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New chips will increase storage density without significant increase in bulk/weight/power

The 3D chipmaking clock has seen another tick.

I. Octa-die Design Offers Up To 128 GB per Package

Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) -- one of the largest chip fabricators worldwide -- announced this week that it had begun mass-production of (3D) Vertical NAND (V-NAND) flash memory.  The new memory will allow denser storage for SSDs, eventually trickling down into the smartphone/tablet component stream.

Samsung writes:

Samsung’s new V-NAND offers a 128 gigabit (Gb) density in a single chip, utilizing the company’s proprietary vertical cell structure based on 3D Charge Trap Flash (CTF) technology and vertical interconnect process technology to link the 3D cell array. By applying both of these technologies, Samsung’s 3D V-NAND is able to provide over twice the scaling of 20nm-class* planar NAND flash.

The new 3D V-NAND shows not only an increase of a minimum of 2X to a maximum 10X higher reliability, but also twice the write performance over conventional 10nm-class floating gate NAND flash memory.

Samsung 128 Gb

CTF stands for 3D Charge Trap Flash -- a silicon nitride based charge storage technology that represents a significant material improvement over traditional polycrystalline silicon-based charge storage (Floating Gate MOSFET).  The approach has multiple advantages including fewer defects, the ability to use smaller process sizes, and less manufacturing steps to form a node -- all of which cut costs -- plus improved reliability.

Samsung 128 Gb

The layers of silicon in the chip are connected by vertical interconnects.  Each chip in the stack packs between 128-Gigabits (Gb) and 1 Terabit (Tb) of storage. The chip is composed of 3 to 24 "cell layers".  The cell layers are believed to be composed at the unit level by 3-bit multi-level cell (3bMLC).  3bMLC chip dies are then wired up inside the package using through silicon via (TSV) style interconnects.

While Samsung does not officially reveal is node sizes unlike some other companies, here's a rough idea of Samsung's timeline for NAND production node dates and 3D (MLC, stacked) mass-production dates.

(Samsung) Node sizes:
The last generation (released in 2012) capped out at 64 GB (gigabytes), where as this generation caps out at 128 GB (with eight stacked dies), hence the claim about "over twice the scaling".  The die is also somewhat smaller -- an estimated 19 nm, versus 21 nm.

II. Chips are Likely Primarily Headed to SSDs

Interesting Samsung's NAND is going largely to SSD production, where its high density commands premium prices.  While Samsung ostensibly targets its stock at mobile chips, the Galaxy S IV was found to use Toshiba Corp. (TYO:6502) memory chips.

For now it seems Samsung's 3-bit levels per die/eight dies in stack (max) strategy, first launched commercially last year is still its state of the art approach, although die shrinks have allowed it to double the density per die.

Looking ahead Samsung will likely look to continue to increase per-die capacities with shrinks and may opt to bump the bit levels or stack count a bit, as the process matures.

For those new to flash, history, here's a quick guide to some early flash memory milestones -- some of which Samsung played a part in:
  • 1973: Dr. Fujio Masuoka files his first of many patents on floating gate (FG) based non-volative memory (NVM) (storage)
  • 1984: NOR FG storage is perfect and presented by Dr. Masuoka, now at Toshiba
  • 1985: Dr. Masuoka coins the term "flash" to describe FG-based NVM
  • 1986: Toshiba samples NOR flash
  • 1987: Dr. Masuoka tests NAND-gate based flash
  • 1988: First commercial NOR flash: Intel Corp. (INTC) 256 KB, $20 USD/chip
  • 1989: First commercial NAND flash: Toshiba recruits Samsung for fabrication, releases 256 KB NAND flash with longer life and faster erases
  • 1991: First flash storage format: PC Card is released
  • 1994: CompactFlash storage format is launched by SanDisk Corp. (SNDK)
  • 1995: MiniCard storage format is launched by Intel led coalition
  • 1995: SmartMedia storage format is launched
  • 1995: First flash hard drive: M-Systems and S-TEC, Inc. (STEC) release models
NAND = not and; NOR = not or (in boolean logic)

Source: Samsung [press release]

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Phone Storage
By Shig on 8/6/2013 2:47:00 PM , Rating: 3
Can I get more than 16GB internal storage plx?

