Toshiba samples world's fastest memory chips

Toshiba has started sampling memory chips with the world's fastest data transfer speed, saying they will be useful for digital TVs and PC graphics boards.

Toshiba has begun sampling computer memory chips with the world's fastest data rate, and will start mass production of the chips in the second half of this year, the company said Wednesday.

The 512M-bit XDR (extreme data rate) DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips run at a speed of 4.8GHz, which is about 12 times faster than that of the memory typically found in today's desktop PCs, according to Junichi Nagaki, a Toshiba spokesman.

DRAM is the main type of memory used in PCs and servers. The faster the memory, the more smoothly computers tend to work and faster memory helps games machines produce better graphics.

Working at the 4.8GHz speed, the chips deliver a bandwidth of 12.8G bytes per second, and this will help make them suitable for use in high-end digital TVs and PC graphics applications, Nagaki said.

If more voltage is used, the chips can work at a peak operating speed of 6.4GHz, according to Toshiba.

XDR is the name of a memory technology developed by U.S.-based Rambus. The chips also incorporate a Rambus technology called ODR (octal data rate) signalling, which can transfer eight bits of data per clock cycle, according to Toshiba.

In addition to Toshiba, South Korea's Samsung Electronics and Japan's Elpida Memory also licence XDR technologies from Rambus, and both chip companies plan to go into mass production of 512M-bit XDR chips in the second half of this year, said Kim Soo-Kyoum, program director for semiconductor research at market research company IDC.

"Yes, it looks like Toshiba's is the first... and yes, it's the fastest," Kim said. "But Samsung and Elpida have similar schedules."

The 512M-bit XDR chips will not be needed for mainstream desktop computers, but the chips' ability to process large volumes of data quickly means they will be useful in very high-end workstations, network systems, and for graphics and video applications, Kim said.

Adoption of XDR as a main memory in high-end computing will start during 2007, according to a December 2004 report by IDC.

The XDR technology will find a home in one potentially popular product: Sony is planning to use four 256M-bit XDR chips in the upcoming PlayStation 3 games console, Kim said.

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Paul Kallender

IDG News Service
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