New NAND flash memory type hits 200MB/s speeds

— 6:00 AM on February 4, 2008

Flash devices with transfer speeds up to five times greater than today's models could be just months away, if IM Flash Technologies' rollout of a new type of flash memory proceeds as scheduled. The flash joint venture co-owned by Intel and Micron has developed a single-level cell NAND flash chip that can hit sustained read and write speeds of up to 200MB/s and 100MB/s, respectively. The chip is currently sampling in sizes ranging from 8Gb to 32Gb (1GB to 4GB), and mass production is expected to kick off some time during the second half of this year.

To achieve this new milestone in performance, Intel says the new High Speed NAND flash chip relies on the new ONFI 2.0 specification as well as a "four plane architecture with higher clock speeds." The ONFI 2.0 spec is named after its creator, the Open NAND Flash Interface Working Group, and it notably introduces the use of double-data-rate signaling to improve transfer speeds—just like system RAM.

Intel says High Speed NAND will be an ideal match for the upcoming USB 3.0 interface, which is designed to allow top transfer speeds of 4.8Gbps (600MB/s), or ten times greater than those of USB 2.0. The benefits of High Speed NAND in solid-state drives and other pure-flash devices should be evident, but Intel also points out that hybrid hard drives will see a performance boost from the new memory type. Supposedly, that boost will be in the order of 200-400% when compared to conventional hard drives.

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