There’s a new low-power memory standard in town, and maybe it’s just in time for a new wave of portable PC gaming devices. LPDDR5X is faster and more reliable than its cousin LPDDR5, and this could make it mature for future more powerful handhelds.
LPDDR5 memory is already quite popular among smartphone manufacturers for its fast, high-efficiency design. It’s ideal for any device with limited battery life but high performance, including Valve’s new handheld device, Steam Deck.
The Steam Deck uses an AMD APU that shares a single 16GB LPDDR5 memory between CPU and GPU. For this to work, the memory must be able to offer high bandwidth. This should be no problem with Steam Deck thanks to its 5,500 Mbps LPDDR5 configuration and 32-bit four-channel configuration.
LPDDR5 actually exceeds the 6,400 Mbps mark, which is fast even by modern memory standards. However, it is clear that it is not fast enough for some, as JEDEC has done officially released the new LPDDR5X specification.
LPDDR5X offers speeds of up to 8,533 Mbps. This is 33% faster than LPDDR5. And it also includes improvements in signal integrity and improvements in reliability, while maintaining energy efficiency.
Samsung and Micron are among those planning to produce memory chips according to the LPDDR5X specification, which should mean that these chips will be readily available to system manufacturers in case they decide to do their best.
And this is where it could turn out to be really interesting for powerful APU-based laptops in the near future.
If the Steam Deck manages to win hearts and minds, it will lay the groundwork for a bunch of handheld gaming PCs with similar ideas. Gabe Newell said this himself about the presentation of the Deck: "If we do it right, we will sell it in millions of units and clearly establish a product category that we and other PC manufacturers will be able to participate in."
Even before we get there, we know there are many ways to improve the Steam Deck – just like any gaming PC, there’s always something bigger and better. Assuming customers don't mind paying a premium, this could take the form of a better screen, a more powerful processor, or a larger storage space.
It will probably be hard to find a better APU than the custom AMD silicon that fell on the Deck, and this is where a change to LPDDR5X memory could demonstrate a significant upgrade for future micro machines. The faster memory standard would significantly improve the available bandwidth for these devices, which in turn would help you get higher frames per second.
It will be a while before we see LPDDR5X shipped to devices, the first of which is likely to be on a smartphone. However, this basically gives Valve time to prove that the Steam Deck is an act worth following. If so, we may see more LPDDR5X in recycled Steam Deck spare parts shortly thereafter.