It has become increasingly apparent that flash memory die shrinks have hit a bit of a brick wall in recent years. The issues faced by the standard 2D Planar NAND process were apparent very early on. This was no real secret - here's a slide seen at the 2009 Flash Memory Summit:
Despite this, most flash manufacturers pushed the envelope as far as they could within the limits of 2D process technology, balancing shrinks with reliability and performance. One of the largest flash manufacturers was Intel, having joined forces with Micron in a joint venture dubbed IMFT (Intel Micron Flash Technologies). Intel remained in lock-step with Micron all the way up to 20nm, but chose to hold back at the 16nm step, presumably in order to shift full focus towards alternative flash technologies. This was essentially confirmed late last week, with Intel's announcement of a shift to 3D NAND production.
Intel's press briefing seemed to focus more on cost efficiency than performance, and after reviewing the very few specs they released about this new flash, I believe we can do some theorizing as to the potential performance of this new flash memory. From the above illustration, you can see that Intel has chosen to go with the same sort of 3D technology used by Samsung - a 32 layer vertical stack of flash cells. This requires the use of an older / larger process technology, as it is too difficult to etch these holes at a 2x nm size. What keeps the die size reasonable is the fact that you get a 32x increase in bit density. Going off of a rough approximation from the above photo, imagine that 50nm die (8 Gbit), but with 32 vertical NAND layers. That would yield a 256 Gbit (32 GB) die within roughly the same footprint.
Representation of Samsung's 3D VNAND in 128Gbit and 86 Gbit variants.
20nm planar (2D) = yellow square, 16nm planar (2D) = blue square.
Image republished with permission from Schiltron Corporation.
It's likely a safe bet that IMFT flash will be going for a cost/GB far cheaper than the competing Samsung VNAND, and going with a relatively large 256 Gbit (vs. VNAND's 86 Gbit) per-die capacity is a smart move there, but let's not forget that there is a catch - write speed. Most NAND is very fast on reads, but limited on writes. Shifting from 2D to 3D NAND netted Samsung a 2x speed boost per die, and another effective 1.5x speed boost due to their choice to reduce per-die capacity from 128 Gbit to 86 Gbit. This effective speed boost came from the fact that a given VNAND SSD has 50% more dies to reach the same capacity as an SSD using 128 Gbit dies.
Now let's examine how Intel's choice of a 256 Gbit die impacts performance:
- Intel SSD 730 240GB = 16x128 Gbit 20nm dies
- 270 MB/sec writes and ~17 MB/sec/die
- Crucial MX100 128GB = 8x128Gbit 16nm dies
- 150 MB/sec writes and ~19 MB/sec/die
- Samsung 850 Pro 128GB = 12x86Gbit VNAND dies
- 470MB/sec writes and ~40 MB/sec/die
If we do some extrapolation based on the assumption that IMFT's move to 3D will net the same ~2x write speed improvement seen by Samsung, combined with their die capacity choice of 256Gbit, we get this:
- Future IMFT 128GB SSD = 4x256Gbit 3D dies
- 40 MB/sec/die x 4 dies = 160MB/sec
Even rounding up to 40 MB/sec/die, we can see that also doubling the die capacity effectively negates the performance improvement. While the IMFT flash equipped SSD will very likely be a lower cost product, it will (theoretically) see the same write speed limits seen in today's SSDs equipped with IMFT planar NAND. Now let's go one layer deeper on theoretical products and assume that Intel took the 18-channel NVMe controller from their P3700 Series and adopted it to a consumer PCIe SSD using this new 3D NAND. The larger die size limits the minimum capacity you can attain and still fully utilize their 18 channel controller, so with one die per channel, you end up with this product:
- Theoretical 18 channel IMFT PCIE 3D NAND SSD = 18x256Gbit 3D dies
- 40 MB/sec/die x 18 dies = 720 MB/sec
- 18x32GB (die capacity) = 576GB total capacity
Overprovisioning decisions aside, the above would be the lowest capacity product that could fully utilize the Intel PCIe controller. While the write performance is on the low side by PCIe SSD standards, the cost of such a product could easily be in the $0.50/GB range, or even less.
