Slowly but surely, flash memory continues to get cheaper and more capacious. Intel and Micron have just taken another step in that direction with the announcement that an 8GB NAND flash chip based on their new 20-nm manufacturing process is now sampling. (The chip is the work of the two companies’ joint venture, IM Flash Technologies.)
According to Intel and Micron, the 8GB 20-nm chip measures a scant 118 mm² and enables a "30 to 40 percent reduction in board space" compared to 25-nm chips of the same capacity. The smaller die area allows IMFT to churn out "50 percent more gigabyte capacity" using the same fabrication plants. Best of all, the 20-nm NAND chip purportedly delivers performance and endurance on par with its 25-nm predecessor—a noteworthy achievement considering finer processes usually reduce flash longevity.
Intel and Micron expect to start mass producing the new 8GB chip in the second half of the year. The two also reckon they’ll be sampling a 16GB device based on the same 20-nm process in that same time frame.
You might recall that Intel premiered IMFT’s 25-nm flash technology inside its 320 Series solid-state drives late last month. The drives are held back somewhat by their older controller, and they’re not that cheap—Intel officially prices the 120GB 320 Series at $209, down from around $230 for the matching X25-M, but Newegg currently charges $239.99 for the newer drive. Still, SSD prices have been decreasing steadily over recent months and years, and moves to finer manufacturing processes do translate into cheaper drives—eventually.