Flash drives

Micron releases half-terabyte laptop SSDs

Micron Technology on Tuesday announced its highest capacity laptop solid-state drives (SSDs) based on its smallest circuitry technology; the largest SSD doubles the amount of data that can be stored compared to its predecessor.

Micron's new RealSSD C400 flash drive line offers capacities ranging from 64GB to 512GB and will be available in 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch form factors, both supporting a 6Gbit per sec serial ATA (SATA) interface. The SSDs are based on Micron's latest 25 nanometer (nm) NAND flash lithography technology.

The C400's predecessor, Micron's RealSSD C300 drive, was its first to leverage the SATA 3.0 specification, which offers 6Gbit/sec. throughput, and the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) 2.1 specification, which provides sequential read speeds of up to 355MB/sec. and sequential write speeds of up to 215MB/sec. The C300 also came in 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch models, with either 128GB or 256GB of capacity.

Crucial, a division of Micron, will begin selling the new SSD portfolio under the name Crucial m4 SSD. The Crucial m4 SSD product line is expected to be available online and through select global channel partners in the first quarter of 2011. Micron is not offering pricing information on the new SSDs.

The new drives achieve read speeds of up to 415MBps, which is 17 percent faster than Micron's C300 SSDs. With write performance varying by capacity, the new 512GB drive delivers up to 260MBps write speeds, which is 20 percent faster than the C300 SSDs .

Micron said it sees opportunity for higher capacity SSDs in notebooks as the market continues to accelerate. Currently, however, SSD sales represent less than 10 percent of the total drive market, with hard disk drives still making up the lion's share.

SSDs also remain an order of magnitude more expensive than hard disk drives, though prices continue to drop. On average, the price of NAND flash memory drops 40 percent per year. Today, SSDs cost about $1.20 per gigabyte.

"We expect total portable PC SSD shipments to increase significantly every year for the next three years," Jeff Janukowicz, research manager for Solid State Storage Technologies at IDC, said in a statement. "The use of leading-edge NAND technology and product innovations, such as in Micron's RealSSD drives continue to bring SSDs into the mainstream by enabling higher performance and lower power consumption in a more cost effective solution."

Micron is currently working with notebook manufacturers to qualify its new RealSSD drives, with samples of the RealSSD C400 drives available now. Micron expects mass production to begin in February.

[Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com. ]

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