Technology moves at a staggering pace, and flash memory development is no exception. On the same day that Intel is claiming a world's first, Western Digital announces what will end up being the successor to that world's first. And the good news is it's us consumers who benefit from SSDs becoming cheaper.
This week Intel made its new budget-friendly 512GB SSD 545 drives available. It's a notable release because these drives are the first to use 64-layer chips, which in turn means fewer chips are required to hit that 512GB of storage. Fewer chips means cheaper manufacturing costs and therefore a cheaper price point. That's why the 512GB SSD 545 only costs $180.
What Western Digital announced this week in conjunction with its manufacturing partner Toshiba is 96-layer 3D NAND chips. So that's a 50 percent increase in the storage density over what Intel is shipping inside the 545 drives.
Samples of these 96-layer chips will be going out later this year before full production begins in 2018. Western Digital intends to ship 256-gigabit (32GB) chips in a range of drive capacities. However, the chip size scales from 3-bits-per-cell to 4-bits-per-cell, which means eventually each chip could store 125GB.
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Even at 32GB per chip that's a cost saving over what we have today, which in turn means SSDs will cost less. The other benefit of more storage per chip is more chips fit into a standard 2.5-inch SSD meaning higher storage capacities.
We're still a way off hard drive-SSD pricing parity, but with regular storage density improvements such as this it won't be long before that happens. The question then will be: why buy hard drives at all anymore?
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