FMS 2015: *UPDATED* Samsung Adds Layers to its 3D VNAND, Doubling Capacity While Reducing Power Consumption

Subject: Storage | August 11, 2015 - 04:39 PM |
Tagged: vnand, tlc, Samsung, FMS 2015, 48-layer, 32GB, 32-layer, 256Gbit

FMS 2015: Samsung Adds Layers to its 3D VNAND, Doubling Capacity While Reducing Power Consumption

Samsung recently added 2TB capacity parts to their 850 EVO SATA SSDs, but today’s announcement may double that. Today at Flash Memory Summit, Samsung has announced a new iteration on their 3D VNAND technology.

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Cross section of Samsung 32-layer VNAND. (TechInsights)

The announcement is a new TLC 3D VNAND (the type present in the 850 EVO Series). The new parts consist of an updated die with the following improvements:

  • 48 layer VNAND - up from 32 layers of the previous generation
  • 256Gbit (32GB) capacity - up from 128Gbit (16GB) capacity of 32-layer VNAND
  • 30% reduction in power consumption over 32-layer VNAND

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Samsung’s new 48-layer VNAND.

I suspected Samsung would go this route in order to compete with the recent announcements from Intel/Micron and SanDisk. Larger die capacities may not be the best thing for keeping performance high in smaller capacity SSDs (a higher number of smaller capacity dies helps there), but it is definitely a good capability to have since higher capacity per die translates to more efficient flash die production.

The Samsung keynote is at noon today (Pacific), and I will update this piece with any photos relevant to the announcement after that keynote.


I just got out of the Samsung keynote. There were some additional slides with data relevant to this post:

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This image simply shows the additional vertical stacking, but adds that Samsung has this new flash in production right now.

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The new higher capacity dies enable 1.4x greater density per wafer (realize that this does not mean more dies per wafer, as the image incorrectly suggests).

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The power consumption improvements (right) were in the press release, however the speed improvements (left) were not. A 2x improvement in per-die speeds means that Samsung should not see a performance hit if they migrate their existing 128Gbit TLC VNAND SSDs over to these new 256Gbit parts. Speaking of which...

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Not only is this new VNAND being produced *this month*, Samsung is retrofitting their 850 EVO line with the new parts. Again, we expect no performance delta but will likely retest these new versions just to double check for any outliers.

There was some more great info from the keynote, but that will appear in another post later today.

Samsung’s press blast appears after the break.

Samsung Electronics, the world leader in advanced memory technology, announced that it has begun mass producing the industry’s first 256-gigabit (Gb), three-dimensional (3D) Vertical NAND (V-NAND) flash memory based on 48 layers of 3-bit multi-level-cell (MLC) arrays for use in solid state drives (SSDs).

“With the introduction of our 3rd generation V-NAND flash memory to the global market, we can now provide the best advanced memory solutions, with even higher efficiency based on improved performance, power utilization and manufacturing productivity, thereby accelerating growth of the high-performance and the high-density SSD markets,” said Young-Hyun Jun, President of the Memory Business at Samsung Electronics. “By making full use of Samsung V-NAND’s excellent features, we will expand our premium-level business in the enterprise and data center market segments, as well as in the consumer market, while continuing to strengthen our strategic SSD focus.”

Samsung’s new 256Gb 3D V-NAND flash doubles the density of conventional 128Gb NAND flash chips. In addition to enabling 32 gigabytes (256 gigabits) of memory storage on a single die, the new chip will also easily double the capacity of Samsung’s existing SSD line-ups, and provide an ideal solution for multi-terabyte SSDs.

Samsung introduced its 2nd generation V-NAND (32-layer 3-bit MLC V-NAND) chips in August 2014, and launched its 3rd generation V-NAND (48-layer 3-bit MLC V-NAND) chips in just one year, in continuing to lead the 3D memory era.

In the new V-NAND chip, each cell utilizes the same 3D Charge Trap Flash (CTF) structure in which the cell arrays are stacked vertically to form a 48-storied mass that is electrically connected through some 1.8 billion channel holes punching through the arrays thanks to a special etching technology. In total, each chip contains over 85.3 billion cells. They each can store 3 bits of data, resulting 256 billion bits of data, in other words, 256Gb on a chip no larger than the tip of a finger.

A 48-layer 3-bit MLC 256Gb V-NAND flash chip consumes over a 30 percent reduction in power compared to a 32-layer, 3-bit MLC, 128Gb V-NAND chip when storing the same amount of data. During production, the new chip also achieves approximately 40 percent more productivity over its 32-layer predecessor, bringing much enhanced cost competitiveness to the SSD market, while mainly utilizing existing equipment.

