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issue: April 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

Technology Report
High-Speed Memory Modules


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Catering to the booming gaming console market, a new line of memory modules is said to help boost speed and improve overall system performance.

Parsippany, New Jersey, U.S.-based PNY Technologies developed seven new high-speed memory modules that reportedly increase the speed of gaming consoles. Each new model comes packaged as a 1-GB kit containing two matched 512-MB modules.

Expanding its Verto® Hi Speed Gamer Memory product line, PNY Technologies, Inc. introduced seven new, low-latency memory modules designed specifically for gaming applications. The DDR modules are available in speeds of 400 MHz, 550 MHz and 600 MHz, and the DDR2 modules are available in speeds of 533 MHz, 667 MHz, 800 MHz, and 1,000 MHz.

According to Chris Socci, senior engineer, the new modules afford end users the capability of running their system at lower latencies and higher clock speeds. “The ability to customize settings can result in lower response times from the system as a whole, thus increasing overall system performance,” notes Socci. “High-performance memory is a necessary component to allow a user to go into their system and increase bus speeds or reduce latencies.”

In order to achieve this, PNY engineers had to fine-tune the modules’ printed circuit board (PCB) to reduce skew, the time difference it takes for signals to reach the DRAM integrated circuits within and across signal groups (i.e. clocks, data, address/command). “This results in better timing margins at the module level, enabling the end user to increase clock frequencies in the system,” Socci explains.

Accomplishing this, however, wasn’t as easy as it sounds. “One of the reasons a standard memory module cannot be ‘overclocked’ with the same performance results is because the module does not have tightly balanced routing within and across signal groups,” Socci says. “Thus, when the module clock is increased, not all the signals reach the DRAMs at the same time and may be outside the window of the clock, which can result in a failure or a system crash.”

PNY engineers were able to successfully reduce skew by routing the board to meet industry specifications and then almost completely reducing acceptable tolerances to zero. “The enhanced performance that resulted from this effort was attributed to the fact that every signal in a group had the same data eye and the same flight time,” Socci says.

The modules were also designed with an integrated heat spreader for increased heat dissipation, to enhance reliability and endurance under extreme gaming conditions. “This helps reduce the temperature of the DRAM chips that run hotter due to their location on the module and in the system,” explains Socci. “For example, DRAM chips located toward the center of the module tend to run hotter because they do not get as much air flow across them as the DRAM chips located on the outer portion of the module. The heat spreader helps distribute the heat generated, and the increased surface area helps to better dissipate it.”

While simply installing the modules will not cause the system to initially boot up at a higher clock speed, Socci says the new devices allow the user to program the system to ignore the standard timings and run at higher clock speeds or lower latencies. The end result is faster gaming response times as well as more fluid graphics, bringing a more realistic look and feel to the gaming experience.

On a larger scale, Socci says the technology behind the modules can be applied to any computer system that processes data or graphics. “For a CAD designer, the increase in clock rate would enable their system to process data quicker and decrease the time it takes for the system to regenerate or refresh graphics,” he says. “This would enable designers to render graphics more quickly, saving time and money.”

 

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