Elpida shows the world a working 30nm process

4GB DDR3 SO-DIMMS are about to hit prime time

Much to chagrin of graphics chip Etch-a-Sketcher’s everywhere, Elpida is rolling out its new DRAM chips on a 30nm process.  Sampling of certain 4GB DDR3 SO-DIMM modules has already begun, and large-scale availability of these minified silicon marvels is expected in Q1 2011.  Benefits of this process enhancement are good for everybody as chips will be smaller, cheaper, larger, and faster and consume less power to boot.

Elpida claims that compared to their old-school 40nm process, these chips utilize 20% less operating current and 30% less standby current which will result in prolonged battery life in all manner of DRAM using gizmos.  We can only imagine the massive amounts of high-fives being doled out in a certain Cupertino marketing office right now.  DRAM certainly needs power to function, but is not generally the main reason your battery meter is falling faster than the Dow Jones in 2008.  In short, don’t expect any battery life miracles from this advancement, though power sipping netbooks and tablets might get more mileage from this announcement than the rest of their electron pushing brethren.

Another perk to silicon shrinkage is generally faster clock speeds and this announcement is no different.   These 30nm chips can transfer your data at speeds up to 1866Mbps, a fair bit quicker than the now standard DDR3 1600 modules that are just about everywhere.  Latency of the new modules was unfortunately not discussed in the press briefing which is disappointing.  Most mainstream DDR3 1600 modules operate at a CAS latency of 9, with some performance modules dipping into the 7 range.  It is likely Elpida will release their new chips with latency in the 9 range as well, but with the added frequency headroom, it is conceivable they could release some chips with lower latencies which would certainly be a welcome event.  This is pure speculation, so hopefully you have your salt shaker handy.

Faster, cheaper RAM is what we all want and the bottom line to this story is just that.  Barring any natural or man-made supply chain disruptions, we should see some larger DIMMs and SO-DIMM modules hit the market at great prices in 2011.  Count on 8GB becoming more common in mainstream notebooks towards the end of the year as Elpida and others ramp their new processes to provide us all with some tasty and affordable 4GB chips.S|A

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