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Samsung Electronics, the world’s largest maker of memory chips, has begun shipping the world’s first 512Mb GDDR3 memory device to graphics card makers, as well as electronic game console manufacturers. The new Samsung device has at least twice the density of any graphics memory available today, enabling graphics cards with large frame-buffers of 512MB.

“With our new 512 megabit GDDR3 memory, we can provide sharply improved performance, reduced power consumption and more efficient space utilization for 512MB graphics cards,” said Mueez Deen, Director of Marketing, Graphics Memory, Samsung Semiconductor.

Currently there are no graphics cards with 512MB frame-buffer aimed at consumers. Only professional graphics cards, such as certain versions of NVIDIA Quadro or 3Dlabs’ products, sport 512MB frame-buffer. It is not clear whether it is enough cost-effective for graphics chips designers to vow for 512MB graphics cards, as GDDR3 memory currently used on high-end graphics products is pretty expensive.

Leading developers of graphics processors, such as NVIDIA Corp. and ATI Technologies, usually tend to double the amount of on-board memory on high-end graphics products every 12 to 18 months. More on-board memory allows graphics cards to store more textures near the graphics chip, which in some cases improves performance, as the processor does not have to pump the data it needs from system memory via AGP or PCI Express bus. However, the first generation of graphics cards that feature doubled amount of memory compared to predecessors usually do not make much use of this advantage because contemporary games are developed with lower amount of graphics memory in mind, while the future titles require visual processing units with higher computing power.

The first graphics cards with 256MB of memory for consumers were released in mid-2003 along with the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra and RADEON 9800 PRO 256MB products. Currently even entry-level offerings feature 256MB of relatively slow memory. Besides technology-related reasons to put more memory onboard, there is a marketing reason for that – a lot of end-users tend to get graphics card with more graphics random access memory hoping to get higher speed.

A recently released NVIDIA ForceWare driver already supports graphics cards with 512MB of onboard memory.

Market analysts predict that the 2005 graphics DRAM market will be 30% higher than this year’s figure, reaching close to $1.47 billion. The Samsung 512Mb GDDR3, the first JEDEC-standard GDDR3 to operate at up to 1.6Gbps (or 1.60GHz), is faster than any other graphics memory on the market, Samsung said.

In November 2003, Samsung introduced 256Mb GDDR3 memory and holds the largest share of the market for graphics memory embedded in high-end graphics cards, the company claimed.

Mass production of the 512Mb GDDR3 will begin early next year.

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