Samsung PRAM, perfect memory?
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Written by Marc Prieur
Published on September 12, 2006


Samsung announced to have completed the first working prototype of PRAM (Phase-change Random Access Memory) chip. According to Samsung, this new type of nonvolatile memory will replace NOR Flash memory within the next ten years.

The manufacturer says that the PRAM can write data without having to first erase data previously accumulated. It would effectively be 30-times faster than "conventional" flash memory and have at least 10-times the life span of flash memory. Also, a PRAM cell would only be half the size of NOR flash and requires 20 percent fewer process steps to produce.

The first PRAM will be available in 2008 and will have a capacity of 64 MB. Samsung is very proud of this new product and even speaks of « perfect RAM » as a nickname for the PRAM.

So, do we to expect miracle? Not entirely. First of all, data provided by Samsung are extremely limited. Which type of memory does Samsung refers to when the manufacturer speaks of "conventional" flash memory? The NOR or the NAND? The two memories have much different characteristics. The NOR, for example, even if it has many other advantages is very slow for writing because of an excessively long erase time (0.5 to 1s). So, being 30x faster in this case would only place Samsung at a comparable level to the NAND.

Moreover, when Samsung speaks of the life span, is it for the retention which is of 10 years or the read /write cycles endurance which is currently of 100,000? Anyway, by saying that the PRAM will replace NOR and not NAND and NOR, Samsung admits that it isn't really the « perfect RAM ». The PRAM misses the same density as the NAND to reduce the cost per megabytes. The chip announced only has a capacity of 64 MB whereas the NAND now is over 1 GB.

By the way, wasn't the perfect memory supposed to be the la MRAM? (news in French)

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