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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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Other factors on memory
By peternelson on 3/20/2006 11:19:22 AM , Rating: 2

Actually the main correlation for dram pricing is supplier inventory levels ;-)

Already to get advantage of dual channel you should put two or more modules in.

Looking at prices from crucial and corsair, already 1GB sticks have almost the same price per MB as 512MB sticks.

Putting that together means 1GB+1GB=2GB is a sensible MINIMUM now.

Only budget pc builders would put ONE stick of 256!

And as most boards have four slots, putting 1+1+1+1=4GB should be considered an enthusiast or power user.

The 667 speed for DDR2 is currently the sweet spot (little or no price premium) so I see no reason to buy any less.

ECC is a little premium if you need it at a small performance penalty.

The BIG question is on the price of 2GB modules. These are still VERY EXPENSIVE. Unfortunately as most boards (eg 975X) still have four slots, it makes populating with 8GB cost-prohibitive. I hope the 2GB module price comes down.

I don't think that pre-buying machines READY for the next OS is very big effect on dram. There are license costs to consider and how to install your OS without backing up your data, desktop settings etc. Most people just buy a new pc with the OS preloaded, and that shop tells them they NEED lots of memory to run it well so they buy more. So the bump occurs AFTER the OS release.

This kinda raises the question whether a new Linux kernel release or say Suse 10.x or even a new game like Half-life2 may also trigger a burst of hardware expenditure? certainly with GPU market.

If you don't put in at least 2GB of 1+1 now YOU ARE A PENNY-PINCHER. If you don't put in 4GB then you can't claim to be "leading" in the performance stakes as an enthusiast user. And if you don't put in 8GB you can't call yourself a high-performance commercial user.

Also although 64 bit has bigger instructions, we're not filling our 2GB/4GB/8GB with instructions, but data.

Those file formats like BMP etc still store things the old way so I don't see much bloat.

On a final point, where I DO see large amount of memory being very useful is VIRTUALISATION. I believe this will drive big memory making 4GB certainly worthwhile in the cost/benefit stakes.




RE: Other factors on memory
By masher2 (blog) on 3/20/2006 11:58:21 AM , Rating: 2
> "ctually the main correlation for dram pricing is supplier inventory levels ;-)"

Only on a short-term basis. Long-term, other factors predominate.

> "if you don't put in 8GB you can't call yourself a high-performance commercial user."

Given 32-bit Windows can't use more than 4GB of RAM without enabling PAE, this statement is rather silly.

You don't buy RAM today for future needs...thats also silly. Memory prices decline...you buy it when you need it. And you certainly don't buy more than you need to fit some preconceptions about how much a "power user" should have.

> "Also although 64 bit has bigger instructions, we're not filling our 2GB/4GB/8GB with instructions, but data. "

Depends on the app...many have code space requirements at least equal to their data requirements. And remember that even data in 64-bit Windows will usually require more storage (unless the developer was very methodical in conversion).



RE: Other factors on memory
By TomZ on 3/20/2006 12:26:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And remember that even data in 64-bit Windows will usually require more storage (unless the developer was very methodical in conversion).

Why do you feel this is? The basic integer size is still 32 bits in 64-bit Windows. I would expect data size to be about the same overall - only pointers are longer.


RE: Other factors on memory
By masher2 (blog) on 3/20/2006 12:34:16 PM , Rating: 2
> " The basic integer size is still 32 bits in 64-bit Windows"
This is true only in the LLP64 programming model. And even here, you have to remember that a fair amount of data storage for most applications is pointer addressses. So even in this model, stack and heap allocation both are going to increase.


RE: Other factors on memory
By kilkennycat on 3/20/2006 12:54:14 PM , Rating: 2
"The BIG question is on the price of 2GB modules. These are still VERY EXPENSIVE. Unfortunately as most boards (eg 975X) still have four slots, it makes populating with 8GB cost-prohibitive. I hope the 2GB module price comes down."

Beware, most current desktop motherboards will not address more than 4GBytes of memory, regardless of DIMM configuration !!



RE: Other factors on memory
By peternelson on 3/20/2006 4:29:59 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for your concern, kilkennycat, but I'm not a TOTAL noob ;-)

Many boards to date have had a limit of 4GB (as does 32 bit windows anyway).

I was meaning current leading boards like highend-Intel chipset and highend Nvidia chipset. These commonly have 8GB or (sometimes) 16GB maximums. Some also support ECC.

Since I believe the 2GB dimm will ultimately get cheaper, buying a board capable of taking it in 4x2GB=8 configuration may be good thinking ahead. The 1GB I initially populate it with can then be sold on or re-purposed into a 4x1GB=4GB machine.

Buying 512MB modules is very short sighted (unless you are doing that deliberately to shave a little time off your latencies).

It is "buyer beware". Always research a motherboard before buying it or a machine using it. If someone buys something with limited expandability they have only themselves to blame.


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