July 10, 2006 11:09 AM PDT

Freescale goes to market with magnetic memory

Freescale Semiconductor has won the race to get a magnetic form of computer memory to market, but its high price could keep it from appearing in machines in the near future.

On Monday, the Austin, Texas-based specialist in embedded semiconductors released its MR2A16A chip, which the company says is the first commercial MRAM, or magnetoresistive random access memory, device.

MRAM is faster than most other types of computer memory; Freescale's chip promises to read or write data in 35 nanoseconds. In addition, MRAM can hold data even after the computer is turned off. Proponents say it could replace both flash memory, used inside cell phones and cameras, and DRAM, employed inside computers to shuttle data to the processor.

In MRAM, a tiny magnetic field is created inside a memory cell on a chip. The computer then measures the electrical resistance exhibited by the magnetic field at any given moment to determine whether the cell should be read as a "1" or a "0," the binary building blocks of data.

In flash memory, the ones and zeros are generated by the presence or absence of electrons in a cell. These chips typically consume more power than MRAMs.

Freescale's MR2A16A chips, however, aren't cheap. The 4-megabit MRAM part now shipping costs $25 at wholesale and is available in low volumes only. By comparison, someone buying DRAM can get 512 megabytes, or 1,024 times more memory, for $34--and that's retail pricing.

"With the commercialization of MRAM, Freescale is the first to market with a technology of tremendous possibilities and profound implications," Bob Merritt, of research firm Semico Research, said in a statement. "Competition to become the first company to market MRAM technology was fierce. This is a significant achievement that certainly confirms the dedication of Freescale's engineering team."

Freescale is Motorola's former chip unit. The Schaumburg, Ill.-based communications company spun it off in 2004.

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30 comments

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Confused...
How is $34 for 512MB expensive? Perhaps you meant $340.
Posted by patkohler (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah...
Sounds like a bargain to me. I'll take 2.
Posted by ebeamsales (36 comments )
Link Flag
Incorrect math
4 Mbits != 512 MBytes. It looks like the editor missed this.

4 Mbits = 512 KBytes = 0.5 MBytes
Posted by T.Alderman (6 comments )
Link Flag
different products
$34 for 512MB of DRAM, not MRAM
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Link Flag
way off the mark
You completely missed the mark. They're comparing $25 for 4 megabits of MRAM to $36 for 512 megabytes of DRAM.

If you need the conversion done for you, that's a 1024:1 ratio. Ie, you need 1024 x $25 = $25,600 to purchase 512 megabytes of MRAM.
Posted by bobb0 (4 comments )
Link Flag
Confused...
How is $34 for 512MB expensive? Perhaps you meant $340.
Posted by patkohler (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah...
Sounds like a bargain to me. I'll take 2.
Posted by ebeamsales (36 comments )
Link Flag
Incorrect math
4 Mbits != 512 MBytes. It looks like the editor missed this.

4 Mbits = 512 KBytes = 0.5 MBytes
Posted by T.Alderman (6 comments )
Link Flag
different products
$34 for 512MB of DRAM, not MRAM
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Link Flag
way off the mark
You completely missed the mark. They're comparing $25 for 4 megabits of MRAM to $36 for 512 megabytes of DRAM.

If you need the conversion done for you, that's a 1024:1 ratio. Ie, you need 1024 x $25 = $25,600 to purchase 512 megabytes of MRAM.
Posted by bobb0 (4 comments )
Link Flag
Who wrote this article and did they confuse
bytes with bits?

;)
Posted by wtortorici (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No confusion, but a confusing conversion
The article describes the chip as "4 megabit".

Making the std assumption of 8 bits per byte, that means the byte capacity of the chip is 4megabits divided by 8, which comes out to half a megabyte, or 512K.

The article *should* have compared this 512K for $25 to 512mb for $34. In other words a paltry $9 gets you 1024 times more memory.

What do you want to bet this was the original form of the comparison, and then an editor checked it against the chip specs, saw the 4 megabit listing, and converted the spec back to its original form to produce the current confusion.
Posted by pmachtem (2 comments )
Link Flag
no
the story, however poorly worded, compared 4 megabits of MRAM @ $25 to 512 megabytes of DRAM @ $34, the upshot of which is a ratio of 1024:1 in price difference. ie, MRAM is super expensive.
Posted by bobb0 (4 comments )
Link Flag
Who wrote this article and did they confuse
bytes with bits?

;)
Posted by wtortorici (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
no
the story, however poorly worded, compared 4 megabits of MRAM @ $25 to 512 megabytes of DRAM @ $34, the upshot of which is a ratio of 1024:1 in price difference. ie, MRAM is super expensive.
Posted by bobb0 (4 comments )
Link Flag
No confusion, but a confusing conversion
The article describes the chip as "4 megabit".

Making the std assumption of 8 bits per byte, that means the byte capacity of the chip is 4megabits divided by 8, which comes out to half a megabyte, or 512K.

The article *should* have compared this 512K for $25 to 512mb for $34. In other words a paltry $9 gets you 1024 times more memory.

What do you want to bet this was the original form of the comparison, and then an editor checked it against the chip specs, saw the 4 megabit listing, and converted the spec back to its original form to produce the current confusion.
Posted by pmachtem (2 comments )
Link Flag
 

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