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Bringing the best of all technology worlds to next-gen laptops

Memory is the key to enabling lightweight, power efficient, high-performance portability

Sponsored Feature Think about your wishes as an end user of smartphones and laptops for a moment: in an increasingly remote world, what are the benefits and drawbacks of both types of device? Would you ever believe it is possible to bring the best of both worlds - (low power, long battery in smartphones) and high-performance capabilities and productivity tools (laptops) - to each?

That reality is closer than it might appear. Expert co-design efforts among device, processor, memory, and storage makers, along with powerful new technologies that boost power and performance capabilities have arrived.

All of this comes at the right time, especially following the shift to remote working which began in 2020. It's natural that people now used to flexibility almost by default might want many features of a smartphone to carry over to a laptop. From lightweight portability to long battery life, these devices changed how we work, play, and communicate. Laptops provide better productivity tools and options, and following the height of the pandemic, users demand the best of all worlds in terms of their devices.

That impetus has significantly contributed to market growth. Research firm Gartner estimates there were 6.2bn PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones in use across the world in 2021, a figure predicted to increase by 3.2 percent to 6.4bn in 2022. Those figures mask an anticipated decline in the number of desktops, however. By contrast, laptop usage is expected to increase by 8.8 percent year on year, and many new devices sold will rely on innovative form factors that make them more attractive devices to own and use.

Even before the pandemic there was increasing demand in the client computing world for outstanding user experience. This includes delivering devices that could be thinner, lighter, and faster with far longer battery life all presented in a cost-effective way.

That pent-up clamor for devices that captured the power and portability of mobile devices alongside superior performance that trickled down from the data center exploded during Covid and continues today. And at the core of these innovations in client devices is memory.

From smartphones to the world's largest data centers, memory is the foundation for performance and efficiency. In between those form factors are laptops, which can benefit from the best in data center and mobile devices, particularly with the use of low-power DRAM (LPDRAM) technology.

Energy efficient, high-performance memory is at the heart of architectural changes that have hit the broad range of technology, from smartphones and laptops, desktops to data centers. We now have changes in the types of processor cores (some for pure performance, others energy-efficient, and even accelerators for AI/ML) as well as I/O controllers and control elements all embedded into a single chipset. To make all this work seamlessly and efficiently is a memory architecture for all these elements that provides a pool of high-capacity, low-power DRAM that enables the best-in-class performance per watt customers across the client world demand.

LPDRAM drives architectural choices

That group of power efficient memory in ultra-thin and light laptops is almost always LPDRAM due to its ability to balance high performance and power efficiency in a thin form-factor. That one architectural choice changes the entire playing field for what's possible when it comes to designing, building, and delivering lightweight, portable devices with long battery life that end users currently demand.

This will continue to evolve as manufacturers like Micron push the innovation envelope. The company recently introduced what it says is the world's first 232-layer NAND technology. This means higher density, lower power storage which allows for the integration of more storage in an energy efficient manner, enabling more intelligence in many types of devices. These devices consume less power and can last longer between charges.

The more efficient storage along with improvements that Micron's LPDDR5 memory delivers enable a best-in class user experience for laptop users. Consider too the performance/watt gains LPDDR5 based memory architecture can bring when integrated into CPUs using System-in Package technology, and what you have is a highly compact system that enables ultra-thin laptops. The power and space savings derived from this memory subsystem means even more room for larger batteries, which can extend device battery life for the user by as much as 12-18 hours, all without the use of power-hungry fans in a laptop for instance.

LPDRAM is the very definition of a technology enabler, especially for client devices. While ideal for smartphones, the same concept can be scaled to laptops and even large-scale data center networking as well as at the heart of on-device AI. In short, LPDDR5 memory, as delivered by Micron, can bring game-changing power efficiency and performance to the broader client world with higher capacities, performance, and ultimately, longer battery life.

"This represents a renaissance in the client market that opens a new world of architectural innovations including how the CPU and memory sub-system work together to enable lighter, thinner, faster performance with longer battery life at the right cost," says Viral Gosalia, Director of Strategic Marketing at Micron's Compute and Network Business Unit.

"Micron was the first to bring 1α LPDRAM to the market, and one of the first to deliver LPDDR5 mobile solutions, and recently announced its industry-leading 1β LPDDR5X mobile memory as well," he continues. "That's the right memory technology for client applications, which along with the architectural innovation of integrating CPU, GPU, I/O controllers and AI/ML accelerators along with LPDRAM based memory architecture, delivers best-in-class performance per watt and helps meet end-user experience expectations".

Collaboration with x86/Arm OEM partners

That 232-layer NAND technology supports I/O speeds of 1.6GB/s now and 2.4GB/s in the future. That's fast enough to meet the high throughput needs of even the most demanding of applications and services.

It's also been specifically designed to deliver high performance data storage capabilities which can support a range of different workloads running on a wide range of different client devices. Everything from data center servers to mobile devices, consumer electronics and PCs, says Micron.

To that end, Micron is working closely with ecosystem partners on the x86 and Arm architecture based platforms to design memory subsystems targeted for client applications. This ranges from productivity suites, video conferencing, and even gaming and entertainment applications. In a world after the pandemic, the expectations for a single device to fulfill multiple functions is perhaps higher than it's ever been, which makes Micron and its collaboration with OEMs and CPU players matter more than ever.

So with memory at the root of architectural innovation for lightweight, thin, power efficient devices, it's no surprise that Micron is working closely with CPU vendors and OEMs alike as they look to design and build their next generation form factors. "There is deep collaboration with ecosystem players across the product development cycle — from product definition to validation, leveraging expertise and strategic assets including joint labs. This enables us to optimize our memory and storage solutions across platforms for targeted workloads," says Gosalia.

Being able to deliver devices that couple the best of smartphones and laptops takes engineering expertise at the memory level. With added densities, lower power, smaller footprints, and higher performance, the rest of the system can also be optimized. This is why Micron works closely with its OEM, design, and processor partners - to deliver the next generation of what's possible.

Sponsored by Micron.

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