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Samsung's 3-bit MLC NAND flash chips

Samsung's DDR NAND Flash
Your choice of higher speed or lower cost

Samsung Electronics is the largest NAND flash memory manufacturer in the world, accounting for 38.5 percent of the global market in Q3 of 2009. All of that money helps when conducting research and development into new technologies which are critical for maintaining that lead.

The company is making two NAND flash major announcements that will significantly affect consumers. The first is that it has started mass production of 30nm-class 32Gb Multi-Level Cell NAND flash memory with an asynchronous DDR interface. Samsung uses the term 30nm-class to refer to its manufacturing processes, which could range from 32nm to 34nm.

Single-Level Cell NAND flash has traditionally been faster than MLC NAND, but Samsung’s new DDR MLC NAND chip reads data at a very fast 133 Mbps. It is designed to replace the company's single data rate MLC NAND, which has an overall read performance of 40Mbps.
The process is yielding well enough that Samsung has already shipped its initial production run to major OEMs.

“With the new DDR MLC NAND, double data rate transmission can be achieved without increasing power consumption, giving designers a lot more latitude in introducing diverse CE devices.” said Soo-In Cho, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Memory Division at Samsung Electronics.

Samsung's 30nm-class SDR NAND flash was rejected by many SSD manufacturers earlier this year, stating that it was far too slow for use in SSDs. "Of course every transition to a new process has its problems," stated one source who requested anonymity. "We just weren't expecting it to be this slow".

Although Samsung put the blame on NAND flash controllers that SSD makers were using, many of those companies reported that they had overcome similar but less severe problems with Toshiba's 34nm NAND flash memory.

Nevertheless, Samsung is hopeful that its new DDR NAND flash will help satisfy the need for speed from SSD makers. The new flash gives added urgency to new SSDs that can support 6Gbps SATA.

The company expects the new asynchronous DDR MLC NAND to be used in SSDs for PCs, USB 3.0 flash drives, high-speed SDXC memory cards, personal media players, and car navigation systems.

“Samsung’s accelerated push toward providing memory solutions at much higher speeds will enable faster introduction of high-performance mobile devices that deliver added convenience and greater value to consumers,” Mr. Cho added.

In a second announcement, Samsung states that it has begun the industry’s first volume production of 3-bit MLC NAND flash chips using 30nm-class process technology.

The first run of chips will be used in NAND flash modules accompanied by exclusive Samsung 3-bit NAND flash controllers to produce 8GB micro Secure Digital (microSD) cards.

“Introducing cost-efficient, 30nm-class 3-bit technology widens our NAND memory solution base to make NAND even more enticing for increasingly diverse market applications,” stated Mr. Cho.

Although 3-bit MLC has usually been slower and been capable of fewer read-write cycles than traditional 2-bit MLC, the 50 percent increase in capacity will allow Samsung to offer new NAND flash products at much lower prices. This could help lower prices of flash based devices like SSDs, which have increased in price as NAND flash prices doubled over the last six months.

“Our 3-bit NAND memory will support the development of more cost-competitive, high-density consumer electronics storage solutions,” Mr. Cho continued.

With new options for higher speed or lower cost, Samsung is adding choices for OEMs that will expand the overall flash market. Expect new SSDs and SDXC cards as these chips make their way into consumer products next year.

According to market research firm Gartner Dataquest, the global NAND flash memory market is forecast to be worth $13.8 billion this year, with sustained growth allowing it to reach  $23.6 billion by 2012.

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RE: 3-bit MLC
By Oregonian2 on 12/1/2009 2:11:36 PM , Rating: 2
Just keep in mind that it's more than just speed being different with MLC flash chips. MLC has both lower reliability and lower temp range specs as well (as might be expected when one thinks about what MLC is).

RE: 3-bit MLC
By tastyratz on 12/2/2009 12:58:58 AM , Rating: 2
True, but that gap is ever shrinking as the technology matures. MLC has reached a point of write cycle reliability where it is completely viable for a consumer class drive. Enterprise class databasing and other multi user environments would need the extra reliability but consumers should no longer fear mlc's write cycles.

It really was only last year that I would have said mlc cant hold a candle with write cycles, but now they are beyond sufficient for a power user.

RE: 3-bit MLC
By Oregonian2 on 12/2/2009 2:18:46 PM , Rating: 2
I haven't looked at the specs, but I'd suspect going to 3-bits rather than just dibits that were used previously don't exactly help internal margins.

That said, I'll point out my bias in that my flash designs have been for commercial use, not consumer use, so extended temp ranges (among other things) has been important to me.

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