Don't worry, that 6GB triple-channel DDR3 kit you just picked up for your new Core i7 build isn't going to go out of style any time soon, but Samsung did take us one step closer to DDR4 this week. The memory chip maker said it has developed and validated its first 40nm DRAM chip, and if all goes to plan, it will consume nearly a third less power than current 50nm chips.
Samsung's shrunken chip technology will first be used in a 1GB DDR2-800 SO-DIMM module and has been validated for Intel's GM45 platform. The company also said it plans to apply its 40nm technology to develop a 2Gbit DDR3 device for mas production by the end of the year.
"This definitely moves Samsung ahead very aggressively in terms of its manufacturing facilities," said Bob Merritt, a founding partner of market research firm Convergent Semiconductors LLC
But the biggest news is Samsung's claim that the move to 40nm is "a significant step" toward developing "ultra-high performance DRAM technologies" like DDR4, though the company didn't offer any other details.
One of the concerns in the transition to Core i7-based platforms was how Intel's new chips would fare with DDR3 memory exceeding 1.65V. Early reports warned that the higher voltage kits might potentially pose a risk to the processor, prompting memory makers to focus on triple-channel kits with lower voltage than their dual-channel counterparts. But voltage restrictions could become even less of a concern now that Elpida has completed its development of a 50nm process DDR3 SDRAM.
Elpida claims its new DRAM features the lowest power consumption in the industry, requiring as little as 1.2V, making them good candidates for eco-conscious server environments and data centers. The 2.5Gbps-capable chips can also operate at 1.5V and Elpida says initial applications will include high-end desktops.
Mass production of the 50nm chips is scheduled to being in Q1 2009.
The DRAM industry is facing its toughest time in the past 15 years with not much of a light at the end of the tunnel. Most memory companies have already reduced production and scaled back the workforce, but it has done little to change the fact that DRAM prices have already dropped close to cost. Could a government bailout be the answer?
That's exactly what ProMOS chairman ML Chen wants to see happen. Chen, whose company has already suffered losses adding up to US$675 million in the first three quarters of 2008, is calling for the Taiwan government to keep the industry afloat. Total losses for the entire industry currently sit at US$2.73 billion, a number which is expected to grow in the fourth quarter.
Chen, who said it would be a pity of the government gave up on DRAM makers who have given so much to the nation's semiconductor industry, would like to see some fundamental changes occur, like the development of home-grown technologies. Chen also said that the government should offer aid programs and restricted bank loans, which could only be used for technological research and development and not for capacity expansion.
Should the Taiwan government step in? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.
PC builders continue to jump for joy at the rock bottom prices of memory, leading to an easy decision to go with a 4GB kit in lieu of a 2GB kit of RAM. Never has memory been so cheap, and some say the market for memory makers is the worst it has been in 15 years.
And therein lies the problem. While end users are celebrating low prices, DRAM makers have been cutting back production, reducing workers' hours, and laying off employees all in an attempt drive prices back up and cope with decreased revenue. But it isn't enough, and now it appears that memory makers have reached a crossroads.
"We believe that the DRAM industry has entered the key adjusting stage of 'reduce or retire,'" DRAMeXchange stated. "The big scale reduction is now in progress and even some DRAM vendors will be out of the DRAM market in 2009. This adjusting wave will continue until the demand and supply come to balance."
According to DRAMeXchange, the cash cost of the market's 70nm technology is between $1.3 and $1.5 and is expected to drop to $1.0 to $1.2 as DRAM makers migrate to the 6x nm process. Total 12-inch wafer output continues to fall, with the reduction for November expected to be 125,000 less wafers, which is equivalent to 10 percent of the total 12-inch wafer output. The situation looks to get even worse in December, with another 17,000-wafer reduction expected, with more reductions possible in January.
"We expect the oversupply situation will be eased starting from the end of Q1 2009," DRAMeXchange said. "Therefore, the DRAM price may have a chance to rebound at the end of Q2 09 and Q3 09 with the rising demand of PC OEMS."
The question is, which memory makers will be left standing by then?