RE: Phone Storage
By retrospooty on 8/6/2013 3:41:48 PM , Rating: 2
Obviously it's available, so I assume you meant over 16GB as a base on high end models... I am willing to bet 2014's high end phones and tablets will have 32mb as a starting point.

RE: Phone Storage
By karimtemple on 8/6/2013 4:32:04 PM , Rating: 2
32GB definitely seems like a sweet spot for phones to me. 16GB is usually too small and 64GB is usually not needed.

Then again, phone models with SD slots make this largely moot.

RE: Phone Storage
By cloudsucks on 8/6/13, Rating: -1
RE: Phone Storage
By retrospooty on 8/6/2013 8:07:13 PM , Rating: 2
For what? You don't necessarily have to have everything on the device at all times... But assuming you do, it sounds to me like the iPad is a bad choice for you since it doesn't have SD card storage.

RE: Phone Storage
By Reclaimer77 on 8/6/2013 8:15:10 PM , Rating: 5
Apple has made, literally, billions of dollars off suckers like him who pay $100+ for five bucks worth of extra memory.

RE: Phone Storage
By retrospooty on 8/6/2013 9:49:51 PM , Rating: 2
I know... Sad. Google does to with the sd-less Nexus but at least its not $100. $40 to $50 is at least reasonable.

RE: Phone Storage
By Samus on 8/6/2013 11:38:52 PM , Rating: 3
The problem is micro SD card performance is terrible compared to eMMC NAND since the SD controller usually bottlenecks even CLASS 10 cards in not just transfer rate, but latency, too. Android often puts an SD to sleep to save power, but the "wakeup" latency to initialize the controller again can lag 2-3 seconds before files can be accessed.

SD controller/cards draw considerably more power than eMMC as well. If common files are on SD, like apps or cache, the hit on battery life can be substantial.

Then there is the fact that small phones like the iPhone completely lack space for an SD slot. Even models that lack a SIM (Verizon/Sprint) still need an embedded SIM in its place, so that section can't be used for external memory. Larger phones like the Galaxy 2/3/4 obviously have the real estate to have expansion slots.

Tablets, on the other hand, have no excuse. They are large enough to have multiple micro SD slots (even full sized would be nice for digital camera compatibility!) and they have huge batteries (3-5x larger than phones) so the battery hit scales to minimal levels compared to say, how many watts the screen draws.

Just my .02, I think this is why SD is nixed as an option on many phones.

RE: Phone Storage
By retrospooty on 8/7/2013 9:59:29 AM , Rating: 2
"The problem is micro SD card performance is terrible compared to eMMC NAND since the SD controller usually bottlenecks even CLASS 10 cards in not just transfer rate, but latency, too."

It's not to be used for apps and/or anything that is highly i/o or transfer rate intensive. You use it for storage. MP3's , movies, backups etc.

RE: Phone Storage
By neothe0ne on 8/7/2013 2:40:05 PM , Rating: 2
I just unboxed a new ~2 year old Android device with SD card (and basically no internal storage), and the 32 GB microSD card is faster than a newer Android device with 32 GB of flash on-board.

RE: Phone Storage
By half_duplex on 8/7/2013 3:17:03 PM , Rating: 2
The old device may be faster in general, but I assure you (lol) the transfer of data is greater from the solder mounted storage than the SD card.

RE: Phone Storage
By distinctively on 8/7/2013 6:29:03 PM , Rating: 2
Oh really. How about you back that up a little. Your statement is only correct in specific cases. It's definitely not a blanket characteristic.

