Toshiba's 15nm flash shrink means denser, smaller, faster mobile devices

Flash chips should get slower as feature sizes shrink. But Toshiba seems to have broken the code with a new smaller feature size that is faster than the 19nm process they use now.

Courtesy of Toshiba Corporation.

Toshiba announced 15nm process technology, which will apply to 2-bit-per-cell 128-gigabit (16 gigabytes) NAND flash memories. Mass production with the new technology will start at the end of April, replacing second generation 19 nm process technology.

The new chips achieve the same write speed as chips from 19 nm process technology, but boost the data transfer rate to 533 megabits a second, 1.3 times faster, by employing a high-speed interface and, I suspect, larger controller buffers and more parallelism.

They also expect to use the process with 3-bit-per-cell chips, and to start mass production in June. The company plans to develop controllers in parallel and to introduce 3-bit-per-cell products for smartphones and tablets. They're also looking to the notebook market by developing a controller for solid state drives (SSD).

The Storage Bits take

Toshiba invented flash decades ago and pushed ahead productizing the technology when it seemed nearly hopeless. But about 10 years ago flash got cheaper than DRAM and the storage landscape has never been the same.

While there are exciting developments in new NVRAM technology, this announcement is a reminder that NAND flash remains a moving target. Toshiba's 15nm process mean denser, smaller, and, surprisingly, faster mobile devices.

Comments welcome, as always. Seriously, the industry says 10nm is about the limit for NAND flash. Will they figure out a way to break through that limit too?