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Ever booted up a PC with a solid state drive How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] Over the past few decades, there has been a considerable amount of work in the field of computer hardware. While computer technology is constantly improving and evolving, rarely do we experience moments where we simply... Read More ? It’s almost a religious experience. The speed is hard to believe until you’ve tried it.

An SSD is probably the single most noticeable upgrade for non-gamers. Most people don’t really notice if their CPU is slightly faster or they have a few gigabytes more RAM, but they do notice how much faster Windows starts — not to mention how much easier it is to launch memory intensive programs like Photoshop.

Why SSD?

SSDs can be many times faster than traditional hard drives i.e. hard drives turning a physical disk beneath a read needle. In contrast, solid state drives are made out of arrays of tiny capacitors How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Do Solid-State Drives Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] Over the past few decades, there has been a considerable amount of work in the field of computer hardware. While computer technology is constantly improving and evolving, rarely do we experience moments where we simply... Read More , which can store charge for long periods of time and are less prone to mechanical failure. Because there are no moving parts, the data can be read out at incredible speed.

Right now, the biggest reason to still own a hard drive is the cost. As of the publication of this article, you can get a new one terabyte hard drive for about $50. An SSD of the same capacity costs about $400, which isn’t practical for most users.

However, a new breakthrough from Toshiba might change all that.

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For a long time, the path of progress in flash memory was building smaller and smaller gates that stored less and less charge. However, that process can only continue for so long, since small gates become increasingly error-prone. Recently, the trend has been towards layering memory in 3D more and more deeply, getting more storage out of the same amount of silicon.

Samsung, and the Intel-Micron combine have all announced their own 3D memory technology, which offer more capacity at a lower cost than previous technologies.

Deeper Memory

Toshiba’s breakthrough, called BiCS (for Bit Cost Scalable) involves building stacks of storage gates that are 48 layers deep — other approaches allow only 36. The new technology allows for a three-fold improvement in storage capacity at no increase in price or size, which should allow for three terabyte thumb drives The Office Worker’s 101 Guide to a USB Thumb Drive The Office Worker’s 101 Guide to a USB Thumb Drive Flash drives today are not just about storing your important files: you can use them to run programs and even entire operating systems. Read More and 400 GB microSD cards Make The Most Out Of Your MicroSD Cards Make The Most Out Of Your MicroSD Cards Read More , essentially eliminating the storage gap for mobile devices.

It would also make flash drive storage more cost competitive — if SSDs were only about three times as expensive as hard drives (with one TB costing about $140), OEMS might drop the hard-drive from entry level PCs in favor of pure SSD machines.

intelssd

While Toshiba’s announcement came on the heels of the other announcements, this has all been in the works for a while. Toshiba first started talking about the idea back in 2007, and has been working on the tech since then. Not much is known about how the Toshiba memory is manufactured, but that’s par for the course — all companies developing 3D flash technology have been pretty tight-lipped about the details.

Right now, Toshiba has the upper hand technologically, and knows it. They’re building a custom manufacturing plant to produce the new flash chips, and plan to begin commercial production next year — an aggressive timescale for such a new technology. That makes sense: there are probably still more 3D memory projects operating in stealth mode. It’s only a matter of time before one of their competitors puts together something even more impressive. The next few years are going to be a period of extremely fierce competition in the flash memory space, and consumers will reap the benefits.

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High-End Tech, Low-End Price Point

On a broader level, this is also an interesting part of a broader trend. NVIDIA’s new Maxwell GPU architecture Will NVIDIA's New Maxwell GPUs Revolutionize PC Gaming? Will NVIDIA's New Maxwell GPUs Revolutionize PC Gaming? Read More , which powers the new GTX 900 line has improved power efficiency dramatically. Thanks to this, mid-range GPUs can be powered using a standard PCI-e slot, without needing an expensive modular power supply. That means we may start to see them included in off-the-shelf PCs.

The falling cost of SSDs contributes to this trend of high-end PC gaming technology becoming available to ordinary consumers. Just a few years ago, SSDs were an extravagance for PC hotrodders. Now, there’s a good chance that they’ll become the industry standard for off-the-shelf beige boxes. The gap between off-the-shelf PCs and high-end gaming rigs is closing rapidly.

If you’re a PC gamer, this trend should excite you. One of the strongest arguments for the existence of gaming consoles is that building a gaming PC is often an expensive and complex undertaking, especially for those new to it. In contrast, consoles offer a (relatively) cheap and straightforward way to get started with gaming.

However, if most off-the-shelf PCs start packing enough hardware to run modern AAA games at decent settings, the consumers would follow the path of least resistance and money would follow. The result would be fewer console exclusives, more money spent on PC game development, and larger communities around the hobby. If you’re a PC gamer, this new technology is excellent news.

I’m personally curious how far this trend can go. What’s the ceiling on flash memory technology? Will we see petabyte thumb drives some day? Will our appetites for data keep growing, pushing for denser and denser data storage solution?

What do you think? Excited for denser storage? Already have an SSD? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: Hand grenade on top of a hard disk Via Shutterstock,”Intel SSD,” by Wikimedia, “Expo 88 Toshiba,” by Wikimedia, “Personal Storage Devices,” by Wikimedia

  1. Dave Whitfield
    November 24, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    SSD's are great pieces of technology with a great many untrue worries about using them. The primary worry is the lifespan, which in the early years yes, SSD's life was considerably lower than a hard drives. That's very different now. The average SSD will last about 10-15 years, while the average desktop hard drive may last 4-7 years depending on heat, abuse, and the motor.

