Does Your PC Need More RAM? Stock Up On DDR5 Or DDR4 Before DRAM Prices Surge

PC memory modules on a wood table.
Let's be real, we've collectively been spoiled by cheap memory prices over the last few years, save for when DDR5 made its grand entrance (much to the delight of scalpers) alongside Intel's Alder Lake CPU platform. But even DDR5 prices have come crashing down like an avalanche since those early premiums. From a price-to-capacity ratio, now is a great time to be in the market for memory, though once again market research firm TrendForce warns that DRAM contract prices are on the rise.

Looking at the DRAM market as a whole, TrendForce says contract prices are on track to surge anywhere from 13-18% this quarter, with mobile DRAM leading the charge. As for DRAM that ends up in your PC, contract prices are expected to shoot up by at least 10% and by as much as 15% during the first quarter of 2024.

TrendForce breaks it down further, stating that DDR4 contract prices are set to go up 8-13% this quarter, while DDR5 will see bigger price hikes to the tune of 10-15%.

TrendForce chart of DRAM contract price projections.

"Manufacturers are aggressively raising contract prices, which has prompted buyers to stockpile early. This has greatly improved purchasing momentum," TrendForce states. "However, the first quarter coincides with the industry’s off-season, and end sales are expected to be weak and lead to increased inventory levels due to buyers’ early stocking strategies."

Obviously it's great for consumers to have access to dirt cheap memory, but not so swell for chip suppliers. And with the demand outlook for 2024 being uncertain, chip makers implemented "sustained production cuts" in hopes of both stopping the bleeding and driving memory prices back up.

An interesting aside to all this is that chip manufacturers anticipate DDR4 being partially phased out.

"Manufacturers generally believe that in 2024—with the expanding penetration of HBM and DDR5 each quarter—low-margin DDR4 capacity will be crowded out, thereby leading to shortages," TrendForce adds in its latest DRAM report.

That's a bit of a bold prediction, particularly as Intel continues to support both DDR4 and DDR5 on its latest-generation platforms. Meanwhile, AMD has gone all-in with DDR5 on its Zen 4 platform, though its previous-generation Zen 3 platform supporting DDR4 is holding strong.

In any event, if you're in the market for a memory upgrade, the advice is the same as it has been for several months now—go ahead and pull the trigger before prices go up.
Tags:  memory, RAM, DRAM, ddr4, ddr5