Rambus revs up RIMM 4200 memory

Memory interface company Rambus Inc. on Monday gave high-performance PC users a reason to celebrate with the introduction of the Rambus RIMM 4200 memory module.

The RIMM (Rambus inline memory module) 4200, and Rambus memory modules in general, offer users of PCs powered by Intel Corp.'s Pentium 4 processor the highest possible performance available in an over-the-counter system, according to industry experts.

With the RIMM 4200, Rambus has combined two memory module channels into a single channel, allowing PC manufacturers using RIMM 4200 to free up an additional memory slot on the motherboard. The freed memory slot can be used to add additional RIMM 4200 memory or provide options such as RAID on the motherboard, according to Melissa Frank, manager of product marketing with Rambus, based in Los Altos, Calif.

"It's very low risk for OEMs to transition over to [the RIMM 4200]," Frank said. "And instead of having to add DDR [double data rate] memory in pairs, you just add a single module with no redesign."

The 32-bit RIMM 4200 delivers 4.2GBps of throughput running at 1,066MHz, faster than previous RIMM 1600 modules, which ran at 800MHz, according to Rambus.

Franks said the price of the RIMM 4200 was low enough to prevent a wide gap in pricing between Rambus memory PCs and non-Rambus memory PCs, but Dean McCarron, a principal analyst with Mercury Research Inc., in Scottsdale, Ariz., said users attracted to the performance of Rambus expect to pay something of a premium.

"There is still a segment of the market that uses Rambus. And that's what [the RIMM 4200] is going to serve," McCarron said. "This isn't necessarily a play to get Rambus into US$800 PCs, but as far as extracting the maximum performance out of a Pentium 4 processor, it hasn't changed. It still happens with Rambus."

Rambus took a hit in mid-2001 with the arrival of Intel's 845 chip set, the first chip set to enable OEMs to use SDRAM (synchronous DRAM) in place of Rambus memory, which until then had a lock on the Pentium 4 platform.

The RIM 4200 will run on Intel's i850 chip set, according to Rambus.

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