    So far with my experience, I still use both since I handle a lot of data, using an SSD as the boot drive and some applications the PC responds immediately from commands. Very similar to that of using a 56k modem for a long time and going to a 12Mbps DSL line.

    Used to be the number one way to make a slow PC faster was add more RAM, now it's add an SSD.

    As for the PC vs Mac conversation, they are practically the same as when this first started, but Macs are far more capable (in terms of compatibility) then they used to be. They use the same hardware, but different operating systems. Upgradability is still an issue for Macs though, but they do every (but games) a bit faster. I use linux, Windows, and Mac. Mac has build quality straight off the shelf, and are great for those in my house that don't talk computer. Windows is better for those who like hardware options and play everything, they amount of hardware configurations is near limitless. Linux is best for security, free software and operating systems, and makes any kind of management or managed system far faster, cheaper, and more controllable than either Windows or Mac. My flavour of choice is Ubuntu, I use it for media servers, private game servers, and browsing the web.

  2. George Klein
    July 17, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    Rusty Nuts: you are really rusty as your nickname indicates. If I would be as rusty as you are I wouldn't be able to work in restoring old photographs or digitally remaster old LP's.
    Rusty people are unable to do those things.

    OnlyGeek: I just wanted to point out the fact that there is an important computer hardware/software manufacturer not mentioned in this article.

    danny: After having Windows PC's for over a decade, then switching to Apple please allow me to express my opinions about this company, which was simply ignored in this article.
    I am not saying that all Apple does is perfect and all Microsoft does is garbage.
    Both of them have advantages and disadvantages.
    Putting all the pluses and minuses together of both MAC OS X and Windows, my experience shows that MAC OS X is better than Windows, without being obsessed by it.

    Shaggy C: see my reply to danny's comment.

    To all of you: show your real name, don't hide behind nicknames, it looks to me you are afraid of revealing your names. Why? Just because you want to make "smart" comments. LOL

  3. Rub
    May 22, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    I am not fan of any brand or company. I am here to read & get informed. I guess everyone is here for the same. Then once you have read the article, do not point a finger at the blog writer. If you like apple, then please just sit under the tree and wait for apple fall down and you get enlightened.....

  4. Bill
    April 19, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    SanDisk also launching BiCs

  5. George Klein
    April 19, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    I'd like to point out to the writer of this article, that there is another company involved in manufacturing computers and operating systems. Have you ever heard of Apple Computers? If not, please give it a try. Using Google you will probably find this company's website on the internet.
    Those computers start faster using SSD hard drives, too.
    My own experience shows it.

    • Rusty Nuts
      April 20, 2015 at 3:14 am

      Id just point out to George and the author that some of us dont give a flying fig about boot times. It is what it is. What a silly thing to obsess over.
      I walk from the shower to the kitchen and hit the on button as i pass the desk. I pour coffee, feed the cat and by then the old Mac has awakened and is happily piping NPR from iTunes. BBC News and the New Your times are loaded in Firefox and my email is ready to ignore.
      The old boy is an ancient B&WG3Tiger using hand me down scsi & ide drives.
      If I want to sit and marvel at quick boots, I fire up my antique IBM Thinkpad running Linux Mint.

    • OnlyGeek
      April 22, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      Not sure if a stupid Apple fan or a really smart sarcastic comment.

    • danny
      May 5, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      Apple users who use only apple device are so obsess with them that they consider the entire world inferior in front of them.they just keep praising those stupid,white, zero performance macs.never seen an apple product that cares for your money.they make a Laptop for around $290-380 and sell it for $1000.

    • Shaggy C
      July 17, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      George, tell yourself this a few times... THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND APPLE.

      You Apple fanboy's drive me insane with your incessant need to put that product into EVERYTHING you do. Is there a single day where you don't mention Apple? How is it possible your entire life could revolve around a single brand?

  6. DonGateley
    April 18, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    This ignores the breakthroughs always occurring in magnetic storage as well. There is no reason it won't continue to have a much lower cost per bit as development continues. What these new solid state drives do is deepen the reach of an important part of the storage hierarchy.

  7. Zhong
    April 18, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    So Toshiba's BICS will compete with SSDs? There are different variations of SSD such as M.2, PCI-E..etc for portable devices.

  8. Ms
    April 18, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    When both PC's in the house succumbed to hard drive mortality, I plunked a couple of 100GB SSD's in them both and HOLYMOTHEROFALLTHATISHOLY! We were nearly blinded by the speed.

    Not a gamer or a pro, just a duct tape hero without the means to buy new PC's. I've since moved that SSD into the next PC, and I'll likely move it into the next one, and the next one...Can't go back to the old days, even when my dear friend gifted me a desktop in the original sealed box. Just couldn't move at that glacial pace anymore.

  9. Johnny
    April 18, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Toshiba should quit worrying about breakthroughs until they get around to updating their Canvio drive firmware to work properly with Windows 8+

    • Misty Rivers
      April 18, 2015 at 11:23 pm

      How about putting pressure on Microsoft to get their OS working with the Canvio drive.

    • Johnny
      April 18, 2015 at 11:29 pm

      I don't seem to have any issues with any other companies external drives. Not even ones several years older than the Canvio I have. In my experience it tends to be the hardware manufactures responsibility to update their proprietary firmware to maintain compatibility. This is the first and last time I violate my No Toshiba rule.

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