Micron and Intel announces 25nm TLC NAND Flash

Not suitable for SSDs

MICRON AND INTEL has announced that they’re the first to sample 25nm three bits per cell NAND Flash memory today, also known as TLC NAND Flash. The companies are getting ready to enter mass production later this year, for what the two are claiming is the industries smallest and highest capacity NAND Flash memory.

TLC NAND holds three bits per cell, compared to two for MLC and one for SLC. This means that higher capacities are easier to reach and the joint venture is already producing 64Gbit (8GB) NAND Flash ICs which can be stacked to produce 64GB NAND Flash chips. Micron claims that each wafer of the new TLC NAND Flash yields about 4TB or memory.

We won’t be seeing any huge jumps in density, as Micron and Intel are using a smaller die rather than going with non-standard densities. If the same die sizes would’ve been used we could’ve seen larger capacity NAND Flash ICs. In theory TLC NAND with the same die size as MLC NAND could hold 50 percent more data. On the other hand, the smaller die size means more ICs per wafer which results in a lower cost product with the same capacity as using MLC NAND Flash.

Each 25nm TLC NAND Flash IC is about 20 percent smaller than the equivalent 25nm MLC NAND Flash IC at the same density. Simply put, this means a lot more chips per wafer for Micron and Intel which should result in a lower overall cost for consumers. However, TLC NAND Flash works slightly different and as such it’s not suitable for certain products.

TLC will appear in products such as Flash memory cards, USB drives and built in to devices such as digital media players and possibly even some smartphones. Micron is already prepping 64GB micro SD XC cards based on TLC NAND Flash, something that would’ve been a lot more costly using MLC NAND Flash.

The downside of TLC NAND Flash is that the performance isn’t as good as SLC or MLC as it takes longer to write three bits compared to one or two. On top of that, as more data is store per cell, the longevity won’t be as good. Hence we won’t be seeing TLC NAND Flash in SSD drives, as it’s not reliable enough for the kind of read and write operations that are required for SSD drives.

TLC NAND Flash is set to make for more affordable Flash memory products, but it’s unlikely to change things much. There’s always going to be a demand for high performance Flash memory products from specialist users such as professional photographers and for them, this type of solution isn’t going to be of much use. However, for most of us, this means that we’ll be able to get a larger memory card or USB drive for less money which is something of a win win situation.S|A

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