Race towards Bottom Continues with 16nm NAND
Considering today’s speed of technical developments, mainstream SSDs appear to be on track to become increasingly less durable until they’re barely suitable even for consumer laptops.
Most NAND Flash manufacturers are already down to 19 or 20 nm technology and they are reportedly eyeing increasingly smaller and cheaper ways of producing flash circuitry.
The advantage of 16 nm technology is that the modules are reduced further in size, some 30 % from the current 20 nm process. One of the many downsides is that the yields will deteriorate initially, which might actually serve to jack up prices due to low availability, as opposed to the other way around.
We are used to things getting cheaper as the production process drops, but apparently this might not happen, according to DigiTimes. This could be a good thing for the manufacturers, according to the reports, as it will “help the NAND flash industry return to a healthier supply-demand dynamic”, says “sources”.
In virtually all other areas of silicon manufacturing, such as CPUs and GPUs, a smaller production process is usually a step forward for several reasons, most of all efficiency.
However, this is not necessarily the case with the NAND flash modules found in solid state drives, as we have already established. The good part is that SSDs do indeed become more affordable, but ever smaller transistors have less space to hold a charge and wear down much, much faster. The same is rule applies to SLC vs. MLC nand, the latter of which are considerably less durable.
Now we have even started to see TLC NAND in products like the Samsung 840 (not the PRO model), and it will be very interesting to see how these drives stand the test of time. Some of these problems can be solved with better error correction and over-provisioning, but eventually a limit should be reached.