Hynix, South Korea's second-largest memory chip maker, has launched the speediest memory chip aimed at game consoles and PC graphics cards available so far.

The graphics double data rate 4 (GDDR4) chips are high-bandwidth DRAM (dynamic RAM) memory able to process heavy volumes of gaming and video images far more quickly than normal PC memory chips. They're a step up from the GDDR3 generation of chips currently used on the best-performing graphics cards today. Hynix said its GDDR4 chips are also ideal for 64bit computing.

The company yesterday announced the availability of a 512Mb density GDDR4, an ultra-high-speed memory chip that Hynix says almost doubles data processing speed compared with GDDR3.

Hynix's GDDR4 chips operate at 2.9Gbps (gigabits per second) and can process 11.6GB of data in one second, the company says. It will begin shipping samples to customers soon and plans to start mass production of the chips in early 2006. By the second half of next year, the company says it will improve the speed of the chips to 14.4GB.

The fastest graphics memory chips had been limited to a speed of just 1.6Gbps prior to the launch of GDDR4.

The density and speed of Hynix's GDDR4 improves over a similar chip released by rival Samsung in late October.

At the time Samsung was able to claim first place in the race to ship GDDR4 to customers for testing. Samsung's GDDR4 is a 256Mb chip that runs at 2.5Gbps, both smaller in density and slower in speed than Hynix's offering, based on the specifications each company has released.

Samsung plans to introduce a 2.8Gbps GDDR4 chip by the end of this year. The company said it expects the high-performance graphics card market to grow significantly in the second half of next year.

The websites of other major memory chip makers, including Micron, Infineon and Elpida, do not carry any announcements regarding the release of GDDR4 products.