View Full Version : Cheaper Flash Memory in the Cards

Feb 02, 2008, 10:09 PM
Flash Price Drop Spurs Innovation

A massive decline in the price of NAND flash memory, the chips that store photos in digital cameras and music in iPods, is prompting innovation among companies trying to increase sales.

A few of the items users are likely to see more widespread in gadgets this year include greatly expanded storage capacity in SD (secure digital) cards, USB (universal serial bus) flash sticks and internal storage, as well as new, lower-cost SSDs (solid-state discs) in notebook computers.
Cheaper Components

The price of mainstream 4G bit SLC (single-level cell) NAND flash memory chips has fallen 73 percent since mid-August to US$4.96 late Thursday, according to DRAMeXchange Technology, which runs an online clearinghouse for the chips. The chips hit a high of $18.50 on Aug. 14. The price of 4G bit MLC (multi-level cell) NAND flash chips have taken a slightly worse dive, 75 percent down to $2.23 on Thursday, compared to its summer high of $8.85 per chip.

The difference between SLC and MLC is cost and life span. SLC normally costs about three times more than MLC, and has a lifetime of 100,000 write cycles. MLC has a lifetime of only 10,000 write cycles.

Toshiba and Samsung have both developed new 128G byte SSDs based in MLC NAND to expand their use in notebook PCs. The new SSDs are less expensive, giving notebook PC designers more choices in storage.

"At 128G bytes, you're giving consumers the kind of storage space they expect in a notebook," said Jim Elliott, director of flash marketing at Samsung, in an interview.

To work around the lifespan issue, Toshiba and Samsung use controller chips to spread writes across the drive to avoid wearing out any one portion too quickly.
Headway Against Hard Drives

The new MLC-based drives are an important step forward for SSDs in the battle against hard disk drives (HDD). At 128G bytes, an SSD stands are far better chance of replacing an HDD in laptop computers because it removes some of the high-capacity advantage HDDs hold.

SSDs have several advantages over HDDs; they're lighter, more rugged, consume less power, make no noise and enable a computer to start up and load software faster than HDDs. But SSDs are a lot more expensive than HDDs, which is why they're mainly used in the business laptop market, where users are willing to pay more for performance and reliability.

Elliott believes SSDs for PCs will account for 27 percent of NAND consumption by 2011, particularly in business laptops and mobile devices.

SanDisk has taken a slightly different route in SSDs than Toshiba and Samsung. The company made a 72G byte SSD in a thinner form factor aimed at mobile devices. The drive takes up less space, so it could be used in a range of mobile devices, said Iri Trashanski, director of strategic business development at SanDisk.

He doesn't believe there will be a market for 128G byte SSDs for a while.

Brian Kumagi, senior business development manager NAND flash memory business at Toshiba, believes the lower cost of MLC NAND chips will play a major role in seeing 128G byte SSDs gain market share.

Toshiba is also offering MLC NAND SSDs in 32G byte and 64G byte capacities to entice laptop PC makers and makers of digital music players and other devices requiring more storage.

There are several other products where companies are adding NAND flash to increase storage capacity and improve devices. One, thanks to the iPhone, is handsets, said Elliott.

Multimedia handsets will likely see 8G bytes of embedded flash memory become the standard this year, and card slots are being added to a host of mobile phones to increase storage and for added content delivery, including movies, games, software and more.

Plus, low prices are encouraging new innovation, just as low NAND prices helped put the chips into more iPods earlier this decade. One area is in video cameras, namely, Flip video and similar devices.

For $119.99, users can buy a Flip video camcorder that uses NAND flash memory to store 30 minutes of recordings.

In addition, devices such as GPS (global positioning system) for cars will need more flash when 3D (three dimensional) digital maps start replacing 2D maps.
Watch for Bargains

The good news for users is that there are so many NAND flash memory makers in the world today that prices will remain low or at least reasonable for a long time.

In a report titled "Flash to crash," Macquarie Securities chip analyst Warren Lau wrote that NAND flash memory prices will likely remain low throughout the first half of this year, with little room for upside until the third quarter.