Samsung plans to produce 3rd generation V-NAND throughout the remainder of 2015, to enable more accelerated adoption of terabyte-level SSDs. While now introducing SSDs with densities of two terabytes and above for consumers, Samsung also plans to increase its high-density SSD sales for the enterprise and data center storage markets with leading-edge PCIe NVMe and SAS interfaces.

Source: Samsung

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August 11, 2015 | 12:05 PM - Posted by unacom

Really glad I've been putting off buying an SSD for years. At this rate, they'll be cheap enough to actually afford soon.

August 11, 2015 | 01:07 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

If you add up the time you likely lost using/waiting on HDD's all this time that SSDs have been available, they would instantly seem a lot more affordable :)

August 11, 2015 | 03:04 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)


SSDs have been worth every penny since the X25M.

August 11, 2015 | 03:23 PM - Posted by unacom

Most likely. I had the option a while ago of either getting and SSD, or a 2TB HDD. That SSD was tempting as all hell. But considering the incoming switch to HD video editing, I sighed and went for more storage.
But mark my words, next year is the year I get an SSD! It will be the most advanced thing I ever hook up to a Bad Axe 2.

August 11, 2015 | 12:20 PM - Posted by Airbrushkid (not verified)

I don't know about being cheap. Sammies 850 pro 2tb is $1000.00

August 11, 2015 | 12:22 PM - Posted by ciddo (not verified)

I think once 500GB SSDs are $100 and less that'll serve as pretty affordable. They'll be in most new consumer grade laptops at this price.

August 15, 2015 | 12:48 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yeah, but consider the smaller sizes that are more useful anyway as an OS drive doesn't need to be huge and secondary huge drives are mainly used for storage which doesn't need to be fast (even games only benefit from faster load times).

I bought a new 120GB SSD for $70USD, upgraded my dad's laptop from a slow HDD and it made a huge difference. Did the same with a 60GB used drive that cost $30 on a ten-year old laptop and it's actually usable now.

August 11, 2015 | 12:20 PM - Posted by Mobile_Dom

so 4 and 8tb consumer SSDs could soon be a thing? awesome.

thoughim not sure how we're supposed toget the pricesdown lower, do we wait for another die shrink or is it just increase volume until they produce enough so that they can buy stuff cheaper?

August 11, 2015 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Adding layers is effectively a die shrink, since you are getting more capacity for the same die space. These dies are probably a bit larger in the X and Y, but not as large as they would have to be if they remained 32 layer.

August 11, 2015 | 12:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Perfect addon with my Intel 750

August 11, 2015 | 01:09 PM - Posted by Cyclops

An arms race is happening in the SSD world. Always good for the consumer.

August 11, 2015 | 02:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So 32 is now the short stack, but that 3 bit MLC, appears to be an obfuscation of TLC. Is Samsung not using the moniker TLC any more.

Well with Intel's/Micron's new Crossbar memory on the way, I'd expect maybe that Intel motherboards will begin coming with some built into the chip-set, or on a motherboard module, for hosting things like paging files, and the OS, or as faster SSD cache, so then maybe the SSDs with SLC/MLC(2) will not cost as much in the future. But that MLC(3) “TLC” I'll leave it be. That Intel/Micron memory is word addressable and a damn bit closer to DRAM in speed than NAND.

August 11, 2015 | 04:07 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

It's not really obfuscation - 3-bit MLC is an equivalent term to TLC. There may be a 4-bit MLC in the mainstream somewhere down the road.

August 11, 2015 | 04:55 PM - Posted by Master Chen (not verified)

Ugh...TLC..I really don't feel good about that one...

August 11, 2015 | 10:50 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

I feel your pain, but I feel the 3D solutions coming out have sufficient electron storage overhead to support TLC safely for consumer. Also, Toshiba just announced QLC (4 bit per cell). See what I just posted on that. 

August 12, 2015 | 03:56 PM - Posted by Hakuren

Even with a bit of delay, but still I have to say this. TLC is a problem for manufacturers. And it is their fault entirely. Created something that is supremely unreliable and still they want top price for something that is in essence handicapped product. Manufacturers know very well that people are running away scared if TLC is plastered all over the product. So they will come with just about anything to hide TLC under different moniker.

August 11, 2015 | 09:27 PM - Posted by Dallas Humphrey (not verified)

Well at first im like sweet... then im like woah.. then im like DUUudee There is NVME still... the hell???

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