SAN JOSE -- A new lower-cost four-bank Direct Rambus DRAM chip now in development depends on a new Intel Corp. chipset slated to be introduced next year, the Intel Developers Forum heard Tuesday.
The four-memory-bank chip can cut the Direct RDRAM cost by 20% to come close to parity with SDRAM in full production, said Jon Kang, senior vice president for memory product planning and applications engineering at Samsung Electronics Corp. Samsung expects to sample the four-bank RDRAM version later this year, and be ready to ramp up production as soon as the new Intel chipset is available.
Pete MacWilliams, Intel Fellow and specialist on the firm's memory roadmap, said the new four-bank chipset will debut early in 2002. It will support both a single memory channel for mainstream PCs and a dual memory channel used by the current Willamette Pentium 4 version. He said Intel hasn't yet selected a name for the new four-bank RDRAM chipset.
Both Intel and Samsung officials said the four-bank RDRAM chip will have equal or better performance than the current 32-bank Direct Rambus DRAM. A major cost savings results from less space on the die required to control four banks as 32 banks on the current chip, Kang said.
SDRAMs and double data rate SDRAMs have only four memory banks, which memory firms claimed was one of many factors initially making them lower cost than RDRAMs. The current 32-bank Direct Rambus DRAMs were originally designed to meet the needs for server memories, according to Dieter Mackowiak, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Samsung Semiconductor Inc., the San Jose-based subsidiary of Samsung Elerctronics.
When server OEMs opted to use SDRAM and DDR instead, the opportunity opened up to design a four-bank RDRAM for desktop PCs, he said. Mackowiak said Samsung designed the four-bank chip. in conjunction with Rambus Inc., Los Altos, Calif. Under Rambus licensing agreements, that technology is made available to all other chip partners.
The Samsung official said, however, that the Korean firm had no problem with any of its four-bank technology passing to rival chip firms. "The four-bank RDRAM market will expand with more suppliers. And Samsung is confident we can compete successfully, just as we have on the present RDRAM and other memory chips," he added.
Even before the new four-bank RDRAM is unveiled, Samsung is increasing its RDRAM production from 8 million 128-megabit equivalent units a month this quarter to 11 million units a month in the second quarter. That will rise to 13 million monthly in the third quarter and to 14 million monthly in the fourth quarter.
Mackowiak said total 2001 RDRAM output will be 120 million units. In contrast, Samsung is just beginning to ramp up DDR output, going from 1.5 million 128-Mbit equivalent units a month this quarter to 3 million monthly in the next two quarters and to 6 million montly in the fourth quarter.
Mackowiak estimated DDR production at Samsung will increase to about 7.5 million monthly in the first quarter of 2002. Toshiba is also plans to ramp up its RDRAM production to 8 million 64-megabit equivalent units a month by the end of the year, said Shozo Saito, general manager of the memory division of Toshiba Semiconductor Co.
Saito estimated at year-end 60% of Toshiba DRAM production will be in Direct Rambus memory. He said 70% of the firm's RDRAM output is for the Solny Corp. PlayStation II game console and 30% for PCs.
He also noted that, "Toshiba is working closely with Intel on DDR," which Intel will support with its server processors, and beginning in the first quarter of 2002 with the Brookdale chipset.
The Samsung rampup in RDRAM production is possible because of Intel providing an unidentified level of funding to allow the Korean firm to purchase and install more special back-end testers for the memory chip, as reported Tuesday.
Mackowiak of Samsung said the chip maker was now yielding more RDRAMs than it could test, and a logjam had resulted. He said the new testers, which will be installed as quickly as possible, will clear out the backlog of Rambus chips and allow the higher output of finished devices.