RE: Phone Storage
By half_duplex on 8/7/2013 3:13:16 PM , Rating: 2
Meanwhile Samsung makes, literally, billions of dollars off suckers who pay for (boosted) specs like megapixals and GPU benchmarks.

And we're talking storage here, not memory, grandpa.

RE: Phone Storage
By Myrandex on 8/6/2013 4:38:00 PM , Rating: 2
Sure you can...Lumia 920 for free on contract $450 off contract includes 32GB storage plus 7GB free cloud storage.

RE: Phone Storage
By CaedenV on 8/7/2013 12:24:23 AM , Rating: 2
Absolutely love my 920, but I would really like to have more than 32GB of storage. 32GB is fine for a phone... even a smartphone, but the issue is that I find my phone replacing my laptop. It has media playback, it has office, I can send attachments, and as such I would love to have my whole music and picture collection on there. That alone is some 50+GB of media, and we are not even talking about video content yet.
64GB would be barely enough, but 128GB would give some room to grow.

RE: Phone Storage
By half_duplex on 8/7/2013 4:02:24 PM , Rating: 3
It's great that you're putting your life onto the phone... but just keep in mind that one bad move and it could all be lost if you're not making the effort to keep it all backed up.

RE: Phone Storage
By kingmotley on 8/6/13, Rating: 0
RE: Phone Storage
By Reclaimer77 on 8/6/2013 7:54:27 PM , Rating: 2
A phone with no expandable storage options? Yeah, no, not good advice.

RE: Phone Storage
By retrospooty on 8/6/2013 8:05:07 PM , Rating: 2
you do realize that any high on phone comes with 16 32 and many with 64 options right? The particular brand is irrelevant

RE: Phone Storage
By hrrmph on 8/7/2013 5:12:44 PM , Rating: 2
In theory they do, but in reality they rarely ever make it into the wild. In practice, Micro-SDXC slots are needed in order to have decent capacities of local storage.

Apple did make good on the iPhone 5 to have a 64GB model available last year. The problem was the price.

When I bought my Note 2, the only available 64GB iPhone 5 models were $1350 imported from Australia. A month or two later, the price dropped to $1100.

The Note 2 was 16GB + 64Gb = 80GB for $750 + $50 = $800 shipped from Dubai.

This year, the BB Z10 was made available: An iPhone sized device with 8GB + 64GB = 72GB for $800 + $50 shipped from Canada. So I picked that one so I could have an easily wearable device with a good amount of local storage.

This week I just ordered from Amazon USA the Samsung ATIV S. Its 16GB + 64GB = 80GB for $325 + $50.

In all of those examples, the $50 is for the 64GB Micro-SDXC storage card.

That's 3 flagship devices with 3 different OS' to try out, with a total combined 232GB of storage, for hundreds less than the cost of 2 iPhones with 128GB total combined storage.


I agree wholeheartedly with whoever just made the comment about stopping the practice of referring to SD as "memory." Henceforth we should be calling these things SD storage cards, or something similar.

One of the problems I see with the transition from the PC world to the mobile world is the lack of standardized terminology in the mobile world. Storage is storage. Memory is memory. They aren't the same thing. But mobile manufacturers seem to love to confuse us with smoke and mirrors almost as much as the ever so dastardly telecoms.

These mobile devices are just miniaturized PCs with some radios added to them. The basic parameters for evaluating them are pretty much the same as PCs. The terminology used should reflect that.


And I would never buy a PC without storage expansion capabilities. Why any manufacturer thinks I want to buy a phone without significant storage expansion capabilities is beyond my understanding.

The cloud is nice, but for a lot of people it's just not ready for Tier 1 or Tier 2 storage duties.


Fat stack / 8
By karimtemple on 8/6/2013 2:48:04 PM , Rating: 1
Gb, not GB. Just Saiyan.

RE: Fat stack / 8
By karimtemple on 8/6/2013 2:58:14 PM , Rating: 2
Aaaaaahhhh, a 128GB package. Indeed. Carry on.

