Mobile devices to get faster LP-DDR4 memory next year

LP-DDR4 memory will start appearing in tablets next year, two years earlier than expected

Thanks to the rise of mobile gaming and 4K video, LP-DDR4 memory will reach smartphones and tablets close to two years earlier than expected, an analyst said.

The first mobile devices with LP-DDR4 will arrive next year, and the technology will go mainstream in 2016, said Mike Howard, a senior principal analyst at IHS.

Flagship handsets and tablets from top mobile device makers will likely take up LP-DDR4 memory in the second half of next year, Howard said. Initially, LP-DDR4 memory will command a premium, but the price will tumble late next year as production rises to meet the growing demand, Howard said.

The memory is close to two years earlier than expected because the current LP-DDR3 "just doesn't have the bandwidth that especially gaming [and video] really need," Howard said.

"They needed better technology and they needed it now," Howard said, adding that LP-DDR4 is faster and more power efficient.

Samsung, which has started shipping samples of LP-DDR4 memory, estimates that the new memory is 50 percent faster and 40 percent more power efficient than LP-DDR3. Used with processors that offer high clock speeds, a single package of LP-DDR4 memory will offer data transfer speeds of 17GBps (gigabytes per second), rising to 34GBps for 64-bit processors, said Linley Gwennap, founder and principal analyst at The Linley Group, in a research note this month.

Mobile games are becoming increasingly demanding and bandwidth intensive, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. But faster processors won't have much of an impact on game performance unless more memory bandwidth is also available, Brookwood said.

LP-DDR4 is a low-power, mobile-oriented version of DDR4 memory, which is targeted at PCs and servers and expected later this year. Usually the mobile version of the DDR DRAM is released one or two years after the PC counterpart. But with smartphones and tablet shipments exploding, manufacturers are focusing on LP-DDR4, IHS's Howard said.

"The transition's happening quicker than history would indicate," Howard said.

The life of LP-DDR3 is turning out to be shorter than that of LP-DDR2, which dominated mobile memory shipments over the last four years, Howard said.

Qualcomm has already announced support for LP-DDR4 in its Snapdragon 810 chipset, and others are expected to follow. SK Hynix and Samsung are shipping samples of LP-DDR4 memory.

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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