New DDR4 specification sets the stage for new DRAM in computers

DDR4 DRAM will double the data transfer rate and also read and process information more efficiently

The final specification of DDR4 DRAM, which will help PCs run faster through more power-efficient data transfers, was published Tuesday.

DDR4 memory shuffles data faster than DDR3 memory, which is in most new computers available today. The new memory type implements a new process to read, write and refresh data more efficiently, and the improved throughput boosts application performance by transferring information to storage and memory faster.

The new memory type will be used in servers, PCs and mobile devices. The specification was finalized by the JEDEC Solid State Technology Association, which has led DRAM development for decades.

Top DRAM makers like Samsung, Micron and Nanya have already started shipping test units of the memory. Integrated Device Technology two weeks ago announced it was shipping test units of DDR4 memory with error correction features, which typically go into servers.

The proposed transfer speed of DDR4 is expected to top off at 3.2 gigatransfers per second, while JEDEC has said that DDR3 exceeded its expected maximum speed of 1.6 gigatransfers per second. DDR4 DRAM will consume 1.2 volts, compared to 1.5 volts for DDR3. The memory bus speed will start at 2133MHz, which is a boost from the average bus speed of 1333MHz and 1666MHz for DDR3.

DRAM prices have dropped, so memory manufacturers are trying to speed up the adoption of DDR4, said Gregory Wong, an analyst at memory research firm Forward Insights.

"The DRAM market is oversupplied because the PC market isn't that strong. The tablets and smartphones are doing well, but instead of 4GB of DRAM, they need only 1GB of RAM. That's the fundamental issue."

The jury is still out on when DDR4 DRAM will end up in computers, but it could be as early as next year. The memory makers are pushing chip makers like Intel to bring chipset support for DDR4 quickly, Wong said.

"Intel's always improving CPU performance, DDR4 is a way to push that," Wong said.

DDR4 may reach PCs first, but it could take a while to reach mobile devices, Wong said. Smartphones and tablets are widely using low-power DDR2 memory, and some gaming tablets such as like Lenovo's Ideatab K2 have low-power DDR3 DRAM.

The DDR4 specifications have been published on JEDEC's website.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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