Rambus offers first DRAM to break 1GHz

Rambus Inc, of Mountain View, Calif., announced yesterday a design breakthrough that allows DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips to transfer data at speeds higher than 1GHz.

Rambus said the chip would be marketed for “leading-edge applications,” like communications and graphics systems, along with consumer products like HDTV (High Definition Television) and video game consoles. The chip is also designed to increase performance speed for high-end processors like the upcoming Pentium 4, formerly dubbed the Willamette chip.

Memory throughput speeds can become a bottleneck for fast processors, because the processor chips spend more time waiting for data from memory chips than processing that data.

The 1066MHz Rambus DRAM, or RDRAM, can move memory to a processor chip a third faster than the 800MHz chip Rambus unveiled in June, the company said in the announcement. The chip can transfer data twice per processor clock cycle, setting maximum throughput at 2.1GHz.

RDRAM competes with double data rate synchronous DRAM, or DDR-SDRAM, a less expensive kind of memory chip, which also transfers data twice per cycle. SDRAM’s transfer rate is 133MHz. Intel Corp. announced last Tuesday that it would support both Rambus and SDRAM memory for the Pentium 4, a change from their support of Rambus memory solely.

Rambus doesn’t produce chips itself – it licenses the designs to memory chip manufacturers. Samsung Semiconductor Inc., Hyundai Electronics Industries Co. Ltd., Toshiba Corp., NEC Electronics Inc. and Infineon Technologies AG will support production of the chips in 2001, according to Rambus’ statement.

No specific date of commercial availability or cost was mentioned. DRAM chips in general and RDRAM chips in particular have been in short supply recently.