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Owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, TrendForce expects the increase in DRAM prices in 3Q20 to be drastically diminished compared to 2Q20 increases; the prices of some memory products may even take a downturn in 4Q20. But Graphics DRAM prices are likely to remain constant or undergo a small increase in 2H20.
Under pressure from its competitor AMD having already incorporated 7nm process in 2019, leading GPU manufacturer NVIDIA plans to announce its first 7nm product, the new Ampere GPU, which is fully equipped with GDDR6 memory, in 3Q20. Ampere has significantly improved specifications compared to GPUs from the previous generation. Similarly, AMD plans to announce its 7nm+ BIG NAVI GPU in 3Q20 and lists GDDR6 memory as standard configuration, with possible upgrades to memory density.
TrendForce indicates that both NVIDIA and AMD will be focusing on the discrete graphics card market at first with the release of their new GPUs, with the official time for notebook computer adoption expected in 1H21, but under the incentive of substantially increased performance and power consumption, a wave of graphics card replacement is expected to occur in the market, further stimulating the demand for GDDR6 memory.
Aside from the release of new discrete graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD, the market is also anticipating the release of Xbox Series X and PS5 by Microsoft and Sony, respectively, to be announced in 4Q20. With regards to hardware specifications, in addition to the remarkable increases in CPU speed, both consoles will be sporting GPUs with 16 GB of the highest specifications of GDDR6 memory, which is not only double the density of the existing consoles, but also superior to mainstream graphics cards’ 6-8 GB of memory. The release of new consoles is expected to substantially increase the bit consumption for Graphics DRAM.
As a relatively niche and high-end product, Graphics DRAM accounts for approximately 6% of total bit consumption in the DRAM market. Since Graphics DRAM targets high data transfer speed and low power consumption, it is significantly more difficult to design compared to other memory products. Therefore, Graphics DRAM has the most expensive production cost per GB out of all DRAM applications. On the premise of a conservative supply growth this year, although DRAM suppliers are capable of implementing conversion in the production capacity for internal product categories, the fact that GDDR6 is a relatively niche product that contains high manufacturing difficulty makes it tougher for the suppliers to conduct large-scale capacity conversions similar to the conversion from mobile DRAM to server DRAM.
In terms of suppliers, Samsung and Micron began mass producing GDDR6 memory and deploying it into client products in 2019. As for SK Hynix, the company remains committed to improving the yield rate and stability of its products and plans to release GDDR6 memory at the end of the year. TrendForce projects the penetration rate of GDDR6 memory to continue substantially increasing in 2020, from 40% in 2019 to 70% this year, and exceed 90% in 2021.
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