Toshiba Launches XL-FLASH 3D SLC NAND

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At Flash Memory Summit last year , Toshiba announced XL-FLASH, a specialized low-latency SLC 3D NAND flash memory that is their answer to Samsung’s Z-NAND and to a lesser extent, Intel’s 3D XPoint.

Few details were provided at the time, but this year Toshiba is ready to give out more information, including a timeline for bringing it to market: sampling starts next month, and mass production begins next year.

The first XL-FLASH parts will use a 128Gb die, divided into 16 planes to support a much higher degree of parallelism than existing capacity-oriented 3D NAND parts. The page size will be 4kB, significantly smaller than what most 3D NAND uses, but that’s not a surprise given that XL-FLASH is storing just one bit per cell rather than three or four.

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Toshiba’s press release does not disclose the erase block size, but we expect it to be similarly smaller than what’s used in high-capacity NAND designs. As for performance, Toshiba says read latency will be less than 5 microseconds, compared to about 50 µs for their 3D TLC.

The most significant difference between Toshiba’s XL-FLASH and Samsung’s Z-NAND may end up being the business model. Samsung’s keeping Z-NAND to themselves for use in their Z-SSD products, but Toshiba’s XL-FLASH will be for sale the same as their 3D TLC and QLC NAND.

We have already heard from a few SSD controller vendors that they plan to support XL-FLASH in their upcoming controllers, so when XL-FLASH starts to hit the market it will probably be arriving in SSDs from several competing brands.

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