SanDisk Card Reflects Incredible Growth

Posted: Feb 28 2014, 5:56pm CST | by , in Technology News

SanDisk Card Reflects Incredible Growth

This week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona SanDisk introduced a microSDXC card that provides a relatively incredible 128 gigabytes (GB) of storage. SanDisk tells us that this is the world’s highest capacity in this card format.

For those who don’t know cards very well, the microSDXC format is about the size of your fingernail. These are the devices used to store photos, videos and music in most smart phones. SanDisk tells us that 128GB of storage might be used to store 16 hours of HD video, 7,500 songs, 3,200 photos and more than 125 apps, all at the same time.

SanDisk reminds us that the storage capacity of this tiny card format has been increased one thousandfold over its relatively brief ten-year lifetime. This is a real testimonial to Moore’s Law scaling. In late February 2004, SanDisk rolled out this card format which it initially dubbed “T-Flash”, later re-naming it to “TransFlash” and then microSD. The original T-Flash sold in capacities of 32, 64, & 128MB.

What’s inside one of these cards? SanDisk tells us that it uses a stack of sixteen 64 gigabit (Gb) NAND flash chips, and there is a small controller which is most likely off to the side. The flash chips have to be stacked because the microSD format isn’t large enough to allow the flash chips to be placed side-by-side. SanDisk’s smallest 64Gb MLC flash chip, made using the company’s new”1Y” 19nm process, measures about 94mm², while the microSD card format has a size of only 15 x 11mm or 165mm².

Although other companies have shown prototypes of 16-high chip stacks, this is the first consumer product I have encountered that actually uses one, although stacks half as high are somewhat common and 4-high stacks proliferate. The problem with these stacks is that the failure of a single chip can cause the loss of the entire stack. This may be the reason why the product has a list price of $1.55 per gigabyte while lower-density microSD cards sell for as little as $0.60/GB.

This card’s list price shows us that flash prices haven’t come down quite as rapidly as SanDisk has been able to increase the card’s capacity. The 128 megabyte T-Flash in 2004 was listed at only $39. The 128 gigabyte version introduced this week will set you back an important $199. I always worry that I will lose one of these things between the seat cushions of my couch or down the drain – they are so very tiny!

Source: Forbes

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