Hot tip: Memory probably isn’t going to get much cheaper

Last Updated on October 22, 2017 by Dave Farquhar

Friday I saw a story from a financial publication suggesting that DDR3 DRAM prices will be increasing soon due to increasing demand for PCs, thanks to Windows 10’s release and the back-to-school season.

That got me thinking, and while memory prices aren’t at an all-time low right now, they are pretty cheap. A Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB kit runs about $105 right now. About two years ago, I paid $99 for the same kit. According to the pricing history available to me, the cheapest it’s ever been was $70, and the highest it’s been is $160.

Miscellaneous computer memory.
This stuff is awfully cheap right now. If you’re looking to stock up, do it now.

I paid $30 for 8 GB of Kingston DDR3 memory back in early 2012, which was just crazy. The reason I don’t expect prices to fall to those levels is because right now the market is split. DDR3 is still mainstream, but performance machines are using DDR4 now. So I don’t think memory can fall to 2012-like levels again until DDR4 is mainstream and taking up most of the production lines. In 2012, when DDR3 was crazy cheap, that was what PCs at every price range were using.

DDR4’s emergence also probably means DDR3 may not get much cheaper again. You can still buy DDR2 memory today for PCs from the later half of the previous decade, but you’ll pay a much higher price per gigabyte for DDR2 than you will for DDR3.

I recommend Crucial, Kingston, and Samsung memory. Kingston tests its memory chips extensively, and Crucial or Samsung make the chips, so they get first pick. Always buy the memory in retail packaging, rather than going by the stamping on the chips. I’ve had more than one dealer tell me he was selling me Micron memory (Micron owns Crucial) because the chips were stamped “Micron.” That doesn’t mean Micron actually assembled the modules.

In my experience, about 1 in 12 generic modules failed on me. Some failed immediately and some failed after some use. When I started buying modules made by reputable makers, my failure rate dropped to about 1 in 1,000. I’m no longer in a position at work where failed memory modules cross my desk, but I’ve kept up that practice when buying memory for myself, and I’ve never personally had a bad module.

What about other brands? For example, EVGA is producing memory now, trying to diversify itself from video cards and motherboards, and they’re pricing their stuff rather aggressively. Most likely their stuff is going to be OK, because a company that knows how to make reliable video cards and motherboards can figure out how to make reliable memory modules rather easily.

So if someone is running a promotion on EVGA or G.Skill or another brand of memory I don’t usually buy, but it’s from a company that makes other computer components, particularly components that cater to overclockers, I probably won’t feel too bad about giving their stuff a try. Their stuff is going to be a lot better than unmarked modules from Ebay, or a computer store in a strip mall that’s been in business for six months.

One thing I won’t pay a premium for are heatsinks. Memory started sporting heatsinks in the early 2000s, because a type of memory called Rambus needed it. As a result, people started associating heatsinks with high-priced, high-performance memory. Rambus never lived up to its promises, and DDR-type memory doesn’t need heatsinks, but the practice remains. I have modules that have them and that don’t have them. They certainly don’t hurt anything, but if I can find something that doesn’t have it, like Kingston ValueRAM, and it’s priced a bit lower than enthusiast memory that sports heatsinks, I’ll buy it.

What about

Don’t bother with If you need more RAM, you need to actually buy some and install it. The owner of that page isn’t too happy with me for telling people that, so I try to mention it as often as I can.


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