What Is an RDRAM? The Fastest RAM Released In The 90s!

It is no secret that PC users heavily relied on ultra-fast SDRAM memory devices throughout the 90s. SDRAMs, from the very first day, had their grip on the computer memory market. It was almost impossible for the memory manufacturers to compete with the SDRAM technology.

what is an rdram
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This was obviously a money-making period for Samsung, the tech giant behind the invention of SDRAM devices.

Samsung’s SDRAM memory modules thrashed their rivals by a large margin. But by the end of the 90s, things changed for the South Korean company.

That is when Rambus, the high-speed interface manufacturer based in the US, decided to challenge the monopoly of Samsung and came up with an iconic memory device called RDRAM. Rambus’ memory device was very well received by PC users and became the highest standard memory system.

Long story short, RDRAM remained the king for a few years until Samsung threw a new memory module into the market called DDR SDRAM. Samsung’s new weapon proved to be fatal for RDRAM resulting in its devaluation. RDRAM’s fall is an interesting case study for PC Enthusiasts to study.

But before we talk about RDRAM’s story in future posts, it is better to know a few basics about it. For more information, follow my words through the end of the post.

What Is An RDRAM?

Introduced in 1999, RDRAM is one of the three types of DRAM memory systems. It is a memory device with a full form of Rambus Dynamic Random Access Memory. In layman’s terms, RDRAM is like any other RAM used by computers and laptops as volatile memory.

It synchronizes itself with the Processor of the computer for high-end performance. The technology of RDRAM is one of the key differences between it and other types of RAMs.

Initially designed to challenge SDRAMs, it delivered a high performance at the cost of a higher price tag. RDRAM offered extremely fast data transfer rates that became the standard speed for future memory devices. While an SDRAM relies on a single memory controller located on the motherboard, RDRAMs featured their own fleet of memory controllers with one on each chip.

These multiple memory controllers provide the RDRAM with the power for high operation handling. Rambus’ mega-successful memory device was compatible with Intel’s motherboards for at least a couple of years. When Intel parted ways with Rambus, RDRAM was left with no other major motherboard manufacturer to support its configuration.

How Does An RDRAM Work?

RDRAM shares the same working principle with a DDR SDRAM memory device. If you have read my post on DDR SDRAMs you can skip this part and move to the characteristics section. But if you are new to my Memory Series, you can keep on reading.

Before you move forward, it is important to acknowledge that the clock cycle of a computer’s processor features a couple of edges. These two different edges are called falling and leading edges. When an RDRAM gets into action for data fetching, it turns to both the falling and leading edges of a clock cycle simultaneously.

What the RDRAM does is that it fetches the data from both the falling and leading edges of the clock cycle which bolsters the data transfer rate of the computer system.

Supported by a 16-bit data traveling module, the RDRAM can process as many as eight commands at a time. It creates a sequence of commands to work on for improved efficiency. The RDRAM takes the data input and delivers data output simultaneously multiplying its data processing speed.

Characteristics Of DDR SDRAM

The characteristics of an RDRAM device reveal its ability to outclass all types of RAMs developed throughout the 90s. Scroll down to take a look at its characteristics for further analysis.

High Bandwidth

RDRAMs provided PC users with blistering data bandwidth for at least a couple of years. An RDRAM was a standard PC memory for as long as the DDR SDRAM didn’t make an appearance in the market. When it comes to statistics, the highest module specification of RDRAM namely RIMM 6400 can boost a PC with a data bandwidth rate of 6400 MByte/s.

Clock Rate

The clock rate of an RDRAM was substantially higher than the SDRAM. For example, while the latter can run at the maximum clock rate of 133 MHz, the former can operate at a clock rate of 800 Mhz. The greater clock rate of an RDRAM allowed it to deliver multiple times more performance than an SDRAM.

High Standard Speed

An RDRAM was the ultimate answer to the RAMs introduced throughout the 90s. It was a powerful device with greater data transfer speeds. Just to give you an idea, each channel of an RDRAM can transfer more than half a GB of data per second. If you add another channel into an RDRAM, its speed will cross 1GB per second. The more channels you will add to an RDRAM, the higher its speed would be.


The world of PC welcomed RDRAMs and utilized them greatly in multiple subdomains. As a standard memory system, RDRAM extensively was used in computers and laptops. It was specifically applied to PCs to aid the video cards and cache memory systems.

RDRAMs were also used in servers as the central memory system for a brief period of time. Sensing a great potential in the industry of gaming, Rambus applied RDRAMs to video game consoles including Nintendo 64. Overall, RDRAM’s use was extended to a few domains outside the world of PC.

Frequently Asked Questions

Wrap Up

The downfall of RDRAM is an interesting subject for PC enthusiasts. Generally, its complex circuitry structure was blamed for its sudden downfall. Because of the complex circuits, RDRAMs used to consume and release more power than its predecessor. Although RDRAM was a high-end memory device, its cost was super high which also contributed to its disappearance.

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Bilal Khan
Bilal Khan

Bilal might look like a Bearded Caucasian right out of a Viking movie but trust me he's a native Pakistani. He has a long list of hobbies among which staying updated on the Latest Technology and Hardware happens to be on the top. If you are looking for detailed hardware explanations through no tricky terminologies, follow him to read Tech Content curated perfectly for the human brain.

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