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ATI speeds up memory chips

The graphics-chip contender completes specifications for a new type of memory chip it claims is twice as fast as what's now on the market.

Graphics-chip contender ATI Technologies has completed specifications for a new type of memory chip it claims is twice as fast as what's now on the market.

The new design, announced by ATI on Monday, updates DDR (double-data rate) DRAM (dynamic random access memory), the most common type of memory chip used in PCs and PC components.

The new ATI version, dubbed GDDR3, promises to be substantially faster, capable of handling data at speeds up to 800MHz, compared with the limit of 400MHz for current DDR. The new memory format is intended for use on graphics cards, the circuit boards that connect a graphics processor to a PC and typically contain up to 128MB of dedicated memory.

While chipmakers have made significant strides in pushing the speed of graphics processors, memory chips have lagged, said Peter Glaskowsky, editor in chief of industry newsletter the Microprocessor Report.

"Memory has been a bottleneck on graphics cards for many years," Glaskowsky said. "Memory chips have been the primary limiting factor in how fast you can render things and transfer them to the screen...that?s the main reason the graphics industry has been leading the charge to develop new memory standards."

GDDR3 was designed in conjunction with leading memory chipmakers such as Infineon, Elpida and Hynix Semiconductor. Chips using the format are expected to arrive on the market in mid-2003.

Memory chipmakers working under the auspices of the trade group JEDEC have already completed specifications for the immediate successor to DDR, DDR-II, expected to begin appearing in high-end PCs late next year.