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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RE: Other factors on memory
3/20/2006 4:29:59 PM
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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