The flash memory used in everything from smartphones to SSDs is about to get a lot more efficient in the wake of the latest advance from Intel and Micron. The companies announced today that they have successfully shrunk NAND flash memory so it can be manufactured using a 20-nanometer process. The practical upshot of all this is that future devices are likely to be packing more memory for less money.
Chip makers Intel and Micron are in the process of seeing how low each company can go, and it has nothing to do with the Limbo. Instead, it has everything to do with shrinking NAND technology even further with the goal of doubling down the density of their flash chips by the time summer rolls around. Aside from being impressive from a technological point of view, lower density chips ultimately lead to lower cost solid state drives (SSDs).
We're all for seeing solid state drive (SSD) price levels drop down within reach of mainstream users, and we look forward to the day when we can justifiably build an HDD-less system without putting off the mortgage payment or making any capacity concessions. That day is still a long ways off, but OCZ's latest die shrink should inch us ever closer to SSD nirvana. OCZ, now fully focused on SSDs, says it's the first SSD maker to successfully transition to 2Xnm NAND flash-based storage solutions, which in turn will lower prices, the company says.
NAND flash memory makers will see a gigantic boost in demand in 2011 as the emerging tablet market takes off, iSuppli says. The market research firm predicts tablet consumption of NAND flash is set to explode more than 380 percent in the 2011, increasing from 476.8 million GB in 2010 and eventually climbing to 12.3 billion GB by 2014. Moreover, the proportion of NAND flash use among tablets versus the total supply of NAND memory will go up by 11.8 percent in 2011, nearly a threefold increase from 4.3 percent last year.
Toshiba today announced it has begun mass producing NAND flash chips using a 24nm CMOS manufacturing process, representing the smallest geometry and highest density yet in NAND flash, the company said.
The announcement steals a bit of thunder from IM Flash -- a joint venture between Intel and Micron -- which said it would begin churning out 25nm-based NAND chips by the end of 2010.
"Toshiba leads the industry in fabricating high density, small die size NAND flash memory chips," Toshiba said in a statement. "Application of the 24nm generation process technology will further shrink chip size, allowing Toshiba to boost productivity and bring further enhancements to the high density, small sized products. The 24nm process products are also equipped with Toggle DDR, which enhances data transfer speed."
Toshiba says its latest technology has already been applied to 2 bit-per-cell 64Gb chips that are the world's smallest on a single chip (8GB), and will also add 32Gb and 3 bit-per-cell products fabricated on a 24nm process soon.
Built for performance, these MLC-based drives boast up to 285MB/s read and up to 275MB/s write speeds, as well as an obscene 24K IOPS (write) at 4K file sizes. In other words, these little fireballs are fast, which is starting to become standard fare for SSDs built around the SandForce SF-1200 controller.
"The Inferno series of SSDs are the fastest and most exciting that Patriot has yet brought to the market," states Les Henry, Vice President of Engineering at Patriot. "Our Inferno series has been well received and reviewed. We are excited to expand the product family with the introduction of the new larger capacity Inferno drives as well as the new 60GB capacity option. With the addition of the 60GB capacity drive, enthusiasts can enjoy the blistering performance of the Inferno SSD at a more affordable price point making it ideal as a boot drive in a high performance system."
For those who plan to do that, all Inferno series SSDs ship with a 2.5-inch to 3.5-inch adapter plate. No word yet on price or availability.
Do you love flash drives, but are constantly feeling exhausted from lugging them around? If so, this is your lucky day, because SanDisk would like to sell you the "smallest USB flash drive in North America". We assume this means there are smaller drives elsewhere - probably in Japan. The drive is called the SanDisk Cruzer Blade, and weights in at about 2.5g, or the same as a penny. Physically, it's the size of a paperclip.
SanDisk hopes you'll see fit to attach this bit of tech to your keychain, or a cell phone lanyard ring. To be hauled around in such a way it would have to be sturdy, and we are unconvinced. The drives will come in capacities from2GB up to 16GB, and will sell for $14.99-$77.99. This product definitely falls into the "hey, that's cool" category, but we're also worried it will fall into the "I didn't realize it was in my pocket, and I washed it" category. Are you planning to pick one up?
Elpida Memory is well known among the home consumer crowd, but that might change in the coming months. The Japanese DRAM maker this week expanded an alliance with Spansion, the former flash venture between Fujitsu and AMD, and plans to start selling its own branded NAND flash memory products.
"The alliance with Spansion and the licensing of Spansion NAND IP enable Elpida to develop advanced NAND products which, when combined with our leading DRAM products, allows us to better service markets including cellular handsets and digital consumer," said Yukio Sakamoto, president and CEO of Elpida, in a statement.
Venturing into NAND flash memory is somewhat of a new venture for Elpida, which up to this point has focused primarily on DRAM-related products, such as memory for PCs and servers, and memory chips for graphics boards and mobile products.
We got the first hints that Seagate was planning a hybrid hard drive when, in response to an offhand question last year, company reps replied with “no comment,” instead of saying “hybrid drives are deeeaaaad!” as we expected. Our suspicions were confirmed when we got our hands on the Momentus XT, a 500GB 7,200rpm notebook drive with 4GB of SLC NAND flash memory and an “Adaptive Memory” algorithm designed to speed up your system by copying the most frequently accessed files to the NAND flash.
By adding a small amount of high-speed flash memory to a standard mechanical drive, Seagate hopes to hit the middle-ground between solid-state speed and mechanical price and capacity. Under the hood, the Momentus XT is virtually identical to the non-hybrid 500GB Momentus 7200.4, with three key additions: a 32MB DRAM cache instead of 16MB, 4GB of SLC NAND, and the Seagate Adaptive Memory algorithm to make sense of it all.
We're starting to see a shift in how high performance SSDs are marketed. We all know that these NAND flash-based drives are ridiculously fast, but they're also ultra-pricey, which relegates them to the enthusiast market. So how do you go about plucking dollars from the wallets of mainstream users? Drop the capacity and bill these speed demons as boot drives, that's how.
Corsair got the memo on how to market SSDs to mainstream consumers, and so the company went and added a trio of new capacities to its existing Force Series SSD line. Already available in 60GB, 100GB, 120GB, 200GB, and 240GB flavors, potential buyers now have access to 40GB, 80GB, and 160GB models, with Corsair billing the 40GB unit as being "perfect for a Windows 7 boot drive."
"In our testing in the Corsair Lab, we found that the new Force Series 40GB SSD outperform competitive SSDs from Intel and Kingston by a wide margin," said John Beekley, Vice President of Technical Marketing at Corsair. "With SandForce's unique DuraWrite architecture, there is almost no performance penalty when reducing the capacity of the drive."
According to Corsair's in-house ATTO Bench32 testing, the F40 pulls in 282.6MB/s maximum reads and 270.1MB/s maximum sequential writes. Both the F80 and F160 benched 285.6MB/s maximum reads, while turning in 276.7MB/s (F80) and 275.9MB/s (F160) maximum write speeds.
These new capacities will start shipping in August for $130 (F40), $230 (F80), and $450 (F160).