Micron plates 1-beta DRAM for smartphone consumption

Micron announced its innovative 1-beta node DRAM is now shipping to some smartphone makers and chipset partners and is ready for mass production.

The debut occurs with LPDDR5X mobile memory with top speed grades of 8.5 Gbps.  It is 15% more power efficient than the prior generation with 35% greater memory bit density and a 16 Gb per die capacity.

close up of chip wiring
Micron 16GB LPDDR5X (Micron)

The company announced its previous 1-alpha node in January 2021, an update to the 1 z generation, was itself also 15% more power efficient.  Micron also announced a 232-layer NAND product in July, another sign the company said shows its tech prowess.

While memory density is an obvious improvement for its latest products, Micron officials described power savings as a high priority for customers across all product segments, not only mobile, including data centers and automotive. 

Power savings in the latest node are made possible with JEDEC dynamic voltage and frequency scaling extensions techniques, they said. The use of eDVFSC (enhanced Dynamic Voltage Frequency Scaling)  at a doubled rate of 3,200 megabits per second (over the previous generation of 1,600 Mbps)  offers improved powers savings controls.

“Power is absolutely front and center for mobile and data center,” said Ross Dermott, vice president of Micron’s mobile product line management. With the frequency scaling properties, he said, mobile devices can run at faster speeds and still further reduce power consumption.

Higher memory capacity in a smaller space will enable lower cost per bit of data, Micron said. To get there, the company has relied on nanomanufacturing and lithography processes to bypass extreme ultraviolet light technology, which is considers emergent but not yet proven. Instead, Micron said it uses advanced multi-patterning and immersion for greater circuit precision. This approach allows for smaller DRAM dyes to be used in smaller form factor smartphones. (Micron did not disclose the dye size of the LPDDR5X, however, noting it is much smaller than the previous generation.)

The 1-beta DRAM will be mass produced at a Micron plant in Hiroshima, Japan, which relies on AI for some of its functionality.

Mobile applications are the initial focus of the 1-beta DRAM partly because of “non-stop innovation” in handsets with greater needs for memory from cameras and other features, said Thy Tran, vice president of DRAM process integration. Faster 5G handsets “allow app developers to create new use cases they were not even thinking of today,” she said.

“The mobile market is not slowing down,” Dermott added.

Micron competes with SK-Hynix and Samsung to control about 95% of the total DRAM market.

Anshel Sag, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, said the 1-beta node’s improved power efficiency and density are good for the industry but won’t vastly change the absolute performance or maximum capacity of mobile devices like smartphones.

However, he added, “I do believe it will will help to meaningfully change the average capacity of smartphones when it comes to RAM, especially on Android devices.”

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