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Samsung eyeing new type of NAND to lower laptop costs

The cost of tablets and thin Ultrabook laptops might decrease with the introduction of a new type of NAND flash storage, which is capable of storing data more densely.

The TLC or Triple level cell might have not yet been adopted by most of the manufacturers, but as these grow with the longevity of flash, major companies will start adopting it, said Ryan Smith, Senior Manager of SSD (solid state disk) product marketing, Samsung. If the TLC is able to endure the average user’s daily activity on a device, consumers will be benefitted a lot due to the cheap availability of hardware.

The basic concept behind the working of the Flash storage is the appliance of a high voltage pulse to modify the charges on individual cells within a chip.

The SLC or Single level cell used in the enterprise storage equipment applies only to one charge and not to the whole cell to store one bit. MLC i.e. Multi-level cell can apply an even higher or lower charger and store two bits, while the TLC could store three bits in the same.

According to the Forward Insights analyst Gregory Wong, TLC even allows flash makers to get more chips of a given capacity out of one wafer, which is the main reason why it is cheaper than the others.

The negative aspect is the increase in the number of errors with the increase in the number of charges per cell. Also,

On the other hand, as the number of charges per cell goes up, so do the number of errors, and the number of times a user can reliably write data to the storage goes down, he added. Performance is also lower on TLC than on the other types of flash, though all are faster than hard disk drives, Wong said.

Samsung acknowledges the longevity and error issues, which can be partly solved through error correction and digital signal processing. But the company believes that MLC flash, the kind used in most laptops and tablets today, may be overkill for the needs of the average user. If TLC can keep working for however long a user keeps a machine, that machine may cost the consumer less, he said.

It's up to device makers to decide whether TLC is good enough, Smith added. Whether it can go the distance is a complicated question. A typical rule of thumb in the industry for laptop use is writing 20GB of data per day to the device, over a period of perhaps 3 years, he said. That includes files created or downloaded as well as temporarily cached Web pages and other items.

Using that standard, "TLC is on the borderline unless some special error correction or signal processing gives you some margin," Wong said. But the 20GB rule may be more than the average user needs, he added. With tablets in particular, consumers tend not to create and store much content, though tablets typically have less flash capacity and therefore fewer cells to work with over the life of the product, Wong said.


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Pallab Jyotee Hazarika, 2012-04-20 (Update: 2012-05-26)