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Flash makers tout near-term speed, capacity boosts

Major developments afoot

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The world's Flash memory makers have been busy this week talking up the technology's immediate future: essentially, higher capacity, higher speed chips.

Toshiba and SanDisk together showed off what they claimed is the first multi-level NAND Flash chip fabricated using a 43nm process. The part show to 2008 International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) goers is a 16Gb chip that SanDisk plans to put to use in Q2. In the second half of the year, it'll implement 32Gb chips.

SanDisk and Toshiba share the output of the two companies' Yokkaichi plant near Nagoya, Japan. The 43nm chips will be punched out on 300mm wafers, but the crucial difference between the new process and its 56nm predecessor is a near doubling of the density of memory cells on the wafer, paving the way for cheaper, more capacious Flash-fitted products like music players, phones and solid-state drives.

Separately, Intel and Micron announced the 'world's fastest' NAND Flash chip, a prototype part capable of sustained read speeds reaching 200MB/s and sustained write speeds of 100MB/s - both five times the speed of today's NAND Flash chippery.

To date, Flash-based storage has largely failed to deliver the big speed increases over conventional hard drives that proponents of the technology promised. The approach developed by Intel and Micron could allow Flash to deliver much shorter system start-up and application load times than we experience today.

Micron will offer the high-speed NAND in 8Gb, 16Gb and 32Gb chips, and it's sampling them now.

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