Every time a new smartphone comes out, the guys at iSuppli get their paws on it and open it up. They rummage around inside and identify all the components to give us an extimate of just how much the parts are worth. This inevitably depresses anyone that spent money on the device in question. In their recent iPhone 4 teardown, iSuppli was able to deduce the new Apple phone is composed of $187.51 worth of hardware.
The most expensive element of the phone is the so-called "Retina Display", which clocks in at $28.50 from manufacturer LG. The NAND flash memory cost nearly as much at $27 for 16GB. The Apple A4 CPU also added noticeably to the cost at $10.75 from maker Samsung. These rundowns of cost obviously do not include R&D costs, or labor. Although, we hear Foxconn works cheap.
This parts list is par for the course. The iPhone 3GS was found to be worth $179 when it came out. Google's Nexus One had hardware costing $174.15 at launch. The 16GB iPhone 4 that was checked out goes for $199 on contract or $599 unsubsidized. This seeming disparity is probably just a fact of mobile life we'll have to live with.
Samsung sounds awfully excited about its latest SSD, a 512GB drive utilzing "toggle-mode DDR NAND" memory. It's the first SSD to do so, and according to Samsung, this is a pretty major deal. As Samsung explains it, toggle-mode DDR allows for higher performance without a subsequent increase in power consumption.
"The resulting power throttling capability enables the drive’s high-performance levels without any increase in power consumption over a 40nm-class 16Gb NAND-based 256GB SSD," Samsung said. "The controller also analyzes frequency of use and preferences of the user to automatically activate a low-power mode that can extend a notebook’s battery life for an hour or more."
Samsung's first-run SSD to employ this technology checks in with up to 250MB/s sequential read and up to 220MB/s sequential write speeds. Respectable, though not earth shattering when considering that the competition has begun cranking out high-performance SSDs with read and write speeds in the vicinity of 280MB/s.
Volume production is expected to begin next month. No price has yet been set.
If you're not up to speed on your storage form factors, here's the quick and dirty rundown. Most desktop setups come with 3.5-inch drive bays, traditional notebooks typically ship with one or two 2.5-inch drive bays, and devices like ultra-thins, netbooks, some nettops, and tablet PCs usually employ 1.8-inch bays.
Now that you've graduated Storage 101, let's move on to solid state drives (SSDs), and specifically, a pair of new models from OCZ. Put more accurately, the memory maker took two existing SSD families -- the Vertex 2 and Onyx -- and put them under a shrinking ray, much like the one used in the movie "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," only far less powerful. The result is OCZ was able to deliver 1.8-inch versions of each drive without sacrificing any performance in the process.
"Solid State Drives provide numerous benefits to mobile users including improved performance and reliability as well as lower power consumption versus traditional hard drives," said Alex Mei, CMO of the OCZ Technology Group. "We are now introducing two new drives that are designed to cater to the entire range of mobile applications including the Vertex2 1.8-inch which delivers the same performance as our popular 2.5-inch version in a smaller form factor for customers looking to achieve maximum performance on the go, and the new Onyx 1.8-inch which is designed for consumers looking for a quality SSD that is aggressively priced and is ideal for netbooks."
In other words, these are the exact same drives, only smaller, so you can expect the same 285MBs read (Vertex 2) and 275MB/s write (Vertex 2) speeds.
You know that 32GB iPhone 4 you just pre-ordered? The amount of internal storage is going to seem comparatively quaint if Toshiba follows through with its plan to mass produce 128GB embedded NAND flash memory modules by the end of this year.
That's right folks, 128 awesome gigabytes of storage capacity could become standard on everything from high-end smartphones to tablet PCs, digital cameras, and everywhere else you find embedded flash chips. It's the highest capacity yet achieved in the industry, part of which is the result of Toshiba's 32nm manufacturing technology. The other part of the equation involves stuffing sixteen 64Gbit (equal to 8GB) NAND chips onto a dedicated controller into a package measuring just 17 x 22 x 1.4mm.
The implications here are huge, especially with competition ramping up in the mobile market. With 1GHz Snapdragon chips strutting through the smartphone scene and 2GHz chips on the horizon, smartphones are finally powerful enough to truly be considered handheld PCs. And with a spate of Android, WebOS, and Windows 7 tablets on the horizon, Apple's flagship 64GB iPad could suddenly become far less appealing, and for reasons other than lack of Flash support.
Memory storage maker SanDisk made some headway in the solid state drive space today by introducing two new families of SSDs, the G4 (drop in replacements for HDDs) and P4 (for use in thin netbooks and tablets). Both families are built around an advanced 32nm multi-level cell (MLC) process technology and now come in capacities of up to 128GB for the P4 and up to 256GB for the G4.
"We designed our new SSDs with long-term consumer usage in mind," said Doron Myersdorf, senior director, SSD marketing, SanDisk. "Our drives offer faster boot times and improved system responsiveness while maintaining our uncompromising reliability standards. In addition, the drives utilize our Adaptive Flash Management (AFM) technology, which enables them to bridge the gap between demanding market requirements and increasingly challenging raw NAND flash characteristics."
