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Intel, Micron Ready to Make SSDs with Higher Capacities
Intel, Micron Ready to Make SSDs with Higher Capacities

By Barry Levine
May 30, 2008 1:39PM

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Smaller SSDs up to 512GB could emerge from Intel and Micron Technology's development of the first 34nm, 32Gbit multilevel NAND flash-memory device. IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture for Intel and Micron, developed and will manufacture the chips. The current limit for SSDs, used in notebooks and portable devices, is 256GB.

Intel and Micron Technology announced Thursday that they have developed the first under-40-nanometer NAND flash-memory device, which could make possible smaller, higher-capacity solid-state drives.

At 34nm, the 32-gigabit multilevel chip is the smallest NAND available. The companies said the new NAND chip is the only monolithic device of this density that will fit into a standard 48-lead thin, small-outline package (TSOP), which means it could provide higher densities for existing devices.

Smaller Than a Thumbnail

The new chips will be manufactured on 300-millimeter wafers, which each yield about 1.6 terabytes of NAND each. The chip was developed and will be manufactured by IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture of Micron and Intel. The two companies announced in February a new flash-memory technology that offered data-transfer speeds as much as 500 percent greater than conventional NAND technology.

Customer samples will begin shipping in June, and the chips will begin mass production later this year.

Pete Hazen, directory of marketing at Intel NAND Products, said the new chip and the introduction of 34nm technology "will expand the value proposition and accelerate the adoption of solid-state drive (SSD) solutions in computing platforms."

The new chip, less than the size of an average thumbnail, can enable high-density solid-state storage in small form factors. A 32Gbit chip, for instance, could hold more than 2,000 high-resolution digital photos or up to 1,000 songs on a portable music player. If utilized in two, eight-die stacked packages, the storage could reach 64GB, enough space to record up to 40 hours of high-definition, digital video.

SSDs Larger Than 256GB

The new chip was specifically designed for SSDs, whose disadvantages compared to conventional hard-disk drives have included a higher per-gigabyte cost and lower overall storage capacity.

With the 34nm 32Gbit chip, Intel and Micron said more cost-effective SSDs are possible, with storage capacities that could double the current 256GB limit. This could mean 512GB SSDs.

Earlier this week, for instance, Samsung said it would ship a 256GB SSD, and a San Jose, Calif.-based Super Talent Technology said last month it would begin selling a 256GB SSD as well, although it is thicker than Samsung's. Earlier this year, Intel had announced plans to ship this year 1.8- and 2.5-inch SSDs for notebook computers, with capacities of 80GB to 160GB.

SSDs are particularly attractive for notebook computers and other portable devices, as they feature lower power, faster bootups, greater reliability, and lower noise than hard-disk drives.

In addition to high-density products, Intel and Micron are also expected to use the 34nm architecture to release this year lower-density, multilevel cell products.

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