Intel Corp. apparently has reversed itself on memory once again and next year will introduce a chipset supporting DDR400.
Not unexpectedly, once Intel embraced DDR400 in the DDR-I format, the JEDEC Information Technology Association changed its tune also and is suddenly gearing
up to adopt a standard on the new memory chip. In short order, DDR400 has gone from the stepchild of the chip industry to potentially becoming a main player.
Intel, of course, isn't talking beyond the normal rejoinder: "we don't comment
on unannounced products." And JEDEC officials hide behind the confidentiality of
standards deliberation meetings.
But the DDR400 cat is out of the bag. Intel, which doesn't introduce a new
chipset without copious validation and qualification, is already contacting
memory chip and module makers for DDR400 samples for testing. And sources inside
JEDEC said discussion of a new DDR400 standard will come up at the panel's next
quarterly meeting in Hawaii on December 4.
You will remember that only a few months ago Intel was bad-mouthing DDR400. Not
needed because the next lowest DDR333 speed grade was quite adequate. No DDR400
JEDEC standard. Potential heat dissipation and signal integrity problems. And
Intel didn't want to divert resources for the comprehensive DDR400 validation
So what caused the surprising about-face?
Intel reportedly decided to next year upgrade to a quad-pumped 800-MHz processor
front side bus. And suddenly a DDR400 memory at 400Mbits/sec data rate was a
multiple frequency match with the 800-MHz FSB.
Also chipmakers were getting higher and higher yields of DDR400. With die
shrinks to 130-nanometer (0.13-micron) processing, the higher memory speeds were
much easier to achieve. And since the high speed PC main memory and server chip
is a bin-out sort from final testing, the 400Mbit/sec version was a natural
Samsung officials claimed that at least one-third of its DDR production is
coming in at DDR400 frequency. In fact, Samsung is having to down-sort naturally
fabricated 400Mbits/sec chips to lower speed grade DDR333 and DDR266 versions
because of the current lower sales volumes of DDR400.
So far DDR400 has been relegated to a niche market of white box PC builders
looking to differentiate their boxes from mainstream competitors. Two third-party chipset vendors, Silicon Integrated Systems and Nvidia Corp., can
support DDR400 for AMD processors, and SiS and Via Technology Inc. support Intel
MPUs as well.
All that should change markedly when Intel comes out with its own DDR400 chipset
This column has learned, however, that contrary to some industry reports,
Intel's next generation Springdale chipset slated to debut in Q3 '03, won't be
the version supporting DDR400.
The latest Intel memory roadmap quick-change is reminiscent of past switches
from Rambus RDRAM and late adoption of DDR. With the DDR400 flip-flop, however,
Intel appears to be leading the charge this time instead of belatedly following