Flash drive capacity to jump

Posted on Saturday, February 23 2008 @ 8:31 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
CNET reports larger and cheaper solid state drives are on the way. It will still take some time until they will be able to compete with HDDs but the price per GB is slowly improving.
SanDisk will not discuss future pricing but as larger-capacity SSDs hit the market, prices are certain to fall. And eventually these will be steep price drops. For example, an 8GB SanDisk flash card now sells for about $80 at resellers. A few years ago consumers would have paid this much (or more) for a 1GB drive. (And a 1GB card was originally priced at $500 in 2004!)

SanDisk and Toshiba will start making flash memory on a new 43-nanometer manufacturing process that will result in SSDs later this year with capacities that should approach those of today's mainstream 2.5-inch hard drives, ranging between 120GB and 160GB.

The two companies recently achieved 32-gigabit (Gb) density, according to Khandker N. Quader, SanDisk's senior vice president of flash memory design and product development. The 32Gb die combined with multilevel cell (MLC) technology--which uses multiple levels per cell to allow more bits to be stored--"doubles the SSD capacity points," Quader said in a written response to questions.

Flash based on "X3" technology is another new development, Quader said. "This is an important milestone (and) allows us to do 3bits/cell as opposed to 2bits/cell thereby providing improved manufacturing efficiency," he said. "So a combination of technology scaling (i.e., 56nm to 43nm) and the bit scaling (i.e. 2bits/cell to 3bits/cell) is extremely powerful for manufacturing efficiency and for increasing capacities of flash memories."

But there are challenges. Moving to X3 can affect performance. "One very important point to take into consideration is that X3 is not a simple memory to manage," Quader said. "This is the first generation X3. We expect this to evolve in 2008."

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