Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Can DDR4 Save the Netbook?
A developmental stick of DDR4 SDRAM from Samsung
Sick of integrated graphics? You're not alone. The next big thing in RAM, though, may finally bring integrated graphics up to a level gamers will actually consider. It's DDR4 SDRAM, or "double data rate type 4 synchronized dynamic random access memory". According to Micron Technology, a major player in the industry, DDR4 will hit sometime next year. More exciting than that are the improvements it's promising to bring over the current standard, DDR3. Plan on DDR4 running on 1.2V of power, compared to 1.5V that DDR3 currently uses. This lower voltage results in reduced power consumption, and that's always a plus for netbooks. Even better is DDR4's bandwidth, which is set to reach double the speed of DDR3. DDR4 is expected to launch at 2133 MT/s (megatransfers per second), resulting in a bandwidth of just over 17 GB/s, all in a single stick. That's a huge leap for netbook performance, as integrated graphics use the system's memory for its own use. Take a current-gen Atom netbook, for instance. You can get a maximum of 8.5 GB/s out of one today. Using DDR4, a bandwidth of over 17 GB/s can be achieved, which is required to play games like Call of Duty: World at War and Mass Effect. Or consider a larger netbook, like one with an AMD E1-1200 processor. In a single-channel configuration, over 10.6 GB/s of bandwidth is supplied. Double that with DDR4 and a dual-channel config and you have enough bandwidth for Civilization V. But for the million dollar question: can it save the netbook? Well, maybe, but not single-handedly. Newer and better CPU's and GPU's are necessary for the netbook to gain popularity. Regardless, however you look at it, DDR4 is an exciting technology that could finally grant netbooks the performance and lower power consumption they need.


  1. Good information but it should be mentioned that quoted memory speeds are peak theoretical values that are good for marketing but do not apply to the real world. It is the sustained thoughput that matters and that is usually one-fifth to one-third of the peak value. Doubling and re-doubling the burst rate make small improvements to the sustained transfer rate.

    1. This is a good point, but I'm guessing that the bandwidth of the video RAM in dedicated GPU's that most games specify in the system requirements is also subject to marketing exaggeration. Both system and video RAM use burst modes, I believe.