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Planning On Buying SSDs? You Should Do It Soon

Planning On Buying SSDs? You Should Do It Soon

by Low Boon ShenApril 28, 2023
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Planning On Buying SSDs? You Should Do It Soon

When it comes to PC products, the last few years has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride as far as pricing is concerned. Right now – especially for SSDs, we’re sitting on what is likely the lowest point of the entire ride: meaning, the prices of solid state drives has been the cheapest per GB historically. Let me put up a few example, based on my own observations.

Planning On Buying SSDs? You Should Do It Soon

ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro (1TB model pictured).

I had been watching the pricing on certain SSD models for a while (since I was one of the prospective buyers at the time), and I’ve especially paid attention to two models in particular: ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro, and Kingston FURY Renegade SSD. The former is the older PCIe 3.0 drive, whereas the latter is the more recent model running on PCIe 4.0 standard. For simplicity’s sake we won’t be talking about PCIe 5.0 drives for now – since they are very new and price aren’t settling in just yet.

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Kingston FURY Renegade SSD.

Below is the pricing I recorded in two points of time (price averaged, as they vary from shop-to-shop):

1H 2021 Today (April 2023)
ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro (2TB) ~RM950 ~RM650
Kingston FURY Renegade SSD (4TB, without heatsink) ~RM3,800 ~RM1,900

Keep in mind that both models are considered high-end parts (though intriguingly, ADATA continued to release its PCIe 3.0 successor, SX8600 Pro in late 2021 when PCIe 4.0 is already somewhat mainstream at the time). So lower-end models, such as Crucial P3 4TB can dip below RM1,300 at current pricing. For reference, GIGABYTE’s new AORUS Gen5 10000 costs RM1,500 with the 2TB version.

How Did It Become This Cheap?

To answer this question we have to go back to the year 2020. And what’s the biggest thing to happen that year? Yes, Covid-19. The most widespread outbreak in modern society’s history has rendered much of the society isolated in homes instead of offices, and with that, many people suddenly finds out their old laptops or PCs are not up to the task of working-from-home. Others, while not necessarily needing a PC to work, they may need it to play games with friends, as social activities are largely restricted at the time.

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Image: Samsung

This has prompted huge demands for the laptops and PCs, and their surrounding parts. Webcams, SSDs, RAM, the silicon itself, and who can forget the most infamous of them all – GPUs? But anyway, let’s get back to SSDs. Memory manufacturers, like Samsung, Micron, SK Hynix, Kioxia, don’t just sell their stuff to customers – their parts can be seen in laptops and prebuilt PCs as well, sometimes even on specialized industrial systems.

So when demand shot up in the early days of the pandemic, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the demand and the term “chip shortage” is all over the news. This is made worse with the reduced on-site workforce for the very same reason, further reducing manufacturing capacity on some low-level components such as chip substrates. The situation was bad enough that even automotive industry has halted for a while as the chips aren’t available to run their cars on.

A Costly Strategy Mistake

Companies at the time understandably thought this is a very terrible situation – all the demands but they couldn’t fulfil meant plenty of potential revenue lost this way. What they did is to crank up production capacity literally up to 11 – some factories are said to be churning out at 105% or even more than it usually does on full tilt just to keep up with the demand. However, you can’t just turn up and down your production capacity like a knob, it’s a long process that take at least months, if not years to kick in (such as building a new factory, for example).

However, all these decisions above are made on the basis that we’re entering “new normal” – masks, social distancing, a new work-from-home focused society (Mark Zuckerberg even went as far to bet his entire company with the whole ‘metaverse’ idea, which obviously backfired hard on him). The reality turned out to be less so – people are returning to on-site work, social activities have largely returned to pre-pandemic levels, and while WFH is still a thing, the demand for PC has already been slowing down.

Aside from consumers, companies are also stocking up lots of inventory to avoid another supply shortage situation (which is contrary to ‘Just-in-time’ production methodology to save costs, pioneered by Toyota in the 1960s). This effectively makes the new ones coming out of manufacturing production unable to move on either the consumer or downstream builders (such as OEMs), making matters even worse for the manufacturers.

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Image: Anandtech / TrendForce

At this point, companies are watching trainwreck in slow motion as their supply is getting way too much for the oversaturated, downsized market to digest. That has caused a bunch of weird things: the aforementioned memory manufacturers are actually losing huge amounts of revenue, and the prices for commodity PC parts like DRAM and SSD has crashed so hard that companies are very close if not already selling at a loss. Even if they reacted by reducing production capacity – which they are doing right now to stop the price crash – the effects will take a few months before it settles into the market.

Trending Upwards

SSDs in particular also benefits from its unique situation for even lower pricing. Take PCIe 4.0 drives – since the newer PCIe 5.0 SSD has begin to enter the storage market, naturally the older generation hardware will receive some degree of price cuts in order to clear the remaining stock as companies phases out the production of these models. Combined with the reduced production, this means that PCIe 4.0 SSDs are likely reaching its lowest point in price at this point and the only way at this point is more likely towards up rather than down.

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Image: Newegg

And such situation may not repeat itself again. The industry has clearly learned its lessons from this unprecedented pandemic, and work is being done to make sure the supply and demand do not experience another massive shock like this one. That includes localizing production – as major powers like US is attracting TSMC to build a factory in Arizona to maintain some degree of supply domestically, and TSMC themselves is building a new factory in Japan as well.

Aside from that, even with the promises of QLC and even PLC (penta-level cell) SSDs making into the market in the future, they are unlikely to beat the mainstream TLC SSDs in performance, and their current value. There may not be another supply shortage and the subsequent crash like this one in the future – so if you are planning to buy one, best to buy it within this year to maximize value, latest.

Info Source: Tom’s Hardware | Reuters | Anandtech | Wccftech | Toyota | BBC

About The Author
Low Boon Shen
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