Samsung Electronics has produced a prototype memory chip the runs about four times as fast as those used in most current PCs, the South Korean company said today. It should lead to better performance in future notebooks, desktops and servers, the company said.

The memory, called DDR3 (double data rate 3) DRAM (dynamic random access memory), can process data at up to 1.06Gbps (gigabits per second) and has a capacity of 512Mbits (megabits). Samsung will begin mass producing chips with speeds of 800Mbps (megabits per second) to 1.06Gbps in early 2006, said a company spokeswoman.

DRAM is the main memory type used in PCs and servers. The faster the memory, the more smoothly the computers tend to work.

The main type of DRAM found in most PCs today is DDR SDRAM (synchronous DRAM), which processes data at between 266Mbps and 400Mbps, depending on the parts.

A faster type of DDR called DDR2, which has speeds of 400Mbps to 667Mbps, entered the market late last year and is gaining popularity this year, especially among notebook PC vendors.

DDR2 will probably take over as the main memory for most types of PC in 2006. DDR3 is the successor to DDR2.

Because DDR3 processes information faster than its predecessors, it uses less power to do the same amount of work. This means it saves more battery power, making it especially beneficial for notebooks.

The chips also operate at a lower voltage. Samsung's DDR3 uses 1.5V, compared to 1.8V for DDR2. The lower voltage adds to the power saving, further improving battery life, he said.

Samsung was the world's biggest supplier of memory chips in 2004, with DRAM revenue of about $7.5bn, giving it 29 percent of the market, according to market research company iSuppli.

DDR3 memory is also under development at Germany's Infineon Technologies and Micron Technology in the US, though neither company is ready to show their prototype.

A mass market for DDR3 is expected to develop in 2007, and research company IDC has predicted that in 2009 it will be the most common memory type in use, with more than two thirds of the market.