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New MacBook Air to boost data transfer with faster NAND flash

The new MacBook Air is expected this month

July 5, 2011 12:48 PM ET

Computerworld - The next version of Apple's MacBook Air, the release of which is reported to be imminent, will feature NAND flash memory with up to 400Mbps performance, about one and a half times faster than its current technology, according to a published report.

Unlike many notebooks, the MacBook Air has no hard drive or optical drive and instead uses a slim flash board for its internal mass storage device.

Citing an "Asian electronics component company person," the blog site Macotakara stated that Apple plans to use flash memory chips that sport the new Double Data Rate (DDR) 2.0 interface. While the rumors could not be confirmed, the upgrade would come as no surprise, since Apple's next MacBook Air, which originally used Toshiba's Blade X-gale NAND flash board, has moved to using Samsung's flash memory. The MacBook Air's current Samsung flash sports read rates of 261Mbps and write rates of up to 209Mbps and is based on DDR 1.0 technology.

DDR 2.0 provides a tenfold increase over the 40Mbps Single Data Rate (SDR) NAND flash in widespread use today.

In May, Samsung announced that it was producing DDR 2.0 multilevel cell flash chips. Samsung's flash chips are made using its smallest circuitry, only 20 nanometers wide. The chips boast a performance improvement of three times over its previous technology.

DDR NAND flash comes in two forms: Toggle Mode from Samsung and Toshiba; and ONFI NAND, from the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) working group. The ONFI protocol is used by flash manufacturers, including Intel, Micron, SanDisk, Hynix and Spansion. In March, the ONFI working group announced its 3.0 specification for the DDR 2.0 interface, which also has up to 400Mbps throughput but with only half the number of pins, for a significant reduction in size.

Samsung's NAND flash boards come in 64GB, 128GB and 256GB capacities. Samsung's new DDR 2.0 MLC flash chips sport twice the capacity per square centimeter compared with its DDR 1.0 technology, though that higher chip capacity doesn't necessarily mean that its flash memory components will also double in capacity. Oftentimes, flash manufacturers choose to keep capacity stable and instead use technology advancements to reduce the size of their products.

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

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