On paper, performance is bit of a mixed bag. Sequential read and write speeds top out at up to 220MB/s and 160MB/s, respectively. That's a bit faster than the 120MB/s write speed threshold found on the G3, but not quite up to par with a number of new SSDs built around the vaunted SandForce SF-1200/1500 controllers that have started to appear.
Nevertheless, SanDisk did equip the new drives with a handful of performance-enhancing technologies, such as a page-based algorithm called ExtremeFFS designed to increase random write speeds and efficiency, and nCache acceleration technology, which SanDisk describes as a large non-volatile write cache technology intended to boost burst random write performance for shorter boot times, as well as to help present lag.
SanDisk says the new drives will start to show up in the third quarter. Pricing will depend on how many units top tier OEMs put on order.
Today's blistering fast SSDs with read and write speeds approaching 300MB/s have nothing on what's in store for tomorrow. Thanks to a breakthrough in NAND flash memory technology, a Japanese research group says 9.5GB/s SSD writes are entirely possible.
The Cliff Notes version is that the research team found a way to reduce the operating voltage to 1V, resulting in power consumption that's 86 percent lower than existing NAND flash chips, while also overcoming what are called "write disturb" problems. The lower voltage makes it possible for parallel writing to occur on up to 110 NAND chips, or nearly 7 times more than existing NAND flash memory.
The research team calls the procedure the "single-cell self-boost" method, which "turns off two cells adjacent to the unchosen cells by applying a voltage of 1V from both ends of the bit line connected to the unchosen cells so that the channel of the unchosen cells is in the state of floating," as TechON! explains it.
Wrap your head around all the technical jargon here, and then sit back and hope we see this technology manifest itself before SSDs become obsolete.
Intel this week said it has begun shipping its 25nm NAND flash memory to customers, which represents the world's smallest, most advanced process technology. The new chips were first sampled back in February and will replace Intel's 34nm parts found in the company's second-gen X25-M SSD, as well as a handful of other products.
"The 8 gigabyte (GB) 25nm NAND flash memory chip measures just 167mm2 and can hold up to 2,000 songs, 7,000 photos or 8 hours of video," Intel said. "NAND Flash memory is used in USB memory keys and SD cards for data storage in digital camcorders and cameras, as well as in smart phones, personal music players and solid-state drives."
Capacity won't stop at 8GB, however. You can expect Intel to equip products with multiple 8GB chips for much larger capacity devices. For example, it would take just 32 of Intel's 25nm chips to produce a 256GB SSD, compared to the 64 chips it current takes.
Intel didn't announce any upcoming products, but now that the chips are being mass produced, we suspect it won't be long before manufactures come out with 25nm-based products.
Power users looking to pick up a potent solid state drive (SSD) now have yet another option to choose from, this one coming from Mushkin. The new series is called Callisto and comes built around the highly touted Sandforce SF-1200 controller found on other top tier SSDs.
"The Callisto SSDs continue Mushkin Enhanced's tradition of high-performance, high-reliability flash storage products and we're very pleased with the performance and responsiveness this product provides. We're confident the Callisto will not only meet the expectations of the market, but exceed them," said Brian Flood, Mushkin Enhanced director of product development.
Available in 60GB, 120GB, and 240GB capacities, all three drives feature read and write speeds up to 285MB/s and 275MB/s, respectively. Mushkin offered up few other details about its new Callisto series, though we suspect they also come equipped with 64MB of cache.
Pricing for the drives have been set to $219 (60GB), $370 (120GB) and $667 (240GB).
Samsung this week announced the availability of an eight gigabit (Gb) OneNAND chip built on a 30nm manufacturing process. According to Samsung, the higher density memory will pave the way for more features in smartphones, while at the same time driving down the overall cost.
"We are happy to see that our advanced 30nm-class NAND solution is being widely adopted in smartphones," said Sejin Kim, vice president, Flash memory planning/enabling, Samsung Electronics. "The availability of 3Gb OneNAND chip will add considerably to our diverse line-up of advanced mobile memory solutions."
The OneNAND chip design is able to read data at up to 70MB/s, which is more than four times the speed of conventional NAND (17MB/s). Combined with a low-voltage design and higher productivity over previous 40nm class chips, Samsung says it is particularly well suited for touchscreen devices and other high resolution smartphone features.
Here's some sobering news if you're hoping to pick up a low cost, high capacity solid state drive (SSD) any time in the near future. According to A-Data chairman Simon Chen, the SSD market won't experience robust growth for at least another two years.
NAND flash chips are at the root of problem. While the development of chip controllers have matured and TRIM support is now commonplace, NAND flash memory still costs way too much to push SSDs into the mainstream on any kind of level approaching hard drives.
Chen did note that NAND flash chip prices have come down a little bit since the fourth quarter of 2009, but not nearly enough to make an impact. Market research firm DRAMeXchange backs Chen's claims, noting that contract quotes for mainstream 16Gb (gigabit) multi-level cell (MLC) chips have stayed high at $4.06 so far this month.