With the adoption of 4K monitors on the rise, and the release of consumer-grade virtual reality just around the corner, the need for larger amounts of faster memory has never been so high. Graphics cards have been released with ever-increasing frame buffers year over year to accommodate high resolutions. Graphics cards today come equipped with as much as 8 GB, and in some cases even 12 GB of memory. Until now, 4 Gb modules were the highest density available, forcing manufacturers to work with limited frame buffers, or build large PCBs to house all the memory modules.
With today's announcement, Micron has released memory chips with 8 Gb density, effectively doubling the maximum memory capacity of upcoming graphics cards and other products that use GDDR5 memory, such as game consoles.
On the other hand, it is now also possible to reduce the size of board needed, while maintaining the same amount of graphics memory, making it possible to design cards that take up a smaller footprint.
In addition to launching higher density GDDR5 modules, Micron also hinted at what's to come in 2016. Currently, 7 Gbps GDDR5 is what we see on many graphics cards offered today. Micron said that 8 Gbps modules are currently in production, but it sees this as the absolute peak for GDDR5 in its current form. The company said it observed that command address protocoling and array speed were the two limiting factors, while the interface had plenty of additional headroom.
In order to surpass the 8 Gbps barrier of GDDR5, without completely building a new memory technology from the ground up, Micron doubled the pre-fetch of GDDR5 from eight data words for each memory access, to 16 data words per access. Doing this resulted in 10 to 12 Gbps on the first generation, and the company expects to be able to surpass 14 Gbps, and perhaps reach 16 Gbps and beyond as the technology is refined.
Micron will make a formal announcement about this new memory technology some time in 2016, but what we know so far is that the company is calling it "GDDR5X," and it will be significantly faster than current offerings. The company wanted to make adoption as simple as possible, so it retained as much of the GDDR5 commands and protocols as possible. Additionally, Micron is not keeping this as a proprietary option, and has instead approached JEDEC to make GDDR5X a widely available standard.
8 Gb GDDR5 modules are available now for hardware manufacturers. Micron expects availability of products using GDDR5X to start hitting the market in the second half of 2016.