Quad-level Cell SSD Technology

Earlier this year, Micron became the first manufacturer to market a quad-level cell (QLC) SSD, and now Samsung has followed suit. But what does QLC technology have to offer consumers?

In May this year, Micron unveiled the 5210 QLC SSD, aimed at businesses with large datacentres that currently rely on RAID systems, with a focus on analytics and content delivery. With the majority of datacentres, around 75%, still relying on 7200rpm spinning mechanical drives up to 10TB in size, Micron’s new flash-based storage device was targeted at the high-end portion of the market.

Micron’s new QLC SSD is aimed at businesses with read-centric workloads, due to the technology being more sensitive to wear upon writes. All flash memory suffers from what’s known as “wear”, which is caused by the voltage applied to each cell when data is written. Single-level cells (SLC) store one bit of data per cell, while multi-level cells (MLC) provide up to four bits per cell. Quad-level cells, on the other hand, can store up to a whopping 16 bits per cell. Packing all this into a silicon chip massively affects the ability to write and rewrite data, and wear is far more prevalent.

While Micron have targeted the business market, Samsung have recently announced the existence of a consumer quad-level cell SSD, and they are mass-producing a model with an unbelievable 4TB of storage. Samsung have already produced an SSD with that storage capacity, but with a retail price of over a thousand dollars, it has remained out of the grasp of most consumers. Their new QLC SSD is a more affordable drive, although with no details on pricing yet, it’s not known exactly how much more affordable the SSD will be. Describing the new range of SSDs, which will also include 1TB and 2TB models, Samsung have used the term “consumer class”. The SSDs will also have a three-year warranty, to quash any concerns about longevity. In addition, Samsung have promised the same 540MBps read speeds and 520MBps write speeds as it currently offers on its existing SATA SSDs. Interestingly, Samsung have also revealed they are using the technology to produce 128GB SD cards, saying they aim to “to efficiently produce a 128GB memory card for smartphones that will lead the charge toward higher capacities for high-performance memory storage”.

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