Micron Begins Sampling GDDR5X Memory – Production Planned For 2H 2016

Hassan Mujtaba
Posted Mar 25, 2016
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Last month, Micron officials stated that they will commence mass production of GDDR5X memory in Summer. Today, the company has started sampling the next generation GDDR5X memory to customers. With sampling initiated, consumers which mostly include GPU manufacturers will be able to leverage the performance of their upcoming graphics cards which are likely to hit market in mid-2016.

A stock image of a GDDR5X sample chip.

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Sampling of a new memory standard is usually the last phase in the process prior to its introduction as a totally complete, consumer-ready product. NVIDIA and AMD are the two major customers which are reviving samples of the new memory chips and will be able to fine tune their graphics cards which will hit the market in a couple of months.

The first chips that will be hitting production are 8 Gb DRAMs which are the same size as currently available on GDDR5 standard. It can go up to 16 Gb with GDDR5X so we can see graphics cards with even beefier amount of VRAM on board but the latter is planned for production later on. The 8 Gb DRAM chips will comply to the new standard and feature much faster bandwidth and speeds compared to current generation GDDR5 memory. The specifications are mentioned in detailed, below:

GDDR5X features faster data transfer rates at the same frequencies!

Micron has officially stated that GDDR5X memory will be going under mass production in summer, this year. This suggests that the yields of the new DRAM will be high and early samples are already achieving speeds of 13 GB/s compared to the 14 GB/s or higher that it is expected to hit when the memory launches.

Micron is currently ramping GDDR5X to mass production, and will be announcing sample dates later this spring. We plan to be in full volume production this summer. I also hope to give you an update later this year on performance specifications. via Micron

Feature Benefit
• QDR mode • Highest data rate in the industry – >13Gbps achieved to date
• VDD/VDDQ 1.35V • Improved power per bit
• 190-ball FBGA Package, 0.65mm pitch • Smaller outline – improved electrical performance
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For those who like to know what difference is between GDDR5 and GDDR5X, we know from the official specifications published by JEDEC the both memory standards are not a whole lot different from each other but they aren’t the same thing either. The GDDR5X solution is built upon the DNA of GDDR5 and has been updated to deliver twice the data rate. There are a lot of design changes that went in developing GDDR5X to achieve the faster transfer speeds, higher bandwidth and in a package that consumers just around the same power or even lower. Micron states that GDDR5X uses around 70% of the energy that is consumed by GDDR5.

A slide showcasing the benefits of GDDR5X over GDDR5 memory standard.

The GDDR5X memory supports a 64-bit wide memory access that has double the prefetch against GDDR5 which supports a 32-bit wide memory access. This allows the memory to offer double the bandwidth and at speeds of 1.75 GHz, the GDDR5X memory will achieve data rates of 14 GB/s that will offer bandwidth of 448 GB/s across a 256-bit memory interface. Currently, the fastest GDDR5 solutions like the GTX 980 Ti can achieve a theoretical bandwidth of 336 GB/s while having access to a large 384-bit bus interface clocked at speeds of 1.75 GHz.

Micron’s GDDR5X program is in full swing and first components have already completed manufacturing. We plan to hit mass production this summer. The team at our Graphics DRAM Design Center in Munich, Germany is doing a fantastic job, too. Not only do we have functional devices earlier than expected, these early components are performing at data rates of more than 13Gb/s! Memory components mature as they move through the development and manufacturing process, so to see first silicon performing at nearly full performance specs was a pleasant surprise—these early results are incredibly promising. Our first generation GDDR5X is an 8Gb (1GB) density manufactured on our 20-nanometer process technology. via Micron

A detailed chart highlighting the differences between the different memory standard.

Compared to GDDR5 which can push speeds of up to 8 GB/s data rate per DRAM, the GDDR5X has speeds of up to 14 GB/s. Currently, Micron has achieved their first breakthrough of 13 GB/s on the 20nm process technology which was used to design a 8 Gb (1 GB) density package. Micron officials however believe that due to such good speeds delivered on early samples, their GDDR5X solution has the potential to achieve speeds even beyond 14 GB/s which is currently the maximum data rate suggested by them.

Based on the results so far, we believe that GDDR5X has the clear potential to achieve speeds of 14Gbps and potentially beyond. via Micron

Since GDDR5X comes around the same time when first Pascal and Polaris chips will be available to the market, there’s a possibility that we will see the new memory type being embedded on the latest graphics boards. The Pascal and Polaris GPUs have been rumored to feature as much as 8 GB of VRAM with 256-bit (Polaris) and 384-bit (Pascal) memory interfaces. GDDR5X can help a lot to achieve higher bandwidth on the upcoming graphics boards so it will be really interesting to see what graphics card makers have to offer with their next-gen parts.

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