In summary, while we don't have any solid performance data, it appears that Intel's new 3D NAND is not likely to lead to a performance breakthrough in SSD speeds, but their choice on a more cost-effective per-die capacity for their new 3D NAND is likely to give them significant margins and the wiggle room to offer SSDs at a far lower cost/GB than we've seen in recent years. This may be the step that was needed to push SSD costs into a range that can truly compete with HDD technology.
Given that we are anticipating a launch of the Samsung 850 EVO very shortly, it is a good time to back fill on the complete performance picture of the 850 Pro series. We have done several full capacity roundups of various SSD models over the past months, and the common theme with all of them is that as the die count is reduced in lower capacity models, so is the parallelism that can be achieved. This effect varies based on what type of flash memory die is used, but the end result is mostly an apparent reduction in write performance. Fueling this issue is the increase in flash memory die capacity over time.
There are two different ways to counteract the effects of write speed reductions caused by larger capacity / fewer dies:
- Reduce die capacity.
- Increase write performance per die.
Recently there has been a trend towards *lower* capacity dies. Micron makes their 16nm flash in both 128Gbit and 64Gbit. Shifting back towards the 64Gbit dies in lower capacity SSD models helps them keep the die count up, increasing overall parallelism, and therefore keeping write speeds and random IO performance relatively high.
Subject: Storage | July 7, 2014 - 03:58 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: vertical, V-NAND, ssd, sata, Samsung, 850 PRO, 3d
As you saw in Al's review, the Samsung 850 drive is more than just a small bump in model number and performance, it is the stellar introduction to 3D NAND. The Tech Report is likely having nightmares from the drives reported longevity which is expected to be up to 10 times the cycles of current drives and means an update to their long running endurance test could see them testing into the 2020's. While they haven't yet added the 850 to that particular test they did post a review which starts out with a comprehensive look at the history of Flash technology and why 3D NAND is faster and more resilient than previous types; read on to get a better understanding of the fastest consumer SATA drive on the market.
"Most flash memory is limited to a single layer, but the V-NAND chips in Samsung's new 850 Pro SSD stack 32 layers on top of each other. This is next-level stuff, literally, and it's supposed to make the 850 Pro the fastest SATA drive around. We investigate."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Samsung SSD 850 PRO @ Benchmark Reviews
- Samsung SSD 850 Pro @ Legion Hardware
- Samsung 850 PRO 512GB SATA SSD @ Custom PC Review
- Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SSD Review @ Legit Reviews
- Samsung 850 Pro SSD Review - Showing Off With 3D V-NAND @ The SSD Review
- Samsung 845DC EVO 240GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- Samsung 845DC EVO 240GB, 960GB SATA SSD @ Custom PC Review
- Crucial MX100 512GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- OCZ RevoDrive 350 480 GB Review @ OCC
- OCZ RevoDrive 350 480GB PCIe SSD @ Custom PC Review
- ADATA XPG SX300 SATA 6Gb/s mSATA SSD Review @ Modders-Inc
- Seagate Laptop SSHD 1 TB Solid State Hybrid Drive @ TechARP
- Synology DS414slim 4-Bay NAS @ eTeknix
- OWC ThunderBay 4 RAID5 Edition Review - Speed, Capacity and Data Security @ The SSD Review
- Samsung Pro microSDXC UHS-1 U1 Card @ The SSD Review
Samsung has certainly been pushing the envelope in the SSD field. For the past two years straight, they have launched class leading storage products, frequently showing outside-the-box thinking. Their 840 PRO series was an impressive MLC performer to say the least, but even more impressive was the 840 EVO, which combined cost-efficient TLC flash with a super-fast SLC cache. The generous SLC area, present on each die and distributed amongst all flash chips within the drive, enabled the EVO to maintain PRO-level performance for the majority of typical consumer (and even power user) usage scenarios. The main win for the EVO was the fact that it could be produced at a much lower cost, and since its release, we've seen the EVO spearheading the push to lower cost SSDs.
