Are They Dead?
For the past couple of weeks, insiders in the memory industry have been talking about the end of Samsung TCCD IC's. This would be a devastating blow to the overclocking/enthusiast community as these are currently the only IC's that can hit low latency timings of 2-2-2-5 for DDR1 memory. Many in the hardware community will recall the famous Winbond BH-5 IC's, and when their production ended the industry was without any true low latency memory. Corsair was a godsend when months later they came out with their XMS XL memory featuring Samsung TCCD IC's, and thus, the rebirth of 2-2-2-5 memory. Once the Corsair XMS XL modules hit the market every memory company under the sun started using the same Samsung IC's on their high performance memory lines. If you are an overclocker/gamer/enthusiast chances are you have heard of these IC's!
The article posted today by The Inq's Will Harris didn't give all the details that the overclocker/enthusiasts need to know. This was made obvious by the amount of mail we received after the article made its way around to various forums and news sites. The most common questions were: Is this article factual? Should I buy more memory now? How long will the current TCCD supply last? What's going to replace the Samsung TCCD IC? Today we have been in contact with Corsair, Kingston, OCZ, Muskin, and Samsung. Instead of giving you "rumors" from various sources we thought that it'd be nice to get official comments from each company about the Samsung TCCD article and see what the truth is from the people that matter.
We also have some interesting information reguarding some of the Winbond IC's that you all know and used to love. You will have to make it to the end of the article to find out about what we have to say on the Winbond IC's though! ;)
What the Memory Companies Say
For this article we went straight to some the biggest enthusiast memory producers in the world and got comments from them on the issue. All of the comments seen here were taken on the afternoon of Feb 9, 2005.
Corsair Memory: Joe
"We've heard the rumors too, but reality seems to be a bit different. We think we're by far Samsung's biggest customer for that chip. We haven't experienced any shortages recently, in fact our sales of XL modules are at record levels. And we just renewed our contract with Samsung so we don't anticipate any shortages in the near future. I don't know about the rest of the market, but Corsair is in good shape."
After speaking with Corsair Memory it is clear that they are not worried about the current rumors. Corsair Memory currently does have large stock of TCCD IC's and also noted that they have a six month contract for additional monthly shipments from Samsung. While I can't disclose the amount of IC's they get monthly, it is a large number and everything is going just fine.
Kingston Technology: Heather
"Today, Kingston does not have any availability issues with our Low Latency HyperX products. However, like the stock market, the memory industry is volatile and can change at any time. Kingston's HyperX modules are not always manufactured with a particular build of material (ie. DRAM). With qualified DRAM we are able to use multiple vendors. This enables Kingston to maintain flexibility. We work with all of the top tier DRAM companies and will continue to do so."
Kingston states that they have no availability issues with the Samsung TCCD's used on their Low Latency HyperX memory. Kingston also hinted that even if there is an issue, they are always working on the next best thing.
Mushkin Memory: Tom
?We have been in contact with our Samsung representatives and have been closely monitoring the Samsung TCCD IC news stories. Currently only our Mushkin High Performance Black memory uses those IC?s. Mushkin has plenty of chips and expect our current stock to last a good month to a month in a half. Mushkin is not directly impacted by the recent rumors and expect everything to pass once the inventory situation is corrected.?
From what Mushkin understands, Samsung is not permanently ending production on the TCCD?s. Samsung has a large inventory of non-TCCD IC?s and is trying to clear out the inventory. Once the other IC?s are out of the warehouse, Samsung will again start producing TCCD?s in March 2005ish.
OCZ Technology: Ryan
"Back in late 2004 Samsung stated that they stopped making the TCCD IC's in 'production quantity.' This could be part of the rumors that we are seeing today. OCZ expects to have supply on these parts for the foreseeable future. We already have a non-samsung based 2-2-2 part on the market anyway. I dont see the big deal here, winbond stopped production 6 months before the product started to get hard to buy! Why are people freaking out?"
OCZ again confirms that there is no major supply issue on their side and go on to state they have other non-samsung IC's that they use on certain 2-2-2 memory modules. And we too would like to know why people are freaking out!
Final Thoughts & Discussion
Nathan Kirsch's Thoughts:
From what we found out today from Corsair, Kingston, and Mushkin is that the memory industry is not worried about the recent concerns dealing with Samsung ending production on the TCCD IC's. To be honest, not once were the words discontinued or EOL (End of Line) used in our conversations. If you were one of the people this morning running around telling all your friends to buy TCCD based memory today you now know that is not the case.
Enthusiasts and news reporters need to understand that the memory industry is very volatile. Memory IC's are sorted and classified to fit in a certain speed range. If one run turns out low yields then the output for that period will be low. It's not that they are not producing the IC's, it is just that they did not meet the requirements. Also, memory companies have to buy the "fallout" in order to get the good stuff. This means if a memory company wants to get a couple hundred thousand TCCD IC's they must also buy some of the IC's that didn't make that speed grade as part of the deal for their value memory lines. That way they don't have millions of IC's that no one wants. So, it basically looks like the TCCD IC's will be under tight supply unless you are under contract with Samsung or want to take a bunch of the fallout IC's.
In other news, we also found out today that Winbond began producing CH-5 IC's in limited numbers. Many enthusiasts will recall the CH-5's, as they were the next best thing after the BH-5's ran out. The CH-5 IC was able to do 2-3-2-6 timings at PC-3200 during its first production run. While limited numbers are being produced (1,000,000 IC's monthly), we wouldn't be suprised if Winbond brought back other famous IC's if the need for them came back. **BH-5 Anyone??**
I hope that everyone now has a better picture of what is going on. Samsung might be changing some of their production output, but it doesn't look like it will cause 2-2-2 to drop off the face of the planet.
Legit Bottom Line:
Ultra Low Latency DDR1 memory isn't going to disappear overnight. Actually, it doesn't look like it is going to be discontinued for some time, and by then DDR2 memory should be readily used on the new enthusiast platforms!