Micron announces its fastest notebook, desktop SSD

Micron Technology Inc. announced today a new solid-state drive (SSD) that it described as the industry's fastest for notebook and desktop PCs with about 50% better data transfer speeds compared with today's best consumer-grade flash drives.

Micron's RealSSD C300 drive is the first to leverage the SATA 3.0 specification, which offers 6Gbit/sec. throughput and the Open NAND Flash Interface (ONFI) 2.1 specification providing sequential read speeds of up to 355MB/sec. and sequential write speeds of up to 215MB/sec., Micron said. All current SSD and most hard disk drives use the SATA 2.0, 3Gbit/sec. interface.

"This drive is the fastest on 6Gbit/sec. SATA and it's the fastest on 3Gbit/sec. SATA," said Dean Klein, vice president of memory system development at Micron. "So even on a system that doesn't have a 6Gbit port, it's an impressive drive."

The C300 SSD is Micron's first product using 34 nanometer (nm) lithography technology, which allowed the company to double the NAND flash chip density over its previous 50nm technology.

Micron is manufacturing its SSDs using two different NAND flash chip types: a 32Gbit multi-level cell (MLC) NAND chip that offers up to 30,000 write/erase cycles, and a 16Gbit single-level cell (SLC) NAND chip capable of 300,000 write/erase cycles, the company said. The ReadSSD C300 uses MLC flash chips.

MLC NAND allows two or more bits to be stored per flash memory cell and SLC allows only one bit per cell. Micron RealSSD C300 is based on eight internal parallel channels to its interleaved flash chips. By comparison, OCZ's highest-end consumer SSD, its Agility EX -- which uses high-grade SLC-flash memory -- has a peak read rate of 255MB/sec. and a top write rate of 195MB/sec. Also considered an industry leader is Intel's X25-M consumer-grade SSD , which uses a 10-channel architecture and delivers a top sequential read speed of 230MB/sec. and a 100MB/sec.. top write speed.

"[Intel's SSD] used to be the industry bar, now ours is," Klein said.

The drive also takes advantage of the faster ONFI 2.1 specification , which was released earlier this year.

The new ONFI specification increases the data transfer speed per channel from 40 megatransfers (MT) per second in the older asynchronous SATA mode to 166MT to 200MT/sec in the new synchronous mode that ONCI 2.1 ushered in. A MT is equal to 1 million data transfers per second.

"The time it takes to get the data to the NAND and off the channel to do something else is shortened, so even on writes, your performance can go up significantly," Klein said.

The new C300 drives will be available in 1.8-in. and 2.5-in. models. Both models will come in 128GB and 256GB capacities and will ship in the first quarter of 2010.

Micron is targeting its drive at equipment manufacturers and said volume pricing for the C300 SSD in quantities greater than 1,000 units would be $350 for the 128GB model and $715 for the 256GB drive.

Micron posted a video of its RealSSD C300 drive to demonstrate its performance advantages.

"Hard drives gain little performance advantage when using SATA 6Gbit/sec. because of mechanical limitations," Klein said. "As a developer of leading-edge NAND technology, along with our sophisticated controller and firmware innovations, Micron is well positioned to tune our drives to take full advantage of the faster speeds achieved using the SATA 6Gbit/sec. interface. The combination of these technology advancements has enabled the RealSSD C300 drive to far outshine the competition."

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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