Rambus Quintuples Graphics Memory With Microthreading

Rambus touted its ramped-up computer chip memory interface known as XDR2 this week, heralding the high-speed interface as a tool for “unprecedented graphics capabilities” enabled through the new technology.

The latest version of its high-bandwidth XDR memory interface, XDR2, uses a DRAM core innovation known as microthreading and other enhanced technology to allow data rates of 8 GHz and higher, five times today’s graphics DRAM memory, the Japanese company said.

Analysts indicated the graphics performance boost would have a wider impact than typical graphics technology improvements, such as graphics accelerators.

“This is certainly of a different class of specialization, and it’s more of a broad brush improvement to graphics in what can be done in fine detail,” Mercury Research President Dean McCarron told TechNewsWorld.

High Speed, High Performance

Rambus, which made the new interface available for licensing with products using the technology expected to ship by 2007, said XDR2 uses a number of new and enhanced technologies to boost data rates in the memory for computer and console graphics.

The company described the technologies:

  • Microthreading, which enables more bandwidth from DRAMs with reduced power consumption;
  • Adaptive timing, which is a speed enhancement through compensation for process, voltage and temperature variations;
  • Transmit equalization, an output circuit for minimizing the adverse effects of reflections and attenuation which has limited DRAM speed;
  • DRSL signaling, a signaling standard to reduce noise and signal loss.

“We are continually pushing interface technology forward to develop compelling and innovative solutions that meet our customers needs,” said a statement from Rambus Vice President of Platform Solutions Laura Stark. “XDR2 is our latest iteration of the XDR DRAM architecture and will help 3D games and graphics-intensive applications realize the high performance potential that users demand.”

Fast for Detail

Mercury’s McCarron said Rambus was getting the speed and performance increases of XDR2 through fairly new technology not used before in DRAM.

In addition to typical hardware-based improvements, McCarron highlighted the architecture and microthreading of the memory interface, stating that the new technology will allow graphics controllers to access immediate data much more quickly.

He said the impact for gamers, which is “by far the most natural application for this type of device,” will be faster rendering that is more capable.

“And as a result, there will be much more detail to the scene rendering,” McCarron said. “Because this is a kind of basic ingredient technology, it’s a little different [than other graphics improvements]. It’s really more about giving you more of what you’ve got.”

Console Competitive Factor?

Although the major gaming console makers are in the midst of releasing their next-generation machines, they are not likely to incorporate the XDR2 technology, described by Rambus as the next generation of XDR memory interface.

Instead, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and others will likely use existing XDR technology and wait until the next, next-generation consoles to incorporate XDR2, according to McCarron.

“Obviously, the graphics performance (with XDR2) is better, so if one guy used it and another guy didn’t, it could be an advantage, but I don’t think we’re going to see that happen. It’s not typical in the [console] industry,” he said, referring to the ability to rework the gaming hardware.

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