SAN JOSE, Calif. -- South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. has announced its production of ''20-nm-class'' NAND chips for use in secure digital (SD) memory cards and embedded memory solutions.
For whatever reason, Samsung did not specify the exact process or technology node for the part. However, analysts believe that Samsung rolled out a 27-nm part.
Is Samsung playing games with the numbers to gain an edge and to claim that they are the leader? ''Is it subtle or just deceptively generalized to claim 20-nm-class, where the reader at first glance thinks they are the leader. Or admit that they are really at 27-nm and get in line behind Hynix 26-nm, IMFT 25-nm, and SanDisk/Toshiba at 24-nm,'' said Alan Niebel, CEO of Web-Feet Research. ''The real question is when will they ship in commercial volumes?''
So, on the surface, the duo of SanDisk Corp. and Toshiba Corp. have the process technology lead in NAND. The team of SanDisk-Toshiba are set to roll out a 24-nm NAND flash part in the second half of 2010, thereby regaining the lead from the duo of Intel Corp. and Micron Technology Inc., according to an analyst. SanDisk and Toshiba have a joint manufacturing venture in NAND in Japan.
In January, Intel and Micron had the process technology lead in NAND flash, by rolling out the first in a family of 25-nm devices. Intel and Micron have a joint NAND venture, dubbed IM Flash.
Micron claims that they are still the technology leader. After Samsung's announcement, Micron issued the following statement: ''Micron (has been) sampling to customers our first 25-nm NAND product. Micron has since then entered volume production, and we believe we are the first to do so on any '20-nm-class' process node.
''While there may be differences in terms of the process technology itself, they are fundamentally all '20-nm- class' NAND flash technologies. Therefore the key differentiator is when volume production commences.
''Another good measure of the effectiveness of the new technology is density and package size. For example, Micron's 25-nm 64-Gb (8GB) MLC NAND fits in an industry standard 12-mm by 20-mm TSOP. Finally it's important to look at whether the new technology can be sold to customers in 'raw' NAND form, or whether it needs to be shipped behind a controller, e.g. in a flash card or a USB drive. Micron's 25nm technology has been qualified in raw NAND form by numerous customers serving a wide variety of applications.''
But without a doubt, Samsung is still the leader in NAND market share. Samsung's 20-nm-class MLC NAND has a 50 percent higher productivity level than 30-nm-class MLC NAND, the company said. The write performance of a 20-nm-class-based, eight gigabyte (GB) and higher density, SD card is 30 percent faster than the 30-nm-class NAND. It delivers a speed-class rating of 10 (read speed of 20MB/s, write speed of 10MB/s).
Samsung Electronics first began producing 32-Gb NAND with 30-nm-class process technology in March 2009. Now it is shipping SD card samples to customers, that are built with 20-nm-class 32-Gb NAND, and will expand production later this year.
Memory cards based in the 20-nm-class will be available from 4-GB through 64-GB densities.