SAN FRANCISCO—A teardown analysis conducted by UBM TechInsights of Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s 3DS handheld 3-D gaming device revealed that the device uses two Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd. fast-cycle RAM (FCRAM) memories, the first time the proprietary Fujitsu technology has been found in a UBM TechInsights teardown, according to the firm.
According to Fujitsu, FCRAM for consumer electronics devices offers a low power SDRAM interface and enables high-speed data transfer with low power consumption. Consumer FCRAM is intended for digital TVs and digital video cameras that require high-speed data transfer for display and video processing, according to the company. Each part identified by UBM TechInsights offers 64MB of RAM.
"This means is the 3DS has 128 MB of RAM, and the use of FCRAM interfaces similarly to DDR memory while matching the performance of DDR3 memory at a lower operating frequency," said Allan Yogasingam, a technical marketing manager at UBM TechInsights. "Pretty impressive stuff really."
Market research firm IHS iSuppli, which also conducted a teardown of the Nintendo 3DS, said the existence of FCRAM—a proprietary Fujitsu technology—is a potential problem for Nintendo.
"As a rule, most electronic system designers employ memory products that are available from multiple sources in order to reduce supply risk and to guarantee the best pricing," said Andrew Rassweiler, senior director of teardown services for IHS. "However, Nintendo’s decision to buy the device from sole-source Fujitsu adds supply chain risk, and limits Nintendo’s capability to drive costs down on a major component."
Close up die image of the Fujitsu MB81EDS516545 FCRAM. Source: UBM TechInsights (click on image to enlarge).
EE Times will publish a full report on UBM TechInsights' 3DS teardown, including photos, later this week. UBM TechInsights is owned by United Business Media, the parent company of EE Times.
IHS iSuppli's preliminary analysis concluded that the 3DS—which hit U.S. stores Sunday—has a bill of materials (BOM) of $100.71 and a total manufacturing cost of $103.25, including a $2.54 manufacturing cost. The system retails for $250 in the U.S.
The 3DS BOM represents a 33 percent increase over the previous member of Nintendo's handheld gaming line, the Nintendo DSi, based on pricing from the time of its introduction a little more than two years ago, according to IHS iSuppli.
In addition to the Fujitsu FCRAM, the IHS iSuppli 3DS teardown revealed an applications processor that the firm believes is manufactured in the U.S. by Sharp Electronics Corp., NAND flash memory from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., MEMS sensors from InvenSense Inc. and ST Microelectronics, a single-chip WLAN module from Atheros Communications Inc. and a three-camera subsystem that allows users to take 3-D photographs. The 3DS also features a 3-D display made by Sharp that measures 3.5-inches in size with a total 800 by 240 pixel format, according it IHS iSuppli.
Though the 3DS largely uses components from suppliers based in Japan, IHS iSuppli said it cannot identify any specific supply problems for the device's components brought on by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. However, the firm said the logistical and power challenges plaguing most Japanese industries could impact production and distribution of this game system.
Die markings on the Fujitsu MB81EDS516545 FCRAM. Source: UBM TechInsights (click on image to enlarge).
The mere fact that the FCRAM is being used is exciting. And, despite the potential downside of having a single supplier, sometimes that is the only way to get a jump out ahead of the competition. Of course, if FCRAM finds it's way into a number of products or even only a couple of big selling products, then it should be only a short time until there is a second source available.
Designers used to take great pains to avoid sole-sourced components. Years ago, I think that was very wise. Maybe it still is, but there are so many specialized chips out these days that I'm not sure how practical or at all realistic it is.
If they lost the supplier for the FCRAM, they'd have to re-design some other type of RAM in.; maybe even take a performance hit. However, if their CPU went unavailable, they'd most likely have to make some design changes to get another manufacturer's CPU in there.
Rather than looking at sole sourced components, I'd be interested to see how many key components are not sole-sourced.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.