MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Rambus Inc. officials here today assured skeptics that 1.066-GHz Direct Rambus DRAMs will be available next year. The Mountain View company today announced the faster Direct RDRAM speed grade, which Rambus says can be pulled from the production of existing memories by using high-speed testers (see today's story).
While Rambus claims the faster Direct RDRAMs are the first DRAMs capable of transferring data at speeds over 1 GHz, some observers wonder how many of those parts will actually be available early next year. Currently, the only volume producer of Direct RDRAMs for PC makers is Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., which is not yet seeing high yields on the current 800-MHz speed grade of memories, according to industry sources.
Memory analyst Sherry Garber of Semico Research Inc. in Phoenix said today's 1.066-GHz announcement was "a public relations tactic to stop the Rambus stock decline." The company's stock took a hit last week, falling 30%, after Intel Corp. backed away from its stance of only supporting Direct Rambus DRAMs for the Pentium 4 processor. Intel confirmed it was developing an alternative PC133 chip set for Pentium 4, and it is considering possible double data rate (DDR) support as well.
Analysts have said that 800-MHz Direct RDRAM yields are low and producers are struggling with the learning curve. Three months ago, Samsung officials indicated that about 20% of the company's Direct Rambus production was in 800-MHz speed grade. However, during the Platform 2000 conference in San Jose during July, Samsung officials said the company was achieving 60% yields on 800-MHz Rambus DRAMs.
In an interview today, Rambus vice president of worldwide marketing Avo Kanadjian said yields are improving on 800-MHz Direct RDRAMs. He said he believes the 1.066-GHz speed will start yielding from those same production lines because the memories do not need to meet all the stringent electrical load specifications required for 800-MHz memories in PCs.
"The 1-GHz part will be shipped to the consumer electronics, graphics and communications markets," he said. "In those applications, only four Direct RDRAM chips are needed which will be soldered directly to the motherboard without needing a module or chip set. As a result, the loading is far less demanding, and some parts should yield at 1.066-GHz speed from normal 'bin-out testing,'"
Kanadjian said today's announcement was made to emphasize that a chip infrastucture already existed to accommodate the next higher speed grade of Rambus memories, which he expects to be available next year. He said Advantest Corp. of Japan already has a high-speed tester that can operate at 1-GHz speed. Cypress Semiconductor Corp. of San Jose today also announced a Direct Rambus clock generator supporting higher speeds (see today's story).
--Additional reporting by Jack Robertson in Washington for Electronic Buyers' News, a sister publication of SBN