Intel to roll out PRAM

Phase memory to replace Flash and DRAM

Intel is about to sample non-volatile phase-change random access memory (PCM or PRAM) as a drop-in replacement for NOR flash memory, the type used in mobile phones. PRAM has the potential because of its size and access speeds to replace some DRAM applications as well as the longer-lasting but slower NAND flash memory used in digital cameras and beginning to appear in hybrid disk drives.

Most random access memory suppliers are investigating PRAM. Intel says that it has built a 128Mbit PRAM device, using 90nm technology, which demonstrated 100 million read-write cycles. Flash memory chips have a far lower read-write cycle maximum and some fail after just 10,000 cycles. Intel's chip has a claimed 10-year or greater data retention period, is smaller than equivalent capacity flash memory, and uses the same power. The company didn't reveal its PRAM access time but Hitachi has demonstrated a 20ns latency. This is much quicker than flash memory's 50-90ns latency but significantly slower than DDR2 RAM which is around 3ns.

Intel intends to identify and fix any problems with PRAM in the NOR flash area and then move the technology up the memory hierarchy to NAND flash. If it can get the access speed down even lower then DRAM applications could also move to PRAM. An attraction would be that PRAM doesn't need the power-hungry constant refreshing needed by DRAM. Intel is talking of PRAM as a kind of memory nirvana.

Other potential PRAM applications include much faster and capacious USB thumb drives and solid-state disk drives. Hybrid disk drives and the Intel Robson motherboard with flash cache, could also have larger and significantly faster cache memory leading to better performance.

Elpida, IBM, Intel, Macronix, Qimonda and Samsung are all licensing PRAM technology from Ovonyx which owns the core intellectual property. Intel Capital invested in Ovonyx in 2000 and made an additional investment in 2005. Intel is not saying what capacity devices it will sample but Samsung already has 90nm 256Mbit and 512Mbit sample parts available. Intel expects Moore's law to apply to PRAM technology development in terms of cell size and speed.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Chris Mellor

Techworld.com

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?