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New mobile DRAM standard for 4G networks offers 50% performance boost

Samsung also announces the first 4Gbit, LPDDR2 memory

The specification for the next generation of mobile DRAM was published Thursday, offering a 50% performance boost for makers of the memory technology.

The JESD209-3 low-power double data density rate 3 (LPDDR-3) specification also increases the density of memory chips, meaning more data can be stored on mobile devices of the future.

The LPDDR memory standard, written by the Joint Electronic Devices Engineering Council (JEDEC), is targeted at the latest generation of smartphones, tablets, ultra-thin notebooks and similar connected devices on the newest, high-speed 4G networks.

LPDDR3 offers 1600 Mbps data rate compared with the earlier LPDDR2's 1066 Mbps.

"LPDDR3 builds on the revolutionary LPDDR2 standard, which paved the way for an entire generation of high-performance, low-power mobile devices," said Mian Quddus, chairman of JEDEC's board of directors. "Now with LPDDR3, JEDEC has taken the standard to a new level, and we are pleased to offer a solution for the performance demands of a new generation of mobile products."

The specification also includes write leveling for more even wear of the flash memory.

Helping to further reduce power use is an optional feature called On Die Termination (ODT). ODT "enables a light termination to LPDDR3 data lanes to improve high-speed signaling with minimal impact on power consumption, system operation and pin count," the JEDEC statement said.

As with LPDDR2, LPDDR3 "supports both package on package (PoP) and discrete packaging types in order to meet the requirements of a wide array of mobile devices," the group said. PoP is a method of stacking discrete logic and memory ball grid arrays on top of each other for greater density.

LPDDR3 keeps the same power-usage -- 1.2 volts -- and signaling interface as LPDDR2.

The upcoming shift from the DDR3 to the DDR4 memory standard may also pose a challenge to LPDDR3 in the mobile market.

The DDR4 memory standard, which JEDEC expects to approve this summer, represents a doubling of performance over its predecessor and a reduction in power use by 20% to 40% based on a maximum 1.2 volts of power use, the same as LPDDR3 and LPDDR2.

DDR4's significant reduction in power needs means that relatively low-priced DDR memory will, for the first time, be a contender against PLDDR memory for use in mobile products such as ultrabooks and tablets, said Mike Howard, an analyst with market research firm IHS iSuppli..

Samsung said its DDR4 modules will be able to perform operations at speeds of up to 3.2Gbps, compared with today's DDR3 speeds of 1.6Gbps and DDR2's speeds of up to 800Mbps.

Both Samsung and Micron have announced they're preparing to ship memory modules based on the DDR4 standard.

Samsung's 4Gbit, LPDDR2 memory

In related news, Samsung on Thursday announced it has begun producing the industry's first 4Gbit, LPDDR2 memory using 20 nanometer (nm) class technology. Previously, manufacturers were using 30nm technology.

Samsung's new LPDDR2 memory chips

Based on the 4Gb components, Samsung expects to produce 2GB capacity chips with a razor-thin thickness of 0.8 millimeters, which allows manufacturers to stack four 4Gb LPDDR2 chips in a single LPDDR2 package.

The new package is about 20% thinner than 2GB packages that stack four 30nm-class 4Gb LPDDR2 chips. Also, the new 2GB package can process data at rates of up to 1066 Mbps, while spending the same amount of power as that of a previous 30nm-class 2GB package.

According to IHS iSuppli, shipments of 4Gbit LPDDR2 will also steadily increase, taking approximately 13% of total mobile DRAM shipments in 2012. The 4Gbit mobile DRAM will become the mainstream chip in the mobile DRAM market around the end of 2013, iSuppli said.

Wanhoon Hong, Samsung's executive vice president, memory sales and marketing, said the company expects to "strongly increase" the portion of 20nm-class DRAM compared to its overall DRAM output, making 4Gbit DRAM the mainstream product in DRAM production.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Read more about storage in Computerworld's Storage Topic Center.


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