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Samsung making 128GB solid-state drives--with a caveat

Samsung has begun production of 128GB solid-state drives while wrestling with the challenges these new drives present.

Samsung has begun production of 128GB solid-state drives as it tries to overcome technical hurdles with larger-capacity drives.


The Seoul-based company announced Wednesday that it has begun mass producing 1.8- and 2.5-inch 128GB solid-state drives (SSDs). The new drives are based on a technology called multi-level cell (MLC). Samsung also plans to begin producing a 256GB solid-state drive at the end of this year using MLC.

MLC allows drive makers to build larger capacity drives, though the technology also presents performance and data reliability challenges--not only for Samsung but for all solid-state drive makers.

While multi-level cell technology allows higher data densities, it is not as fast as SLC (single-level cell), the technology used in current laptops such as the Apple MacBook Air and Hewlett-Packard 2510p. "MLC is a cost-efficient model of SLC" since multi-level cell squeezes more bits in a single cell, said Michael Yang, flash marketing manager at Samsung.

"What you're doing is that you're slowing down the chip" to maintain reliability, he said. "Performance wise, MLC is slower than SLC."

Yang also responded to reports claiming that solid-state drives are less power efficient than typical 2.5-inch hard disk drives. "From all our experiences with testing from both sides--from our flash memory division and hard drive division--we found SSDs are definitely more power efficient," said Yang. Power savings are 20 percent to 30 percent at the system level compared to hard disk drives, he said.

Yang added that the supporting silicon for newer Serial-ATA II solid-state drives is also more power efficient than the previous generation of SATA drives.

Power consumption for the Samsung SSD is approximately 0.2 watts, and in active mode 0.5 watts.

The Samsung MLC-based SSDs have a write speed of 70MB/s and a read speed of 90MB/s--performance levels that approach those of SLC-based solid-state drives now in mass production, the company said.

Mass production of the Samsung MLC-based 64GB SSDs also began this month, the company said.