Cost, Price & Royalties

Until this point there hasn't really been a reason not to like Rambus and this "wonderful" RDRAM technology they've brought with them, but here's the real kicker.  When it comes down to money, people will often change their minds in the blink of an eye, it's the same reason the phrase "vote your pocketbook" came about regarding political elections, everyone has their breaking point and for most users, having to pay $1000 for 128MB of RDRAM wasn't worth the added security of knowing that you had 1.6GB/s of available memory bandwidth.

When asked to explain the reason for the incredible price premium RDRAM held and currently holds over SDRAM with little/no performance increase over current platforms, their primary explanation was basically one of the fundamentals of the laws of supply and demand: there aren't enough RDRAM devices on the market and the demand outweighs the miniscule supply that is out there. 

Whether or not you want to believe that is up to you, but Rambus did help put some incredibly poor rumors to death.  The biggest rumor was that the yields on Rambus parts had dropped to ridiculously low levels.  While we could not get an exact figure out of Rambus, we figured that the yield on RDRAM is decently close to that of SDRAM, although not nearly as high as that of SDRAM, which has really been around since before the days of the old 430TX chipset. 

The price of RDRAM will go down, but by year's end, don't expect it to be the same price as SDRAM although the price difference will definitely decrease.  That decrease may not only be because the price of RDRAM will be falling, but potentially because the price of SDRAM may rise again. 

Currently, you can find a 128MB PC800 for under $600 if you shop around, but if you compare this to $100 you can pick up a generic 128MB PC133 module for, that's still quite pricey. 

The price will come down as more manufacturers begin shipping larger quantities of RDRAM devices.  Currently, NEC, Infineon, Samsung, Hyundai, and Toshiba are in production now, but you also have to take into account that Toshiba is Sony's primary supplier for RDRAM for the PS2, meaning that the millions of RDRAM chips they are producing are going mostly to Sony for the PS2.  Toshiba had to have 4 million 16MB RDRAM chips ready for the launch of the PS2 since Sony had plans to have 2 million units ready at the launch of their system.  As the production of RDRAM increases, the price will definitely go down, but the point where RDRAM will be competitively priced with SDRAM is still quite some time away. 

When the Willamette hits later this year/early next year, for Intel's sake, RDRAM better be affordable because a Tehama + MTH + SDRAM solution is going to severely cripple the performance of Willamette. 

The final topic to discuss are the royalties that everyone seems to know everything about when it comes to RDRAM.  Rambus licenses out their technology to DRAM manufacturers and chipset manufacturers that use their Rambus interfaces in their devices.  These royalties you've heard so much about are paid for by the memory  manufacturers and the chipset manufacturers. 

The royalty is approximately 1 – 2% per RDRAM chip and 2 – 5% for the memory controller; in the end this doesn't total to an incredible amount and is definitely not the cause of the price premium RDRAM holds over SDRAM. 

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  • dylan522p - Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - link

    Wow I wish I read this all those years ago. Reply

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