RE: Fat stack / 8
By tanjali on 8/6/2013 5:06:54 PM , Rating: 2
If this could make 25 cent per GB SSD’s and double capacity, let’s say 2TB SSD’s for $500 would be definitely HDD killer.

RE: Fat stack / 8
By Frallan on 8/7/2013 3:30:18 AM , Rating: 2
Its a HDD replacement already today. Reliability makes it so. Although I must admit to have been cheap in my newly built NAS I went for 5*3TB WD Reds. But the problem is that I have to pay more than what it looks like since spinning media needs parity disks to be reliable. So I end up paying 5 disks for 3 disks of acctual storage.

In my desktop Ive gone SDD only for the last 3.5 yrs.

By HoosierEngineer5 on 8/6/2013 3:31:02 PM , Rating: 2
NAND - Not And
NOR - Not Or

And, Or, Not, all boolean logic

RE: Logic
By phatboye on 8/6/2013 4:45:35 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah that is what I thought, this article made me think that I need to go back to college.

RE: Logic
By half_duplex on 8/7/2013 3:20:18 PM , Rating: 2
Is there a Not Nand Or Nnor?

An Open Letter to Samsung
By Reclaimer77 on 8/6/2013 5:04:27 PM , Rating: 2
Dear sirs,

You make great memory. You made the best PC RAM that I have ever personally used in my entire life. Your Samsung Green 30nm DDR3L 1600 PC3.

Then you discontinued it! Now I need some more :(

Can you please please pretty please with cherries on top keep making awesome PC memory??

A man without your RAM...

RE: An Open Letter to Samsung
By Reclaimer77 on 8/7/2013 12:39:01 PM , Rating: 2
Bump for justice. Samsung RAM executive respond plx :p

By Fidget on 8/7/2013 10:51:28 AM , Rating: 3
I'm sure Apple will find a way to sue them for this...don't they have a patent on 90 degree angles?

RE: cool
By half_duplex on 8/7/2013 3:09:13 PM , Rating: 1
Well, maybe, until Apple finds out that the 'fat stacks' aren't really so fat, and that Samsung has an FDiskBooster built in that makes it appear you have 10x more storage than you actually have.

Gb and GB....
By Movieman420 on 8/6/2013 7:18:13 PM , Rating: 2
Latest gen chips are 64 and 128 Gb (Gigabits) not gigabytes. If it were gigabytes then my 128GB SSD would have only 1 nand chip. This will confuse a lot of people reading the article.

"Fat Stacks" of NAND
By lagomorpha on 8/7/2013 7:48:29 AM , Rating: 2
Would have gone with "Huge plots of NAND" myself.

Aw Ya
By charleski on 8/7/2013 6:17:25 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, it's been a couple of decades since I've seen an article about new chips show a ceramic dual-inline-package! I thought these things were only found in old designs. The last pic of the BGA makes a lot more sense.

Re-Ram is the Future
By Any14Tee on 8/8/2013 7:20:28 PM , Rating: 2
Samsung's 3D-Nand has it's merits but the future lies with Re-Ram or RRam. RRAM uses about half the silicon wafer for an 8GB chip as 25nm NAND flash does today.

I understand, it performs 54% above Nand, higher density and lower power, lasting Weeks not hours. Imagine, charging your smart phone once a week that would be Nirvana for many!

See article:

"Crossbar's initial RRAM chip will also be capable of storing up to 1TB of data, but it can do that on a chip smaller than a postage stamp; that amounts to 250 hours of hi-def movies on a 200mm square surface".

I believe, Crossbar, HP, Hynix, Intel and Samsung have their competing ReRam offerings, interesting to see who sues who first or maybe they'll go to the table and agree on a cross-licensing arrangement (most likely if it doesn't involve Apple)

By captainBOB on 8/6/2013 6:58:28 PM , Rating: 1
Just imagining my SmartOS NAS box with nothing but 1TB+ SSDs is making me drool.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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