Toshiba shrinks 64Gbit flash chips, but still lags Samsung

The Japanese company said it will soon begin mass production of 64Gbit flash chips that are just 94mm square

Toshiba said it will soon begin mass producing a new type of 64Gbit NAND flash that is the smallest and fastest in its class, though it still lags rival Samsung Electronics in the development of an even denser flash technology.

Toshiba said Tuesday that it will begin mass production this month of a 64Gbit chip with an area of 94 square millimeters that can write data at 25MB per second. The new chips, made using a 19-nanometer process, are the fastest and smallest to use 2-bit-per-cell technology, Toshiba said.

Main rival Samsung is already a step ahead. The South Korean company said last month that it began mass-producing a 128Gbit NAND chip with 3-bit-per-cell technology, also using a process smaller than 20 nanometers.

Toshiba said it is also working on 3-bit-per-cell technology, and aims to begin mass production by September. The company said it would first focus on smartphones and tablet memory with the chips, then expand to notebook PCs.

Smaller, more efficient NAND flash allows smartphone manufacturers to produce smaller devices that draw less power, and also commands higher profit margins. Chip makers currently are taking a twofold approach to shrinking chips, simultaneously decreasing the process size of the circuitry while also adding the ability to store more bits per cell.

The two companies are competing in a NAND flash market that is expanding based on demand from smartphone and tablet makers. Toshiba had 31 percent of the world NAND flash market last year in terms of revenue, lagging Samsung's 37 percent, according to data from IHS iSuppli. The next closest was Micron at 14 percent.

Separately, SanDisk, which jointly develops and manufactures NAND flash with Toshiba, said it has started shipping samples of the latest chips, equipped with its own algorithms and software architecture.

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