. Although the new graphical user interface will require DirectX 9 support, and Intel G965 (or better) graphic accelerators, the real question mark in everyone’s minds is where DRAM requirements will head for Windows Vista. Baseline Vista offerings will require 512MB of DRAM just to install, with a 1GB recommendation -- but is there more to this story?
Integrated graphics from ATI, Intel, and NVIDIA all use shared memory architectures. This means that even though the graphics core is on the motherboard Northbridge, the graphics controller accesses memory from the system main memory. Low end, PCIe 3D accelerations from ATI, and NVIDIA also use shared memory support, using in excess of 256MB of system DRAM in exchange for a dirt cheap graphics accelerator. On these systems the Vista recommendation for 512MB is not acceptable as a significant amount of main memory is consumed by the graphics accelerators.
Furthermore, Windows Vista will come with a new feature called Superfetch. With Windows XP, Microsoft included a feature called Prefetch: a dynamic service that preemptively loads files into the pagefile in order to speed up application load time. Superfetch advances further in two steps. Step one is to build profiles of frequently used applications and store those profiles into the pagefile, and system memory. Step two is to pool NAND and all other available memory to move as much of the pagefile as possible off the hard drive and onto the solid state memory. As a result, anyone with a heavy usage profile will have a significant portion of their system memory dedicated to application data.
At IDF we recently had the opportunity to talk to Tom Trill, Samsung Semiconductor's Director of DRAM Marketing. An interesting point Trill mentioned to us is that system integrators generally spend 6-8% of the system cost on memory. Retail DDR2-667 crossed over into the $80 USD per gigabyte range a few months ago with the price for system integrators hovering around $60. AMD and Intel both have new processors expected to utilize DDR2-800 before the Q4 launch of Windows Vista. By conservative estimates, we can expect to see the average system integrator bundle new computers with 1GB of DDR2-667 by the end of this year.
Samsung’s internal research recently published a figure claiming that the average PC system (including SI, OEM and home built computers) averages 871MB of DRAM in 2005, up from 620MB the year before. The DRAM industry has traditionally seen large growth around the launches of Windows operating system such as Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows XP. With large growth come large economies of scale, and ultimately lower prices for DRAM are on the horizon. Furthermore, with cheaper DRAM prices, system integrators are free to integrate more memory into the magic 6-8% budget. With such favorable trends, seeing 2GB of memory as a standard in every PC by the end of this year would be of no surprise to us at all.
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3/19/2006 9:20:47 PM
I know I'll get flamed for this,
but this sounds cool.
Vista will keep my commonly used programs in ram, good.
That should mean faster startup times for those programs.
By the time Vista finally comes out (who knows),
power users like us will commonly have 2+GB of ram.
(many of us already do)
As for the argument entry-level computers won't cut it...
you know this new superfetch will be smart -
if the system is running low on ram, it'll simply eject portions of those prefetched executables.
Besides, I just looked at dell.com.
Their $399 special has 512MB of ram,
and just $50 more will upgrade it to a gig.
3/20/2006 3:02:45 AM
Someone might flame you for that comment, but I certainly won't. I completely agree with you that Superfetch sounds like a cool feature (assuming it works as advertised).
Frankly, there are a lot of things about Windows Vista that seem really cool. I have no problem with upgrading my computer to take advantage of all the nifty new stuff. That's just the nature of the computer industry.
3/20/2006 3:17:33 AM
Good. I have 1GB on my laptop and I've never seen my peak commit charge exceed 480MB on XP. Now at least I'll be putting that extra memory to use.
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