Memory prices explained

Ever wondered why a stick of RAM varies so much in price from day to day?

A bit of a consumer-interest story, this one. If you have upgraded your PC recently, you will no doubt have noticed that memory prices are at an all time low. At a decent dealer such as Scan, a 128Mb stick of 133MHz SDRAM will set you back a paltry 47 plus VAT, whereas only a month or two ago it was literally twice that. If you were stung by the price fluctuations and had to buy some at full whack, you could certainly be forgiven for wondering just what was the determining factor here. You see, big OEMs like Dell, Evesham, Time etc, all buy memory direct from the manufacturers are a fairly set price. Whatever is left over is then sold on to the rest of the market, the domestic buyer in this case. Because of the Taiwanese Earthquake last Christmas there was a big shortage, and supply went down to a trickle. At this point, the price to OEMs rose about 10%, but as you will have seen, the price to the consumer leapt by as much as 50% or more, and continued to rise until recently. With only about 20% subject to supply-and-demand pricing, if the OEMs want more, they get it, and we suffer. However recently, the OEMs haven't wanted as much for whatever reason, presumably because of alternative solutions which require RAMBUS or other types of memory. As such, the amount of memory available to the average consumer has grown exponentially, and so the retailers are left with a big surplus that the OEMs won't touch, and frankly not too many consumers are interested in either. As such the prices are dropped to compensate, and the consumer gets a bit of revenge on the tight-fisted retailers, whilst the OEMs are still paying the higher prices. Power to the people!

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About the author

Tom Bramwell

Tom Bramwell

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Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.

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