Samsung Introduces SSDs for Low-Cost PCs

"Smaller, faster, less expensive," might just be the motto over at Samsung these days. At least that's what it feels like with Samsung's announcement today that it has started sampling low-density, multilevel cell (MLC)-based solid state drives (SSDs) that are "only 30 percent of the size of 2.5-inch SSDs," "higher performance," and "highly cost-efficient to manufacture." Samsung is aiming these low-capacity drives at the burgeoning low-cost PC market.

Starting next month, Samsung will start mass-producing 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB SSDs using this new manufacturing technique:

"We've refined our manufacturing techniques and redesigned our low-density SSDs to get what the low-priced PC market is looking for in the way of improved cost, performance and availability,” said Jim Elliott, Vice President, Memory Marketing, Samsung Semiconductor, Inc."

 Credit: Samsung

These new low-capacity drives will use the "same high-performance SATA II controller technology as that being used on Samsung's just-introduced MLC-based 128GB SSD." The 8GB SSD will use four 16Gb MLC NAND chips; the 16GB SSD will use four dual-die 16Gb MLC NAND chips; and the 32GB SSD will use four quad-die 16Gb MLC NAND chips. All three drives include a 32MB DRAM buffer, which Samsung claims should help speed up data reads.

All three drives are rated to perform sequential reads at 90MB/sec. The write speeds, however, get slower as the respective drives' capacities drop. The 32GB SSD is rated to perform sequential writes at 70MB/Sec; the 16GB SSD's sequential write speed is rated at 45MB/sec; and the 8GB SSD is rated to write at 25MB/Sec. The 32GB SSD, however, has the same rated read and write speeds as the aforementioned Samsung 128GB SSD.

The lower-capacity drives lose some of the competitive edge with their slower write speeds. And even though a 90MB/sec sequential read speed is respectable, it is still not as speedy as other SSD drives that are also coming onto the market now. For instance, Samsung's own 256GB SSD is rated to read at 200MB/sec and write at 160MB/sec. Of course, the 256GB is a more expensive drive, intended for a different market. Users of Samsung's new low-capacity SSDs will be giving up some performance for smaller form factors and lower prices. Samsung has yet, however, to state what the prices will be for its new line of SSDs.

Samsung manufacturing SSDs for low-cost PCs just might signal the official death-knell for platter-based hard drives. While SSDs have been viable options for desktops and laptops for a few years now, their exorbitant high prices have kept them out of the hands of most users. SSDs offer potentially faster access times, smaller form factors, lower power consumption, and less noise than traditional platter-based drives.

Cost is actually only one of the two major hurdles that SSDs face. The other is storage capacity: Until SSDs are available with storage capacities that can rival today's platter-based drives (500GB or more), SSDs will not be in a position to replace them in mainstream systems. Laptops and low-cost PCs, however, seem to be the first major market that will welcome SSDs. In fact, Samsung states: "By unit sales, the low-density SSD market is expected to increase annually by 57% until 2011, with SSDs for low-priced PCs being the main driver of market demand." As capacities increase, costs come down, and speeds increase, expect SSDs to be driving into many more market segments--including enthusiast systems.
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