Seoul (Korea) - Samsung said that it has begun sampling of 50 nm NAND flash memory chips that are required to build the long announced 32 GB 2.5 GB solid state disk (SSD). The flash drive is expected to replace traditional hard drives in higher end notebooks and offer significant advantages in data transfer rates as well as power consumption.
The new memory chips bump the density of the previous NAND flash generation from 8 Gb(it) to 16 Gb. In a 16 x 16 Gb configuration, the device will reach the originally promised capacity of 32 GB. Previously promised prototypes of the 2.5" SSD used 4 Gb and 8 Gb chips, which resulted in capacities of 8 GB and 16 GB, respectively.
The company first announced plans to ship a SSD in March 2006 and since then has provided very few updates on the likely availability of the drive - other than the device will be introduced around the launch date of Windows Vista. Samsung recently received the Windows Hardware Qualification Lab (WHQL) for the SSD; mass production of the 16 Gb chips is planned to ramp in the current quarter.
The manufacturer claims that its upcoming 1.8" and 2.5" SSDs will reach data read speeds of 57 MB/s and a data write speed of 32 MB/s, which would be more than double the performance levels of a typical 1.8" hard disk drive. In a recent test conducted by Tom's Hardware Guide, a 32 GB Samsung SSD posted impressive performance numbers, but did not quite match the firm's claims: Read speed came in at about 50 MB/s and write speeds averaged 29 MB/s.
The test also found that the SSD consumed only 0.9 watts under full load - less than half what a traditional notebook drive consumes. In idle mode, the drive asked for only 0.05 watts, which is only 10 - 16% the power consumption of an idle hard drive. Samsung claims that the power characteristics can extend the battery running time of a SSD-based notebook by up to 30 minutes when compared to a system with a common hard drive.
Features of Windows Vista, including system acceleration that leverages excess capacity in SDRAM and Flash memory devices, will allow chip manufacturers such as Samsung to play a much more important role in the storage market than in the past. For example, Samsung said that it will be offering a 2.5" 4 GB SSD that will work alongside a hard drive and support Vista's "Ready Boost" feature. 4 GB, according to Samsung, are enough to process about 4000 requests per second - requests that typically would be sent and served by the hard drive.
The Korean semiconductor company is also a driving force in developing a market for hybrid hard drives - hard drives that combine NAND flash memory with traditional hard drive technology. Earlier last year, Samsung told TG Daily that hybrid hard drives would be shipping "in large quantities" in January 2007. Specifications of the devices have not been revealed yet, but prototypes used NAND flash with capacities of 128 KB and 256 KB. Samsung promises that this will be enough to enable notebooks to run up to 30 minutes longer and boot up to 50% faster than comparable devices with a common hard drive.