Memory Vendors Hope Centrino 2 Kick-Starts DDR3

Global memory chip makers are hurrying DDR3 (double data rate, third generation) DRAM (dynamic RAM) into Intel validation labs in hopes the processor giant's Centrino 2 laptop chips will spur DRAM demand amid a market glut.

Samsung Electronics, Micron Technology and Nanya Technology have all sent out news releases in the past few days announcing Intel validation for DDR3 chips to be used with Intel's first mobile DDR3 platform, the upcoming Centrino 2 chip package, which is expected out in June.

Intel Centrino 2 processor technology combined with DDR3 will provide higher performance at lower power levels for notebooks "and will become a major driver for early volume production of DDR3 beginning in the second quarter of 2008," Samsung said in a statement Wednesday.

The placement of DDR3 alongside a hit product like Centrino 2 could provide a lift for DRAM makers.

The DRAM market has seen months of hardship. Prices of the most widely used DRAM chips have fallen 69 percent since their previous high in July of last year, and have remained near or below $2.00 per chip since December, according to information from DRAMeXchange Technology, which runs an online clearinghouse for the chips. The $2.00 level is near or below what it costs to make the chips for most manufacturers.

Mainstream 1G-bit DDR2 (double data rate, second generation) chips that run at 667MHz fell to $1.94 each late Tuesday, according to DRAMeXchange.

DRAM makers often promote new technologies such as DDR3 when the market slumps because they can charge more for better chips.

Samsung said DDR3 is already going into high-end PCs and will make up around 10 percent of the global DRAM market in the second half of this quarter. Nanya Technology has said DDR3 could account for 30 percent of DRAM demand by the fourth quarter.

"Nanya is preparing for significantly increased demand in mobile PCs," said Pai Pei-lin, spokesman for Nanya Technology.

DDR2 has been the main variety of DRAM used in PCs and laptops for the past few years. DDR3 is an incremental improvement over DDR2, providing faster speeds, lower power consumption and higher bandwidth.

Samsung, Micron and Nanya Technology all announced complete line-ups of mobile DDR3 in 512M-byte, 1G-byte and 2G-byte configurations that have been validated by Intel.

Micron also announced that it will have 4G-byte DDR3 modules in mass production in the second quarter. The larger capacity modules are aimed at high-end laptops for gamers or heavy multimedia users that need more DRAM power, Micron said, and are already being tested for validation by Intel.

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