If you want to go out and purchase a 4TB SSD today, Samsung will happily take your money in return for an 4TB 860 Evo. The problem is, you’ll be paying over $1,000 for one. Even halving the capacity to 2TB still means spending $500. Cheap SSDs mean settling for much lower capacities. However, those prices are set to tumble as Samsung just started mass producing 4TB QLC drives.
Much in the same way hard drive density increases over the years, so does the density of data on an SSD. Back in 2006 when SSDs were just starting to appear, the flash chips Samsung used were 70nm and stored just 4Gb allowing for a drive with 32GB of storage. By 2010 we were getting 30nm chips capable of storing 32Gb and therefore 512GB drives. The chips in use today are triple-level-cell (TLC) and store 3-bits per cell (64Gb per chip) and gave us cheaper 500GB drives while allowing for up to 4TB capacity using a lot of chips and therefore a high price.
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Samsung’s announcement this week sees the company start mass producing quad-level-cell (QLC) which allows for a 1Tb capacity per chip. That translates to a 4TB SSD only requiring 32 chips, which significantly reduces manufacturing costs and therefore how much us consumers will end up paying for them.
Storing more bits per cell in QLC drives inevitably means lower performance and endurance when compared to TLC, but Samsung claims it has managed to maintain the performance level of existing TLC drives. So these new 4TB QLC drives will still hit 540MB/s sequential read speeds and 520MB/s for writes. They also come with a three year warranty for peace of mind.
The QLC drives are expected to appear for sale later this year in 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB capacities using the standard 2.5-inch form factor. Samsung is also promising to use the 1Tb 4-bit V-NAND QLC chips to produce new 128GB memory cards for use in smartphones and tablets. They should also be cheaper.
As for pricing, that’s still an unknown. Samsung is increasing storage density by 33 percent with these chips, so it would be nice to see prices fall by that much, too. A 4TB SSD for around $700 is still expensive, but not ridiculous, and just think what this will do to 1TB and 2TB SSD pricing.