If you are one of the Sandy Bridge stalwarts, Ivy Bridge ironclads, Haswell holdouts, or Broadwell braves, we have some slightly unsettling news; market researchers at TrendForce have noted a "rapidly shrinking supply" of consumer DDR3 RAM in the channel. That sounds precipitous, but its expectations are that we will see DDR3 price rises by as much as 5% in the coming quarter.
The impending price rises are result of a pincer movement of sorts, according to the semiconductor industry researchers. On one side of the market, we see some suppliers speeding to withdraw from DDR3 production and rebalance their memory portfolio in favor of DDR5. The other serrated jaw of the pincer is industrial buyers stockpiling for the fear of shortages around the corner.
South Korean DDR3 EOL on the Horizon
TrendForce has some other interesting information nuggets concerning DRAM makers' plans for DDR3. Most interestingly, it says that both Samsung and SK Hynix are scaling back with a view to declaring EOL (end of life) for their DDR3 offerings. Micron has no such plans though, and the source understands this significant DRAM maker will be producing DDR3 past 2026. Smaller DDR3 players in Taiwan and China aren't expected to have any capacity to add over the next couple of years, and some have spoken about DDR5 aspirations recently.
Industrial buyers, rather than consumers, may be instrumental to assure continued DDR3 output (and therefore availability to consumers). This older, slower memory standard is still a common choice in high-volume products like set-top box electronics (now often integrated into the TV) and networking devices.
What Are DDR3 Stalwarts to Do?
If you have say 4GB of DDR3 RAM installed in your Sandy Bridge PC, then it might be time to double up to 8GB, ponder thoughtfully over 12GB or take the plunge and upgrade to a 16GB system. Scanning online shopping sites today, you can get an 8GB DDR3 DIMM for comfortably less than $30. However, even if TrendForce's worst prediction of a 5% price increase comes to pass, that means a price increase from $30 to $31.50 reaching consumers by June.
Some might be able to rely on the used market for DDR3 modules, if the worst happens. It is unlikely there will be a significant amount of other DDR3 stalwarts at that time, causing an uneven balance between available lower-capacity and higher capacity memory modules.
Today, DDR4 users pay approximately the same for an 8GB module, as DDR3 users, depending on the retailer. At the time of writing DDR5 8GB module pricing starts at $80 to $90, with fewer brand/rating options. This is one of the reasons that Intel Alder Lake motherboards with DDR4 slots seem to be popular, even through the platform can support DDR5. There is always an exception though, and we reported on a motherboard recently with both DDR4 and DDR5 support. It will be interesting to see whether AMD's next chipset will support both of these DDR memory generations.
If you are in the market for some new memory we haven't published a DDR3 guide for some time, but we updated our Best RAM for Gaming: DDR4, DDR5 Kits just a fortnight ago.
Regardless, a high-end, expandable older laptop like a Dell M4800 or M6800 with a 4th generation 4-core 8 thread CPU, 32GB of memory, and SSD will be a fast system for all but the most intensive tasks. And the bonus is that it's cheap, the docking stations are cheap. $400 versus $1200 or more.
Newer Dell precision laptops are not nearly as well built and are not nearly as expandable. I used to buy top of the line stuff in the past, but began realizing that I was wasting money. Over the past few years, I've purchased of Ebay: 2 Dell M4800's, a M6700, and a M4700. I also own 3 Dell XPS 13 convertible laptop/tablets (one I bought used). Still running 2 older i5-2500 systems, and two AMD Phenom X4 II systems.
I did break down and upgrade the MB and CPU on my tower workstation to a Z590 MB with an Intel i5-11500, with 32GB of memory, for around $600 total price. Upgrading a desktop is far more affordable than a laptop, and it's nice having 12 cores, versus 4. But getting something like this in a laptop is far more expensive.
DDR4 bargain RAM is pretty scarce as well, so it's not looking good.
Those systems, especially in i7 form(It is a dirt cheap upgrade now), are still plenty fast to game on and run win10 with no issues
Soon we will experience demand for DDR3 from Russia where people under new iron curtain, sanctions and limited access to decent computer tech will try to keep their aging systems in working conditions.