Rambus promises faster memory technology

Rambus has souped up its XDR memory technology to help graphics chips produce better pictures.

Rambus has souped up its memory technology to let memory chips talk to graphics processors much more quickly than they do today. The technology should lead to better pictures from games consoles and high-end PCs, the company said Thursday.

Rambus designs interfaces that link memory chips to processors. The interfaces attach to DRAM (dynamic RAM) chips, the workhorse memory-type for PCs, servers and game machines. In general, the faster the memory, the better a system works.

Rambus has a technology called XDR which is just coming out on the market. It will be used in Sony's PlayStation 3 and is expected to help the console produce some of the best graphics in the industry, Rambus said at its conference for developers in Tokyo.

With Thursday's announcement, Rambus has now more than doubled the data rate of XDR with a technology called XDR2, according to Rich Warmke, director of product marketing at Rambus.

XDR2 enables data rates in and out of DRAMs starting at 8GHz. That compares to 1.6GHz for high-end memory components such as GDDR3 (Graphics Double Data Rate 3), which is designed to work with graphics processors.

Graphics chips render images by breaking them into small pieces called polygons. The more polygons in a picture, the better the picture. So faster, smoother-running memory is vital if future games consoles are to render more polygons and create more realistic graphics.

Today's memory chips access data through a single path, but with XDR2 Rambus is introducing a hyper-threading technology that provides multiple paths, making for greater speed and efficiency, according to Victor Echevarria, product marketing manager at Rambus' Platform Solutions Group.

Hyper-threading is used in some processors to help performance. It is found in some of Intel Corp. processors. Rambus first said it was applying the technology to DRAMs in April.

Rambus is looking to license the XDR2 technology now, and is gauging the interest of Samsung Electronics, the world's biggest memory chip maker, as well as Toshiba and Elpida Memory, Echevarria said.

Those three memory makers have just started making XDR parts, making it reasonable to assume that one or more of them will start offering XDR2 parts in 2007, he said.

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Paul Kallender

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