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Intel: no support for DDR3 RAM until mid-2007

Apparently, we're not ready yet

PC enthusiasts hoping to see faster memory chips in the near future will have to wait until around the middle of next year, because that's when Intel plans to add support for DDR3 (double data rate, third generation) to its chipsets.

Intel is likely to add DDR3 support to its chipsets around the middle of next year, because the market won't be ready for them until then, said Richard Malinowski, general manager of Intel's chipset group, on the sidelines of a conference yesterday.

The company's latest chipset family, dubbed 965, only supports DDR2, and dropped support for first-generation DDR memory chips.

The timetable for DDR3 shouldn't come as a big surprise, since DDR2 is just now moving into the mainstream for DRAM (dynamic RAM) chips. But some users are likely to be disappointed, especially since DDR3 is already being used in the latest graphics cards to squeeze out the best performance from the latest graphics processors. In addition, some memory chip vendors have already produced DDR3 DRAM modules. All they need now are the chipsets to connect them to the microprocessors.

Desktops first

Qimonda, Nanya Technology, and module maker A-Data Technology are all showing off DDR3 modules for desktop PCs at the Computex IT show in Taipei this week.

Qimonda, the memory chip spin-off from German chip maker Infineon Technologies, said its 1GB module was aimed at desktops, because that's the traditional route for new memory technologies. First comes the desktop, then servers and laptops.

"Technology-wise, it's easier for it to be in the desktop," said Emmy Ko, a senior engineer at Qimonda.

Faster, but less power

DDR3 is supposed to be speedier than DDR2 and use less power, which should help it move into laptops at a quick pace since users worry so much about battery performance. DDR2 has fared far better in servers and laptops than in desktops over the past year. Desktop PC makers preferred to use the first generation of the memory chips, DDR, because they cost less than DDR2. But laptop makers preferred DDR2 for better power performance, while server makers wanted the speed as well as the power savings, so DDR2 moved quickly into both segments.

Nanya Technology was displaying DDR3 modules with 512MB and 1GB of storage, and said it didn't expect to ship them in volume until 2007. "We'll probably release customer samples in the second quarter," said David Hu, product manager at Nanya for its Elixir name brand line of memory chip modules.

A-Data displayed DDR3 modules aimed at desktop PCs with storage capacity of 512MB and 1GB respectively. The company made them so early in order to provide samples to motherboard developers, said Tristan Wei, deputy manager of marketing at the firm.

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