Bigger, cheaper SSDs to come thanks to capacity breakthrough

Micron 5210 ION

Intel and Micron have announced the first commercially available QLC NAND flash memory, and with it, an initial SSD from Micron based on this technology.

So what’s the big deal here? The step into QLC is, in fact, something of a giant leap, because as Micron observes, the introduction of 64-layer 4bits/cell NAND technology means that drives can benefit from a 33% higher array density as compared to TLC.

In other words, manufacturers will be able to fit more capacity into the given space available in a drive, so the net effect will be bigger SSDs on the market for everyone down the line. Although the initial SSD offering from Micron – known as the 5210 ION series – is an enterprise SATA product aimed at businesses.

There is a downside to the new tech compared to TLC-based solid-state drives, however, as Anandtech reports – and that’s lower write performance and lower write endurance (with write endurance in the order of 1,000 program/erase cycles).

Read it and weep

As a result, Micron is pitching this initial drive at read-intensive applications in the cloud along the lines of AI, big data and business intelligence.

The company said: “Micron QLC NAND – reaching densities of 1 terabit with its next-generation 64-layer 3D NAND structure – is optimized to meet these demands and make SATA SSD performance and capacity more approachable than ever before.”

No price was mentioned for the Micron 5210 ION SSD, but as an enterprise product, it’s not likely to be particularly cheap.

However, the exciting development on the price front should happen when this technology drips down to the consumer level, and we are likely to see even cheaper, bigger capacity SSDs. Eventually, thanks to QLC, you’ll be able to get more for your money at the entry-level end of the SSD market, and that will be good news for everyone.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).