Samsung unveils first DDR3 memory chip

To meet demands for better PC memory in the future, Samsung has developed a prototype chip that can work four times faster than those used in today's PCs.

Samsung Electronics has produced a prototype memory chip the runs about four times as fast as those used in most current PCs, the South Korean company said Thursday. It should lead to better performance in future notebooks, desktops and servers, the company said.

The memory, called DDR3 (double data rate 3) DRAM (dynamic random access memory), can process data at up to 1.06G bps (gigabits per second) and has a capacity of 512M bits (megabits). Samsung will begin mass producing chips with speeds of 800M bps (megabits per second) to 1.06G bps in early 2006, said Park Sung Hae, a company spokeswoman.

DRAM is the main memory type used in PCs and servers. The faster the memory, the more smoothly the computers tend to work.

The main type of DRAM found in most PCs today is DDR SDRAM (synchronous DRAM), which processes data at between 266M bps and 400M bps, depending on the parts. DDR is widely used in PCs from such vendors as Gateway and Hewlett-Packard.

A faster type of DDR called DDR2, which has speeds of 400M bps to 667M bps, entered the market late last year and is gaining popularity this year, especially among notebook PC vendors, said Kim Soo-Kyoum, program director for semiconductor research at market research company IDC.

DDR2 will probably take over as the main memory for most types of PC in 2006, he said. DDR3 is the successor to DDR2.

Because DDR3 processes information faster than its predecessors, it uses less power to do the same amount of work. This means it saves more battery power, making it especially beneficial for notebooks, Kim said. "Power-saving is the key to prolonged battery life, and faster memory uses less power," he said.

The chips also operate at a lower voltage. Samsung's DDR3 uses 1.5 volts, compared to 1.8 volts for DDR2. The lower voltage adds to the power saving, further improving battery life, he said.

Samsung was the world's biggest supplier of memory chips in 2004, with DRAM revenue of about US$7.5 billion, giving it 29 percent of the market, according to U.S. market research company iSuppli.

Another big memory maker, Germany's Infineon Technologies, is also developing DDR3 chips, but has yet to announce a prototype, said Karin Braeckle, a company spokeswoman.

Micron Technology, the only big U.S. DRAM maker, is also developing DDR2 and DDR3 chips, according to U.S. regulatory filings.

A mass market for DDR3 is expected to develop in 2007, and research company IDC has predicted that in 2009 it will be the most common memory type in use, with more than two thirds of the market, Kim said.

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