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  Rambus PC-1066 and PC-1200, Pushing the Envelope 
  Nov 15, 2001, 12:00pm EST 


By: Sander Sassen

Not many companies have been faced with so much press about their technology, but even more so about all their legal actions such as Rambus has. Many feel that these legal actions, and the recent ruling against them, are indeed what Rambus had coming, they got what they deserved so to speak. Unfortunately many people fail to see that there's more to the company that just legal actions, they can't seem to look beyond the lawyers and lawsuits and tend to think that 90% of the people Rambus employs are lawyers. In actuality Rambus' lawyers aren't the ones designing their next generation technology nor did they lay the foundation of that technology years ago. Some people conveniently tend to forget that and just generalize that anything coming from Rambus must have been conceived to make money off of the back of their customers or other manufacturers in the industry.

If you look beyond Rambus' legal actions and all the press coverage resulting from it you'll quickly realize that it really takes the focus off of what Rambus is all about as a company. They're not a company earning their revenue off of lawsuits or class actions, as some have you believe, but rather off of their RDRAM memory technology. The bare foundations of this technology offered enough performance and scalability to impress Intel and have them implement it in their upcoming i820 and i840 chipsets. Naturally we all know that the i820 was bugged by a number of issues, of which the MTH, Memory Translator Hub, comes to mind as one of the biggest problems.

Asus P3C motherboard

Fig 1. An Asus P3C motherboard for Pentium III, one of the few motherboards that managed to offer slightly better performance than the Intel 440BX with SDRAM.

In Rambus' case the i820 was the first public introduction of their technology and much was riding on the success of the chipset. Unfortunately, despite the high bandwidth of the Rambus memory, the i820 failed to convincingly impress in the performance department. It did offer an improvement over SDRAM chipsets but the performance delta was 5...15% at best, not enough to justify the higher cost of RDRAM for the average consumer. Much debate was then raised about the various speed grades of the RDRAM modules, RIMMs, as these came in a PC600, PC700 and PC800 variety, of which the PC800 was the only one to offer a real improvement in performance. PC600 and PC700 RIMMs were supposedly downgraded PC800s that couldn't quite make the spec, and that quickly resulted in people suggesting that Rambus must be having yield problems for their modules.

In reality Rambus isn't the one producing the modules, but a handful of well-known DRAM manufactures are, such as Samsung and Toshiba. According to their engineers they didn't really experience any startup problems out of the ordinary but were simply not devoting their full capacity to producing RDRAM. This was due to the simple fact that SDRAM was in higher demand and much higher profit margins could be made off of that, thus it was purely an economical decision and had nothing to do with yield problems.

1. Introduction
2. i820, handicapping RDRAM?
3. RDRAM, where are we today?
4. Testing and Methodology
5. Memory Benchmarks
6. Office Benchmarks
7. Multimedia Benchmarks
8. Conclusion

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