All of these innovations might make you wonder what could possibly be next. Today I have that answer:
If you're going "Hey, they just changed the label from 840 to 850!", well, think again. This SSD might have the same MEX controller as its predecessor, but Samsung has done some significant overhauling of the flash memory itself. Allow me to demonstrate.
Here's standard (2D) flash memory, where the charge is stored on a horizontal plane:
..and now for 3D:
The charges (bits) are not stored at the top layer. They are stored within all of those smaller, thinner layers below it. You're still looking at a 2D plane (your display), so here's a better view:
Subject: General Tech | May 2, 2013 - 02:59 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: podcast, video, Indiegogo, corair, obsidian, 350d, mATX, frame rating, 4k, titan, 7990, 690, Oculus, rift, VR, 3d, amd, amd fx, vishera, hUMA, hsa
PC Perspective Podcast #249 - 05/02/2013
Join us this week as we discuss the Corsair 350D, Frame Rating in 4K, the Oculus Rift and more!
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Hosts: Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, Scott Michaud and Morry Teitelman
Program length: 1:04:02
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
1-888-38-PCPER or email@example.com
Subject: Mobile | November 24, 2011 - 03:53 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: toshiba, qosmio F755-3D290, 3d
Even if the glasses-free 3D on the Toshiba Qosmio F755-3D290 doesn't work very well the specs certainly make the laptop interesting. For instance the 15.6" LED display is 1080p native or 720p if you enable the 3D mode. Inside the Core i7-2630QM paired with a GT 540M give this laptop some serious processing power, though the model that AnandTech reviewed would set you back $1700 to purchase. Strangely Toshiba opted not to include Optimus in this laptop which really shows when you look at the battery life, or lack thereof. That begins the long list of issues that the reviewer at AnandTech had with this machine; catch the full list here.
"Way back in the dark ages of CES 2011, we were able to lay hands on and play with some interesting new technology from Toshiba. They had a prototype notebook on hand that was capable of glasses-free 3D similar to the Nintendo 3DS, but with a bigger screen and the ability to track head movement and adjust viewing angles accordingly. Yet the release of this 3D notebook has been an unusually quiet one. Is the 15-inch Qosmio F755 a sound design, or is there a reason why it's been unceremoniously dropped into the marketplace?"
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Building the perfect ultrabook – and where PC makers are wrong @ Techspot
- Samsung Series 9 (NP900X3A-B01UB) Review @ TechReviewSource
- Sony VAIO F Series (Late 2011) Review @ TechReviewSource
- Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro @ AnandTech
- Mobile GPU Comparison Guide @ TechARP
- Amazon's Silk Browser Acceleration Tested: Less Bandwidth Consumed, But Slower Performance @ AnandTech
- Otterbox iPad 2 Reflex Series Case Review @ Madshrimps
- Don't call it a tablet: the Kindle Fire reviewed @ Ars Technica
- Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet Review @ TechReviewSource
- Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet @ Techspot
- Amazon Kindle Fire @ Techspot
- Lean, mean consuming machine: the Nook Tablet reviewed @ Ars Technica
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 20, 2011 - 02:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: bumpday, 3d
This week LG unveiled their glasses-free 3D LCD display with only a minimal amount of LG employees trying to pet a poorly Photoshopped Formula One race car. 3D is quite heavily promoted lately with the hype machine apparently being fueled by anthropomorphic blue cats and Box Office records. 3D on the PC has been around for much longer, however. NVIDIA and ELSA had support for 3D glasses over a decade ago for 3D effects in games of the time. There really has not really been much said about 3D between then and the rush of publicity now so I guess it is time to bump it up in our memory.
This week’s intermission… in the third dimension
In August 2002 the epitome of threads on ATI’s lack of 3D stereoscopic support was born with a simple message: give your greens to the green. Of course whenever you mention one brand over another there immediately becomes a three-way comparison between the market leaders: ATI, nVidia, and Matrox (wha-what!?! Actually another article will be posted soon; an old Matrox technology has a spiritual successor… because the body’s long since dead.) Even back then, however, we had people who bashed 3D technology long before it was cool to dislike 3D technology. Some people like it a lot though, enough to drop down 1600$ on a pair of 3D VR glasses, but no money on an ATI card.
