SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Though DDR-2 memory offers systems lower power and faster speeds than its predecessor, the first generation of DDR-1 DRAM refuses to go away, leaving the anticipated shift to DDR-2 memory at something of a standstill.
A year ago, analysts expected that vendors would now be well into the replacement cycle for DDR-2 memory and phasing out the older technology. But a finely tuned DDR-1 manufacturing process and a chipset recall by Intel has kept the memory of yesterdays PCs from fading away.
Meanwhile, according to one analyst at the Denali Memcon show here, the DRAM industry is returning to a downturn—meaning even better prices for consumers. While second-quarter DRAM sales grew slightly compared to the first quarter, the industry is preparing for a flat fourth quarter, traditionally the strongest for the industry, said F. Lane Mason, a memory analyst for Denali Software Inc., of Palo Alto, Calif., the host of the conference.
"The industry in general was surprised that this upturn petered out so quickly," Mason said.
The problem isnt that the DRAM industry hasnt tested or qualified its DDR-2 memories with customers and chipset makers. Intel Corp. currently sells the Intel 925 chipset, which supports DDR-2 memory. Via Technologies Inc. has announced the PT890, while Silicon Integrated Systems Corp. announced the SIS649.
Intel discovered a glitch with the Intel 925 chipset last year, fixed it, and is currently shipping the part. However, that in turn essentially placed the DDR-2 market in limbo until Intel began shipping the fixed chipset, memory vendors said.
Executives at Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.s Semiconductor Division said Tuesday that theyve been shipping DDR-2 667 since January; unfortunately, customers are hardly buying the slower DDR-2400 and DDR-2 533 speeds, let alone the faster products.
Overall, DDR-2 memories accounted for an estimated 4.6 percent of the total bits shipped during September, Mason said.
Often, a vendor with a more advanced product can sell it at a premium, pulling in extra revenue. As volumes increase, the value of the premium technology goes down, but the technology becomes widespread and accepted. The problems DRAM vendors say theyre experiencing is that the chipset vendors arent touting the advantages of DDR-2, meaning that OEMs are buying the cheaper, older DDR-1 parts.
"Fundamentally, its not going to take off until it reaches the same cost point—that, or something very close to it," said Mike Black, a reduced latency (RL) DRAM manager for Micron Semiconductor Products Inc., of Boise, Idaho. He said Microns products have been qualified for months at Intel and other vendors.
Read the full story on ExtremeTech: Do We Really Need DDR-2 DRAM?