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Memory maker Hynix Semiconductor said Thursday it would mass produce DDR SDRAM memory chips certified to run at 550MHz clock-speed starting from April 2004. The new DRAMs will run faster compared to DDR-II chips and are likely to prolong the DDR memory lifespan among computer enthusiasts.

Hynix’s DDR SDRAM chips at 550MHz target PC enthusiasts requiring faster memory devices. For customers looking to upgrade their PCs to DDR-II SDRAM (DDR2), the new 550MHz DDR provides an ideal alternative by simply replacing already installed memory, Hynix said.

While DDR-II memory offers a totally new technology with a lot of potential and promising scalability, typical end-users are more concentrated on actual performance delivered by their system memory as well as the cost of such performance, but not internal architecture of the DRAMs. Due to architectural peculiarities of DDR-II, its latencies are a bit higher compared to DDR resulting in lower performance in cases when fast memory access is more important than high bandwidth.

Dual-channel DDR memory at 550MHz provides 8.80GB/s bandwidth. Dual-channel DDR-II memory at 533MHz is capable of pumping up to 8.53GB per second. Latency settings for 533MHz DDR-II memory modules is typically 4-4-4, while the same parameters for DDR modules do not exceed 3-3-3.

Lower latency settings and substantially lower product costs are two major trumps DDR is going to have over DDR-II this year. One thing DDR cannot provide is huge overclocking potential beyond 533MHz. Nevertheless, such overclocking is not common due to nature of today’s Pentium 4 microprocessors only a few of which can run at PSB speeds significantly exceeding 1066MHz. AMD Athlon 64 microprocessors do not handle memory overclocking very well.

Hynix anticipates strong demand for 550MHz DDR as desktop PCs are expected to adopt Intel’s new i915 (Grantsdale) chipsets, supporting both DDR and DDR-II, by the second half of this year. To coincide with the forecasted upgrades, Hynix started providing samples of its 550MHz DDR SDRAM to customers last month, according to the company.

In fact, DDR memory modules at 533MHz, 550MHz and even 560MHz are already available in the market, just like limited supplies of DDR-II products. A single 512MB DDR560 memory module from KuroutoShikou is quoted at about $130 in Japanese stores, a pretty low price for a very powerful product intended for overclockers. Corsair XMS2 CM2X512-4300 (DDR2) memory modules cost about $270 per unit in Tokyo, Japan. Corsair Memory CMX512-4400PT (550MHz) DDR sticks are quoted starting from $195 in the USA. Typical DDR modules at 533MHz are priced from $160 in the USA.

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