When Samsung took the stage at the 2015 Flash Memory Summit, they admittedly didn't deliver any bombshell announcements on the scale of the Intel/Micron 3D XPoint surprise, but they still had a lot to talk about.

We knew that Samsung's third generation of V-NAND/3D NAND was on the way with mass production scheduled for the second half of this year. Samsung has now disclosed that mass production is starting this month, and that it's a 48-layer design with a 256Gb TLC being the first die announced. Samsung's current second-generation 3D NAND is a 32-layer design available as 128Gb TLC or 128Gb MLC.

With mass production imminent, Samsung has ensured that neither SK Hynix nor the Toshiba/SanDisk joint venture will be able to leapfrog them with their respective 48-layer 3D NAND designs, both scheduled for mass production starting in 2016.

Samsung says the new 256Gb TLC will have about 30% lower power consumption than an equivalent capacity of their current 128Gb TLC, and a switch to a dual-plane organization ensures that one 256Gb die will perform at least as well as a pair of the current 128Gb dies. Density is improved by about 40% while production costs only increased slightly, so price per GB will be going down. At FMS, Samsung is pushing the idea that their 3D NAND TLC is ready to replace MLC for most uses, and they're optimistic about scaling up their 3D NAND layer count past 100.

New Samsung 48-Layer TLC SSDs
Drive PM953 PM1633 PM1725
Form Factor NVMe over M.2 22110 and 2.5" 2.5" SAS 12Gb/s NVMe PCIe HHHL card
Capacities 480GB, 960GB, 1.92TB (2.5" only) 480GB, 960GB, 1.92TB, 3.84TB 3.2TB, 6.4TB
Sequential Read ? 1,100 MB/s 5,500 MB/s
Sequential Write ? 1,000 MB/s 1,800 MB/s
4kB Random Read IOPS ? 160k 1,000k
4kB Random Write IOPS ? 18k 120k
Endurance Rating ? ? 5 DWPD (6.4 TB model)

Samsung also shared information about three upcoming drives, all using TLC though not necessarily the new 48-layer parts. The PM1633 Enterprise SAS drive was previewed at CES in January and is intended for read-heavy workloads. A follow-on PM1633a model was mentioned to use the new 48-layer TLC to reach 15.36TB capacity, but we don't have any other information about that update. The PM953 is a enterprise NVMe drive in M.2 or 2.5" form factors, and is the counterpart to the MLC-based SM951. Of particular interest, the M.2 version is using the M.2 22110 form factor (22mm x 110mm, the maximum length for M.2), with Samsung using the extra space to implement power loss protection.

Meanwhile the PM1725 is a fast multi-TB PCIe expansion card that Samsung intends to use to challenge the assumptions about what uses TLC is suited for. Relatively speaking it appears to be intended for workloads that aren't very write-heavy, but it still manages 120k IOPS for writes. That just looks small compared to 1M IOPS for reads and a sequential read speed of 5.5GB/s.

All three drives are intended for OEMs, but the PM953 will probably find its way into the retail channel just like the SM951.

Finally, along with Samsung's new 3D NAND appearing in the afformentioned new drives, it will also be appearing in at least one of their existing drives. The 850 EVO, Samsung's current consumer TLC drive, will apparently be getting an update to use the new 48-layer TLC, though it's not clear if this will be new capacities and/or a wholesale NAND update.

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  • RealBeast - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Thanks Billy, it's nice to see so many great announcements related to SSDs recently.

    Hopefully, Samsung will see the wisdom in selling NVMe drives in their retail channel soon now that consumer motherboard support is improving.
  • ilkhan - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link


    Is it just me or is 1GB/s read / 870MB/s write a bit slow for an NVMe PCI-E M.2 SSD?
  • Impulses - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Huh, that's curious... Between that and the 2.5" SATA Express variant I question whether it's really intended as the SM951's replacement or whether that's just the assumption based on the model number.
  • extide - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    It's not a replacement, the SM951 is 2D MLC and this is 3D TLC -- they are meant to go along side each other.
  • Kristian Vättö - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    The PM953 is an enterprise version of the SM951 (same controller, but M2 22110 form factor with power-loss protection), Hence the performance numbers are for sustained performance.
  • Impulses - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Thanks for the extra info Kristian!
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    I'm always happy to see capacity increases in the solid state world. Even now, it's still a bit too pricey for me to want to spend the money on something other than old magnetic disks since the performance benefits don't quite outweigh the excessive price premium.
  • extide - Thursday, August 13, 2015 - link

    Uhhh, yes they do! At least for a system/OS drive, they sure do! Hell, I bought my first SSD in 2009, a 128GB Indilinx Barefoot based drive, and it cost me over $320 and it was STILL worth it even at THAT price!
  • Impulses - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    I've had an 80GB X25-M G2 ($220, it actually went UP in value thru the first 8 months as vendors mercilessly price gouged), a 40GB X25-V (netbook), a single 128GB 830 then later two in RAID (2nd one was on sale for $75, hard to pass up), and a 1TB 850 EVO...

    Adding a 256GB SM951 once my Sky lake build is complete (6700K wru). I can't imagine using HDD for system OS drives all these years, heck I'm trying to move away from them even for current data (probably get another 1TB EVO soon)... They've completely spoiled me.

    Vast majority of systems I deal with at work still have HDDs and it always feels ancient and like I'm wading thru molasses. Hate to use such a cliche but once you've had a SSD you definitely can't go back. Single best investment there is for any semi recent system that lacks one.
  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    Oh no, don't get me wrong, for some people it's a very worthwhile purchase and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. This is more of it not weighing heavily enough in benefit on my personal cost-versus-performance scale. While I've used enough SSD-equipped systems to note that they're quicker to boot up, shut down, and opening programs, the difference in tangible terms is a matter of a few seconds here and there when the SSD is paired up with hardware that can take advantage of the more responsive disk subsystem. That difference just doesn't mean anything to me since the majority of my time on a home computer is spent in a word processor. Once it's open and I'm happily typing away, there's absolutely nothing that SSD technology offers in terms of performance that I'd notice which is why I contend to people who ask me for an opinion that SSDs are among the most overrated upgrades that are commonly encouraged by the tech community today. They're right up there with vastly overspec'ed power supplies and pushing meaninglessly high resolutions that solely drive up the cost of a computer to increase margins on sales in an era of otherwise declining, commodity computing prices.

    It's just another way for a company to command a larger dollar margin on parts that runs along the same lines as top end GeForce 8800 GPUs selling for far less on their release day than top end GeForce Titans do today, even after factoring economic inflation into the mix. No thanks hardware companies. I'll purchase your overpriced stuff off the secondary market in three to five years for 5% of the original cost and put the 95% difference into a retirement account where compound interest will at least do something worthwhile with that money over the course of the coming decades.

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