Memory module makers continue to suffer through what some analysts suggest is the worst the DRAM market has been in 15 years with chip manufacturers posting record high losses. To stop the bleeding, most module makers have already cut production in an attempt to drive prices back up, and while that has been met with some success in niche markets (DDR prices are up 30 percent), slumping demand paints a grim outlook for memory makers in the immediate future.
The solution? Send home your workforce without laying them off. That's essentially the strategy some Tawain DRAM and memory module makers are trying to take in an attempt to reduce operating costs, according to DigiTimes. Rather than hand out pink slips, the tech news outlet reports that chip makers are asking employees to take time off without pay.
This isn't an isolated scenario, either. DigiTimes claims that Nanya Technology, Powerchip Semiconducter Corporation (PSC), and ProMOS Technologies have all taken "measures to encourage employees to voluntarily take one work-day off per week without pay in order to help the companies reduce operating costs."
Building a capable PC has turned into a stupid-cheap affair as components continue to fall in price. This is helped in large part by slumping DRAM pricing, which has yet to recover no matter how much DRAM makers would like it to. And it doesn't look like it will happen anytime soon.
According to Frank Huang, chairman of Powerchip Semiconductor Corporation (PSC), memory chip prices will continue to sag so long as the economy struggles, and isn't expected to start an upward swing until at least the second half 2009. Huang pointed out that DRAM prices have already dropped close to cost, forcing manufacturers to cut production. But despite a 20 percent production decrease by the end of the year, the effects on the market won't be seen until December, which will fall well shy of a rebound in DRAM pricing.
Take advantage of the low prices while you can, but if Huang's assessment proves correct, you needn't feel rushed.
Anyone who has recently put together a DDR2-based system would have found themselves jumping for joy when pricing out system memory. Kits that commanded a premium less than two years ago can now be had for under $100, and that's before any applicable mail-in-rebates. Even name-brand 4GB kits are insanely affordable, and the days of having to spend several hundred dollars on newer DDR3 modules are gone, at least now.
The low pricing structure has been that way for some time now, and while system builders couldn't be happier about it, the mood is decidely different among DRAM manufacturers. Both Elpida Memory and Powerchip Semiconductor Corporation (PSC) have said they plan to cut production, just as other manufacturers have done, but so far it has done little to correct the oversupply problem the DRAM industry faces. And according to A-DATA chairman Simon Chen, improvement is only likely to come if a memory chip maker decides to leave the market. Chen went on to say that 2008 has been the worst year for DRAM in the past 15 years.
Eventually the market will bounce back. If you're in the market for RAM, consider buying sooner than later and enjoy the rock bottom pricing while it still exists. And hey, if you know of a good deal on memory, hit the jump and let us know!
Intel's upcoming Centrino 2 mobile platform will finally push DDR3 memory into the notebook market, and OCZ already has a pair of kits ready to go. OCZ's DDR3-1066 modules will feature latencies of 8-8-8-27, while its higher frequency DDR3-1333 SO-DIMMs will come timed slightly higher at 9-9-9-24. Both kits sip 1.5V and are backed by OCZ's lifetime warranty. "The Centrino 2 platform is a logical extension of Intel's efforts spearheading DDR3 acceptance in the enthusiast segment in the desktop sector, " commented Dr. Michael Schuette, VP of Technology Development at OCZ.
Memory makers continue to lament weak memory pricing, and while they anticipate strengthening demand in the second half of 2008, vendors are hoping Centrino 2 will kick-start sales for DDR3 modules. DDR3 currently commands a higher markup than DDR2, and while that might be groovy for memory makers, are buyers ready to make the switch?
GeIL (that's capitable 'I' capital 'L') is going Hollywood with its naming scheme for a new technology the company claims will result in higher quality memory shipping from the factory. Called Die-hard Burn-in Technology (DBT), GeIL says the new system will virtually eliminate early failure among memory modules and catch defects that otherwise would have went unnoticed.
Take a look at the new technology, and learn what you can do to both detect and prevent RAM defects after the jump.