Wait for DDR4 memory on desktops to end in third quarter

Crucial will ship DDR4 DIMMs at around the time Intel ships chipsets compatible with the memory

Crucial's DDR4 memory

Crucial's DDR4 memory

For gamers and desktop users looking to shift to the new DDR4 memory as quickly as possible, the wait will end in the third quarter this year.

Crucial expects to ship new DDR4 memory for both servers and desktops around the same time in the third quarter, said Michael Moreland, worldwide product marketing manager at Crucial.

New DDR memory is usually shipped first for servers and then for desktops, but that trend will change with DDR4, which has been under development for more than five years. PCs will be faster and more power efficient with DDR4, which provides 50 percent more memory bandwidth than DDR3 and 35 percent more power savings.

"We expect DDR4 adoption will take place -- the parts, the boards, the accessories will be there for customers," Moreland said, adding that motherboard makers have also been stepping up to add DDR4 support.

Graphically intense games and high-end server applications are bandwidth sensitive, and DDR4 memory will make computers more responsive, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

"As you go to more cores and higher clock frequencies, it's all about bandwidth. [DDR4] is going to be in high-end servers and high-end PCs," Brookwood said.

Crucial's DDR4 DIMM shipments will come when Intel ships chips that support the new memory. Intel has added DDR4 support to server and enthusiast desktop processors, and Crucial's DDR4 DIMMs will plug into those systems. Intel's upcoming eight- to 16-core, Haswell-based Core Extreme Edition processors and Xeon server chips code-named Grantley will be DDR4 compatible.

As with DDR2 and DDR3, it's safe to assume that initial DDR4 DIMMs could be priced at a premium, Moreland said. The memory industry is volume-sensitive and prices typically come down as adoption grows and more chips are produced. DDR4 is ultimately expected to completely replace DDR3.

Crucial is a subsidiary of Micron Technology, which will provide the basic DDR4 technology.

Crucial has shipped DDR4 modules for testing to motherboard makers and system builders. The modules include RDIMM (registered dual in-line memory module) with ECC error correction for servers, and UDIMM (unbuffered dual in-line memory module) -- which doesn't have error correction -- for desktops. Crucial is sampling 4GB, 8GB or 16GB RDIMM modules and 8GB UDIMM modules. The modules draw 1.2 volts of power.

It could take longer for DDR4 to reach laptops, Moreland said. Intel hasn't yet provided details on its next PC chip code-named Broadwell, which will succeed Haswell. Broadwell shipments have already been delayed by a few quarters.

DDR4 memory could reach mobile devices before laptops. Qualcomm announced a mobile chip called Snapdragon 810, which boasts support for low-power DDR4 (LP-DDR4). Smartphones and tablets based on the chip will ship in the first half of next year.

The DDR4 specification was finalized in September 2012, but its adoption was delayed after prices of DDR3 stabilized last year. Price stability generated higher profit margins for memory makers such as SK Hynix, Samsung and Micron, which continued making DDR3 instead of moving over to DDR4, which would have cost more to produce. Intel and Advanced Micro Devices stuck to DDR3 in thin and light laptop designs, which were intended to resuscitate the slumping PC market.

The DDR4 bus clock speed tops out at 3200MHz, an improvement from 2400MHz for DDR3. DDR4 also has more features to prevent data errors.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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