Subject: Displays | July 16, 2011 - 10:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: monitor, LG, lenticular display, 3d display, 3d
LG Electronics, maker of HD televisions, computer displays, and a myriad of consumer electronics devices unveiled a new glasses-free 3D monitor that claims to be the first display of its kind. Using a lenticular display and a built in webcam to automatically adjust the display by tracking eye movement in real time. Lenticular displays work by coating an otherwise 2D panel with an array of tiny lenses called lenticules that then direct light from the panel’s pixels into each eye. The brain then stitches the images together and interprets them as a 3D image. The passive 3D system (passive in the sense that active shutter glasses are not required) and eye tracking means that only one person will be able to experience the 3D effects at a time; however, that person will be able to view the image at a wider variety of viewing angles than otherwise possible without eye tracking.
The 20" inch panel has been dubbed the DX2000, and will retail in Korea this month for $1,200 USD according to a LG press release. A wider release to other markets are expected later in the year, and the display model will be known as the D2000.
Subject: Mobile | July 11, 2011 - 12:12 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: 3d, no glasses, toshiba
Toshiba's new Qosmio F750 uses it's built in webcam to track your face, which means you do not have to remain stationary in the '3D sweet spot' in order to see 3D images, nor do you need to wear special glasses. Unfortunately that also means that only one person can see the effect, trying to share the 15.6" screen with someone else will not work very well. Inside the laptop is a 2.0 GHz Core i7 CPU with an NVIDIA GT 540M with up to 2GB DDR3, 6GB of system RAM, and a 640GB hard drive. Check out the text and video preview over at The Inquirer.
"JAPANESE ELECTRONICS GIANT Toshiba invited The INQUIRER to a sneak preview of its Qosmio F75D glasses free 3D laptop in London yesterday.
The Qosmio F750 3D doesn't look all that different from the others in the range. It does have a stylish look, if a little chunky at the same time. The casing is bright red and the palm rests have a cool carbon fibre look."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Acer Aspire 5742Z Laptop @ Hardware Secrets
- Dell Inspiron i14RN4110-7616DBK Review @ TechReviewSource
- Dell Vostro 3350 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Promise Pegasus R6 & Mac Thunderbolt @ AnandTech
- HP ProBook 5330m Review @ TechReviewSource
- Dell XPS 15z Laptop Review @ HardwareHeaven
- CyberpowerPC's Compal PBL21: The Shark's New Teeth @ AnandTech
- AnandTech Mobile Graphics Guide, Summer 2011
- How to Replace a Gateway Netbook LCD Guide @ BayReviews
- Cooler Master Infinite Evo Notebook Cooler Review @ eTeknix
- Nokia E6 Smartphone Review @ t-break
- TechSpot's Smartphone Buying Guide: Q3 2011
- Motorola Droid X2 Review - A Droid X with Tegra 2 @ AnandTech
- Qualcomm Snapdragon MDP MSM8660 @ Phoronix
Subject: General Tech, Displays | June 12, 2011 - 05:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: SMART, 3d
SMART has been making interactive whiteboards for quite some time now. An interactive whiteboard is essentially a giant writing tablet similar to a Wacom. This tablet is also a projector screen which is often wall mounted but could be mounted on a cart. SMART Boards attach to PCs by USB and could attach to video and audio out if you purchase one with an attached projector and speakers rather than use your own. Recently SMART announced and released their fifth generation product line complete with a projector supporting HDMI input and active 3D technology.
IT’S LIKE I CAN TOUCH YOU!
(Image by SMART Technologies)
While I can see this useful for companies that are doing 3D technology during their company, investor, and vendor meetings it seems a little bit unlikely that active 3D will appear in the classroom. It seems quite difficult for me to imagine twenty to forty students each with their own active shutter 3D glasses atop the investment of the 3D interactive whiteboard itself. Also while it might be to support the 3D functionality of the projector it seems quite odd to include HDMI functionality and barely exceed 720p resolution (1280x800) in your highest-end projector.