Toshiba And SanDisk Unveil 'World’s Smallest' NAND Chip

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Toshiba and flash storage vendor SanDisk announced Thursday what they’re claiming to be the world’s smallest 128 GB NAND flash memory chip, with a die size of 170 sqare mm – smaller than the area of a U.S penny.

The jointly produced chip was built using a 19-nanometer technology process, which is one step below the 20-nm process Intel and Micron used for their NAND chip announced in December.

The new chip, like other NAND flash memory technologies, will be used primarily in smartphones, tablets, and solid state drives (SSDs). But its especially small die size will allow for faster and lower-cost computing on these devices, SanDisk said.

"Building a 128 GB NAND flash memory chip with this level of complexity is an incredible achievement," said Mehrdad Mofidi, vice president of memory design at SanDisk, in a press statement. "This innovation allows SanDisk to continue to be a leader in helping our customers deliver smaller, more powerful products capable of doing more at lower cost."

The chip is also equipped with SanDisk's three-bit per cell (X3) technology, meaning it has the ability to read and write three bits of information in each storage or memory cell. SanDisk said the 128 GB processor touts an industry-leading X3 write performance of 18 MB per second, and that the company is looking to extend this level of performance into other product categories using MLC (multi-level cell) NAND flash memory.

Analysts including IHS iSuppli have projected steady growth for NAND memory market this year, as demand for SSDs and mobile devices, particularly smartphones and tablets, continues to grow. IHS identified NAND as one of the “hottest segments of the chip industry in 2011,” but noted a significant decline in demand for DRAM – another type of memory found in more traditional desktop and notebook PCs.

SanDisk and Toshiba said products running the new 128 GB three-bit per cell began shipping late last year and are already ramping into high volume production.

The companies did not specify which OEMs or products specifically would include the new chip, but they did say that small form factor storage solutions are used in “wide variety” or products beyond smartphones and tablets, including Ultrabooks, MP3 players, and USB drives.

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