Samsung unveils 4Gbit DRAM

The technology will lead to DRAM boards with up to 32GB of capacity

Samsung Electronics announced Thursday that it has developed the first 4Gbit DDR3 DRAM chip using a 50 nanometer (nm) lithography process. The new chip doubles the density of earlier DRAM chips, yielding modules with up to 32GB capacity.

The development of low-power 4Gbit DDR3 will lead to a reduction in data center costs by requiring fewer machines, improve server time management and increasing overall efficiency, Samsung said.

In September, Samsung announced its development of the world's first 50nm-class 2Gbit DDR3 DRAM. It now sells a line of high-performance DDR3 products using that process technology with 4Gbit, 2Gbit and 1Gbit chips.

"By designing our 4Gbit DDR3 using state-of-the-art 50nm class technology, we are setting the stage for what ultimately will result in significant cost-savings for servers and for the overall computing market," Kenin Lee, vice president of Samsung Semiconductor, said in a statement.

Bob Merritt, an analyst with market research firm Convergent Semiconductors, said the higher-density chips could lead to big price cuts for users as production prices drop for equipment manufacturers. While non-volatile memory innovation in the form of higher density helped set off the long sales downturn in the DRAM chip industry, Samsung has positioned itself to be a leader once the market comes back, Merritt said. He predicted that would occur sometime next year.

"This industry has lived through these sales cycles before, and when they come out there's usually some shift in the manufacturer rankings," Merritt said. "This announcement does say this isn't the end of the world for the DRAM industry."

DRAM prices have plummeted over the past two years because of oversupply, due mainly to higher capacity chips created from 300-millimeter wafer fabrication. The downturn has even led some manufacturers, such as Qimonda AG, to file for bankruptcy.

"It's a combination of bringing on some highly efficient manufacturing capacity methods, while at the same time demand dropped off," Merritt said.

DDR3 DRAM will account for 29 percent of the total DRAM market this year and 75 percent in 2011, according to market research firm IDC. DDR3 with 2Gbit or higher capacities will make up 3 percent of the total DRAM market in 2009 and 33 percent in 2011.

DDR3's maximum throughput is 1.6Gbit/sec. The 4Gbit DDR3 can be produced in 16GB. dual in-line memory modules for servers, as well as 8GB unbuffered DIMM for workstations and desktop PCs, and 8GB small outline DIMM for laptops.

The 4Gbit DDR3 DRAM operates at 1.35 volts, improving its throughput by 20 percent over its predecessor -- a 1.5-volt DDR3, Samsung said. In 16GB module configurations, 4Gbit DDR3 can consume 40 percent less power than 2Gbit DDR3 because of its higher density.

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