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Samsung readies faster, cheaper memory

The RDRAM chip's increases in speed and density are likely to mean additional system performance for high-end desktops using Intel's Pentium 4 processor.

Samsung has finished development of a faster, denser--and cheaper--RDRAM chip.

The increases in speed and density are likely to benefit PC users by delivering additional system performance to high-end desktops using Intel's Pentium 4 processor. Samsung says it is also aiming the chips at workstations and servers.

The faster new chips will also cost less to manufacture than current RDRAM chips, Samsung said. This would work to help quell one of the main criticisms of the Rambus technology: its cost. Currently, RDRAM-based PCs cost about $100 more than similarly configured SDRAM offerings.

Volume production of the new RDRAM chips is slated for the second quarter of next year, Samsung said.

In the new chip, the density will increase to 567 megabits per chip and the speed will rise to 1,066MHz, vs. today's maximum of 256 megabits and 800MHz.

The chips are likely to be packaged in RDRAM inline memory modules (RIMMs) with a capacity of 1GB or greater. At the same time, the faster memory would likely be paired with a faster 533MHz Pentium 4 front-side bus, which Intel is expected to launch next year. The bus provides a data pathway between the processor and system memory. Current Pentium 4 chips feature a 400MHz bus.

All told, Samsung says the new RDRAM can process data four times faster than the fastest standard memory, 266MHz double data rate SDRAM.

But despite its higher speeds, RDRAM has seen slow adoption rates because of production delays and high initial costs. As a result, the technology is currently available only in high-end Pentium 4 systems.

PC makers chose to use standard SDRAM for higher-volume, lower-priced Pentium 4 PCs, based on Intel's recently introduced 845 chipset.

Samsung plans to reduce the cost of the RDRAM chips in part by using a more advanced 0.12 micron manufacturing process. This would allow it to decrease the size of the chips and therefore make more of them per wafer, lowering per-chip manufacturing cost. The wafer, a round disc that's usually 8 inches in diameter, is the basic unit of chip production.

The new RDRAM offering follows the roadmap that Rambus laid out last June. Over the next four years, the company's goal is to increase RDRAM's clock speed to 1.2GHz, while boosting its bandwidth to 9.6GB per second.