At Uplinq I met representatives of Samsung who are promoting the LPDDR3 memory designed for the next-generation smartphones and tablets. LPDDR is also known as “mobile DDR” and it is a type of memory that can consume 10X less power in standby mode, when compared to typical “PC” DDR3 memory. Obviously, this is a big deal because most of the time, your smartphone is in standby mode, doing very little. Many smartphones currently use LPDDR2.
This type of memory consumes less power because they have a special design which requires a lower voltage, a slower refresh rate and they also have a mode where they don’t even have to keep their content. The design works for mobile devices, but the extra cost is not justifiable (yet!) on regular PCs and laptops which have components that consume much more juice anyway (display, CPU, GPU).
The main point of LPDDR3 is that it has a much higher bandwidth than LPDDR2. That is particularly handy when you know that the graphics memory and the main memory are usually shared under a Unified Memory Architecture (UMA) model. The graphics processor (GPU) is particularly voracious when it comes to bandwidth, because displays have grown both in size and in pixel density. In a few years, we went from 76,000 pixels (320×240) to 1.3M pixels (1280×1204), so the number of pixels has been effectively multiplied by 17 – believe me, that’s a dream for any GPU vendor.
At the moment, Samsung is “sampling” (which means “sending in small quantities for evaluation”) chips to various manufacturers and chip makers. First, chip makers need to include support for LPDDR3 into their memory controllers. Then device makers have to test and validate all this. Samsung assured me that they are “ready” to ship in quantities when devices makers are – still, for you and I, this means “sometime next year”.