Your next build may very well come configured with dual-SSD drives in a RAID 0 array for the OS, a gluttonous 2TB SATA HDD for storage duties, and a Blu-ray optical drive for movie watching and HD backups. And for quick transfers from one rig to another, does it get any sweeter than a 64GB USB thumb drive loaded with all of your favorite apps? Such a storage scheme is certainly worthy of dream machine status, but our storage options weren't always as fanciful, fast, and fat as they are today. Some of you may remember toting a 3.5-inch floppy to and from school, while others hearken all the way back to cassette tapes. And if you've lived long enough to remember the IBM Punch Card first hand, just ask and we'll SPEAK LOUDER.
Fasten your seatbelt and take a trip back in time with us as we follow the evolution of computer storage through the ages.
In what the company claims is a first (and as far as we can tell, they're right), Palit Microsystems has released a GeForce GTX 285 videocard outfitted with 2GB of memory. Every other GTX 285 currently ships with 1GB.
Whether or not the additional memory buffer proves a worthwhile investment remains to be seen, but it's worth noting the GTX 285 is Nvidia's fastest single-GPU solution available, second in speed only to the dual-GPU GTX 295. We've often seen graphics partners outfit lower end cards with additional memory, which is almost always of dubious value, but that isn't the case here.
Palit also lays claim to offering the first custom designed GTX 285. Deviating from the reference heatsink/fan assembly, Palit has outfitted its GTX 285 series with two PWM fans and four heat pipes.
"Conceived for two GPUs, the two PWM fans are able to provide sufficient air flow to cool GPU on the graphics quietly," Palit wrote in a press release. "The PWM fan created for both fans can adjust the fan speed depending on the GPU's temperature."
Palit also offers the GTX 285 in a more standard 1GB configuration. No word yet on pricing or availability for either model.
Slumping demand continues to take its toll on the memory chip industry. Micron, the largest U.S. maker of memory chips, said earlier this week that it has been particularly affected by decreased demand for specialty DRAM products, and as a result it plans to phase out 200mm wafer manufacturing operations in its Boise, Idaho facility.
"This action will reduce employment at Micron's Idaho sites by approximately 500 employees in the near term and as many as 2,000 positions by the end of the company's fiscal year," Micron said in a statement. "The company has sufficient manufacturing capacity remaining and does not expect any disruption in product supply required for customer needs."
Micron went on to say that these latest job cuts were not anticipated and not part of the 15 percent global workforce reduction it announced last October.
The chip maker said it will continue to operate its 300mm research and development fabrication facility at the Boise site. Financially, Micron expects cash restructuring charges to be in the vicinity of $50 million, which Micron says will generate a gross annualized operating cash benefit of $150 million.
Someone cue up Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and don't stop playing until the memory chip market has been fully weeded out. It was only a week ago that Germany-based chip maker Qimonda became the first major memory chip maker to file for bankruptcy, and now Spansion Japan appears to be on the chopping block as well.
Originally spun off by AMD in 2005 to create flash memory, Spansion now owes just shy of $810 million, making it the biggest bankruptcy filing in Japan's manufacturing sector this year. However, the company maintains that its operations will continue on as normal.
"Spansion Inc. does not expect the filing in Japan to materially affect its global operations," the company said Monday. "Spansion Japan Ltd. will continue its operations and intends to pay, in a timely manner, for all goods and services that it obtains after the date of filing."
How the bankruptcy court decides to proceed remains to be seen, but it would have a number of options available, from letting Spansion continue to operate as it restructures, to full-scale liquidation.
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.
Rambus investors have found themselves riding a financial roller coaster filled with ups and downs contingent upon how the technology company fares in court. If you happen to be one of those investors, you better refill your Dramamine prescription. That's because a U.S. federal judge this week postponed indefinitely patent infringement cases filed by Rambus against several rival memory chip makers. News of the legal setback sent Rambus' shares hurtling downwards 22 percent in after-hours trading.
The defendants argued for the delay following Judge Sue L. Robinson's ruling on January 9 that the patent suit against Micron Technologies is "unenforceable" and that "spoliation" of evidence occurred.
