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GDDR6, Other GPU VRAM Pricing Expected to Jump Next Quarter

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When Nvidia’s RTX 3070 Ti and RTX 3080 Ti first appeared on radar, the persistent rumor was that these GPUs would feature much more memory than the base cards — 20GB and 16GB, respectively. Rumors of GPU memory shortages were reportedly behind Nvidia’s decision to delay the cards. When they finally launched recently, the RTX 3080 Ti got a very modest bump to 12GB, while the RTX 3070 Ti keeps its 8GB buffer.

A new report from TrendForce suggests an ongoing and severe DRAM shortage in the market. The company writes:

Quotes for graphics DRAM products continue to rise in the contract market as the severe undersupply situation persists. Furthermore, the supply fulfillment rates for orders from some medium- and small-size clients have been hovering around 30%. This undersupply situation is expected to persist through 3Q21, during which graphics DRAM contract prices are expected to rise by 8-13% QoQ.

And that’s the good news. If you’re buying DRAM on the spot market, you can expect to pay considerably more than on contract — up to 100 percent more, down from 200 percent during the height of the cryptocurrency boom.

Image by TrendForce

The higher price on the RTX 3070 Ti is probably at least partly a response to the increasing price of VRAM, along with the higher price of GDDR6X compared with GDDR6. It’s also likely that Nvidia didn’t outfit the cards with more memory because it couldn’t guarantee delivery in reasonable time periods.

There are four factors feeding this trend. First, demand for gaming products remains very high across the PC market. Second, DRAM suppliers treat Nvidia preferentially and have allocated capacity to that company as opposed to smaller suppliers. Third, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 both use 16Gb GDDR6 chips, not 8Gb GDDR6, and manufacturers have to choose which product to focus on. You can’t produce both from any given run of wafers. Finally, a resurgence in data center sales means companies are prioritizing this memory, as well.

There is, however, some good news. Cryptocurrency miners are not buying every single GPU under the sun any longer, which means prices on ordinary GDDR5 are falling. We might see some reasonably new, lower-end GPUs hit prices that don’t break the bank over the next few weeks, though the situation for high-end cards is not expected to immediately improve.

An increase in VRAM price doesn’t necessarily mean the cost of GPUs will rise, but it does mean that we’re still facing supply shortfalls. Estimates for when this situation will improve have varied, with more optimistic reports suggesting GPUs could become more widely available by the end of Q3. Pessimistic reports indicate the situation could persist into 2022.

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