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Need more space in your SSD? Intel’s 3D NAND may be the answer

need space ssd intels 3d nand may answer intelssd
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Solid state drives are incredibly quick, but price and capacity have been an issue. The drives, which are typically two and a half inches wide, have limited space for the memory chips used to build them. Higher capacity chips can increase overall storage, but they’re often more expensive, driving up the price.

Intel may have the solution in 3D NAND, a technology born from its joint venture with Micron. Conceptually, the idea is simple. Rather than lay out memory chips in a single plane Intel and Micron have learned to stack them in up to 32 layers, a practice that makes it possible to cram up to 32GB of storage in a single MLC flash die and 48GB in a single TLC die.

The drives have already reached the prototype stage; senior VP Rob Crooke stated during an investor webcast held on November 20th that he was running the presentation off a drive built with 3D NAND. With that said, drives won’t be available for purchase until at least mid-2015 and may initially be very expensive. The first drives will likely have capacities in the range of several terabytes and be targeted at enterprise buyers.

In the long term, though, this technology could drive down prices and make SSDs with one to four terabytes of storage more affordable for consumers. It also could be used to construct physically smaller drives, which is always a boon to laptop and tablet manufacturers.

Intel and Micron aren’t the only players exploring this technology. Samsung has 32-layer V-NAND that can pack up to 10 gigabytes of data per MLC cell and has already put the technology to work in retail drives. While this approach isn’t as storage-dense as Intel’s technology, Samsung believes its next iteration of the technology will be available in late 2015, putting it toe-to-toe with Intel’s 3D NAND. Whichever proves better, the story for consumers is the same; higher capacity, lower prices.

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Matthew S. Smith
Matthew S. Smith is the former Lead Editor, Reviews at Digital Trends. He previously guided the Products Team, which dives…
Manufacturers take note: Micron’s 232-layer 3D NAND will change the storage game
Super close up of 232-layer NAND wafer from Micron for next-gen storage.

This content was produced in partnership with Micron.
In the wide world of computing, sometimes there's innovation you can see -- like a processor that's larger than others with increased capabilities, or a super thin laptop chassis with a powerful machine housed inside -- and sometimes there's innovation you cannot see. For the latter, that innovation tends to be happening inside the core of another piece of technology. Take solid-state drives, for example, which have grown increasingly thinner, albeit with larger storage capacities, and unprecedented read and write speeds. It's the technology inside of those drives that's the real achievement. It makes for an excellent experience all around as computers are growing faster and more powerful every day. That's exactly what's happening with Micron's latest achievement: a 232-layer 3D NAND, which is in essence nothing more than a wafer. The sheer possibilities that this new technology will provide are enormous.

While Micron isn't ready to disclose where this technology will be featured just yet, the important part is that this multilayer advancement sets the foundation for a new wave of end-to-end technology innovation, particularly when it comes to storage capabilities. Delivering incredible storage density, enhanced performance, and industry-leading I/O speeds is just the start. The 232-layer 3D NAND will unlock entirely new possibilities for digitization, performance optimization, and general automation in client, mobile, and data-center-related markets. In other words, it offers increased storage density for higher capacities -- much higher -- right along with high performance, and a host of ubiquitous applications.
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