"We continue to warn that NAND flash will see excess supply in the first half of 2008 owing to aggressive production ramp (at IM Flash and Toshiba) and the seasonally weaker period for consumer products (digital still cameras, handsets and MP3)," he wrote.

Much of the possible price movements in NAND flash actually depend on Apple because of the widespread popularity of the iPod and iPhone.

The company announced it has already shipped over 4 million iPhones and continues to ramp shipments. iPod shipment growth has dropped a bit, according to market researcher Gartner, but higher capacity iPod products such as the Touch have done well in the market.

"Apple is a critical driver of NAND flash consumption and will continue to yield great influence on NAND flash vendors," Gartner said in a report on Monday.

Source (;_ylt=AslBZk7EkCzqPTwkA5lPkNgjtBAF)

So what shall be the future for Flash Memory? :D

Feb 02, 2008, 10:12 PM
Same as HD's really. Prices are dropping, demand is going up. Eventually they will get to large capacities and affordability, but it might take a while.

It would be rather nice to have a primary hd be a SSD. Goodbye boot times.

Feb 02, 2008, 10:14 PM
Isn't there the interim idea of HD's with a flash bit added to give superfast booting, but not the huge cost we are currently seeing

(isnt anything over 8GB flash still stupid cost?)

Feb 02, 2008, 10:16 PM
Isn't there the interim idea of HD's with a flash bit added to give superfast booting, but not the huge cost we are currently seeing

(isnt anything over 8GB flash still stupid cost?)

You might be thinking of the Vista readyboost crap, which stores all commonly used files on the flash drive to speed up booting times.

You still need specialized software to use it, which kinda makes it useless. A true SSD would be a plug and play drive.

And yes, 8 gigs or more cost a stupidly large amount of money. Heck, even 4 gig drives are more expensive than they should be. If you really need the space, but a portable HD, or a multitude of 2 gig sticks.

Feb 02, 2008, 10:16 PM
Isn't there the interim idea of HD's with a flash bit added to give superfast booting, but not the huge cost we are currently seeing

(isnt anything over 8GB flash still stupid cost?)
There is a thing like that. But it's in a hybrid model ( I know Windows Vista is optimized to take advantage of any flash memory, as well as other programs that can do fastbooting/readybooting.

Feb 03, 2008, 10:30 AM
Everything goes down in price once enough people see the value in it. I knew flash memory was very cheap to make. You can pick up a 1GB stick now for about 5. I bought mine when it was more of the craze though, IIRC it cost me 23. Prices have stabilised now, and are more sensible. They should still be making profit. The $100 laptop uses flash memory, instead of a HDD.

I'm waiting for prices for SatNav to go down. That's now the latest gadget and it's hard to find one under 100. I expect that will drop more slowly as it's more complex so less companies will make them.

Back to flash memory, I've never filled my 1GB stick. It's got plenty of storage for my needs. The general public don't need big memory sticks. They've only become so big because prior to their existence, files had to be exchanged between computers either by email, CD, or floppy disk. Email was slow (for me anyway), as we didn't have broadband. CD was not possible as we didn't have a CD burner. Floppy disk was often useless because the files were too big.

Feb 03, 2008, 10:52 AM
Having recently degraded to several crappy old computers, I am realising you can have a happily working Windoze XP pc, running office/net etc on a 10GB HD.. so I imagine seeing flash on a small scale is very soon going to be possible.

But until they can match the popular HD sizes of nowadays 300GB+ the HD is here for a while longer!

Feb 03, 2008, 11:23 AM
I understand that there is a limit to the number of times that flash memory in memory sticks can reliably be written to, and this is nearly two orders of magnitude less than that for the most advanced hard disk drives.

However, this limit is actually very high so you are unlikely to encounter it in a lifetime of storing files, music tracks etc. However the standard Windows operating systems write to the swap file very frequently, and would reach this limit in a few months.

So for the time being the replacement of a moving hard disk drive by a purely static memory would require the use of an alternative operating system such as Linux or to install much more RAM too.

Feb 03, 2008, 11:28 AM
CivGeneral - Next time, use normal font for the articles.

Makes it reading much easier. :)