Back in July, it emerged that DRAM memory prices could be set to tumble in 2019 due to an oversupply from Samsung and SK Hynix. A new report from TrendForce suggests the DDR4 memory price drop could be even steeper than expected due to a shortage of Intel 14nm CPUs.
If those two things don’t quite correlate in your head, think of it like this: the vast majority of laptops and notebooks use Intel CPUs. Intel is struggling with 14nm production. In particular, its Whiskey Lake platform due to launch in Q3 2018. As there are insufficient supplies of Whiskey Lake processors, notebook shipments are therefore going to be down on forecasts. These notebooks would’ve been using DRAM memory which is now going to head back into the supply channel, worsening the oversupply and, subsequently, prices could drop even further than expected.
“The lack of supply for existing CPU product lines is having a significant impact on the notebook market as a whole,” writes TrendForce, market analysts. “TrendForce estimates that the CPU supply gap in the notebook market has increased from around 5% in August to 5-10% in September. There is a possibility that the supply gap may extend to over 10% in 4Q18, and the shortage is expected to be resolved rather later in 1H19.”
In terms of the products that are affected by this, it’s a wide net that’s been cast. Both Intel’s current products and its upcoming CPUs are going to be affected, including 14nm Coffee Lake plus and the improved 14nm++ revision due shortly. It’s unlikely these CPUs are going to be difficult to find but the knock-on effect is going to be fewer notebooks shipping.
If you’re not in the market for a notebook or an Intel CPU though, then the news is positive. The price of DRAM, including DDR4, has been rising for nine successive quarters, but this price will now begin to drop heading into Q42018. It’s unclear by just how much the prices are going to lower, although previous reports suggest the price could continue to drop well into 2019 and 2020.
On top of this, the Intel CPU shortage could also cause a minor reduction in the price of NAND Flash memory, used in SSDs. A number of notebooks utilise SSD drives and the 3D NAND price drop for Q4 2018 is now predicted to be steeper than previously expected.