"We are pleased that Judge Whyte recognized that the Delaware Court's unenforceability ruling impacts the patents asserted by Rambus in the California matter, and that he stayed Rambus' patent case against Micron," Micron general counsel Rod Lewis said in a statement. "We believe that Judge Robinson's thorough decision will be upheld on appeal."
Not surprisingly, Rambus holds a decidedly different opinion of the ruling. "While we are disappointed with the stay of the coordinated cases, it our expectation that the conflicting opinions of the district courts regarding document spoliation will go up together on appeal," Tom Lavelle, Rambus general counsel, said in a statement.
According to a report by DigiTimes, Kingston Technology is vouching for memory chip maker ProMOS Technologies and has agreed to act as a guarantor for the latter's application for a syndicated loan worth approximately $148 million. Of that $148 million, which is to be paid by nine local banks, Kingston has reportedly agreed to guarantee somewhere between $44 to $60 million.
Memory chip makers have found themselves in dire straights over slumping memory prices and an unforgiving global economy. The situation has gotten so bad that Qimonda, one of the world's top 10 memory chip suppliers, recently filed for bankruptcy. ProMOS has also been struggling, suffering losses adding up to $675 million in the first three quarters of 2008. Earlier this month, ProMOS submitted its application for a government-led bailout package.
Germany-based chip maker Qimonda, who held a 10 percent share of the DRAM market in Q3 2008, becomes the first major memory chip maker to file for bankruptcy following the rapid decline of memory chip prices. As a result, DRAM pricing has spiked by as much as 26 percent, a trend which is expected to continue in the short-term.
Qimonda continues to operate, but for how long is anyone's guess. The company's bankruptcy filing follows a failed attempt to secure investment funds, and because Qimonda owes Inotera Memories and Winbond Electronics millions of dollars, the two chip partners refuse to ship any more chips to the bankrupt company.
Other chip makers might not be far behind Qimonda. In November 2008, DRAMeXchange stated "the DRAM industry has entered the key adjusting state of 'reduce or retire,'" and according to iSuppli, many of the world's top 10 memory chip suppliers will see major declines in revenue.
Last year it was Biostar -- and not Asus, DFI, or Gigabyte -- who set a frontside bus world record with its Biostar TPower I45 motherboard, and further blurring the lines between traditional enthusiast branding and companies better known for taking the budget end of the spectrum, A-Data -- not OCZ, Corsair, or Kingston -- has just broken a benchmarking record of its own.
"A-DATA® Technology Co., Ltd., a worldwide leading manufacturer in high performance memory products, announced today that its XPG™ DDR3 memory modules have broke a new world record on SuperPi 32m," A-Data stated in a press release. "The record was set by utilizing the DFI Lanparty UT X58 motherboard and XPG X Series v2.0 memory, the DDR3-2133X v2.0 2GBx3 triple-channel kit."
The new record now sits at 6min 40sec 360ms, which required overclocking A-Data's triple-channel DDR3-2133X v2.0 kit to 2237MHz with 8-7-7-21 latencies. A-Data didn't say how much voltage it took to reach that frequency, but if we had to guess, we'd say it ran high. The same kit comes rated at 2.05V-2.15V with 10-10-10-30 latencies at its stock frequency.
Systems builders have been living high on the hog when it comes to memory, and why shouldn't they be when considering how far RAM prices have fallen in the past year. Even builds with basics tasks in mind can be found rocking with 4GB or RAM, which at one time would have been a costly proposition.
We won't go so far as to say these good times are coming to end, but prices are heading back up it seems. According to Robert W. Baird and Company, Inc., fully tested DDR2 spot prices are up between 1 and 3 percent. NAND Flash contract pricing is up even more to the tune of 7 to 30 percent. Meanwhile, memory companies' attempts to cut back production have resulted in a 22 percent worldwide DRAM production since September.
In other memory related news, Robert W. Baird and Company says ProMOS, Elpida, and PSC must resubmit plans for DRAM bailout funds. Candidates selected to receive bailout funds aren't expected to finalized until later this month.