Cheap SSDs? Do you still remember the time when SSDs first appeared on the market? The vast majority of consumers bought a 64GB drive to install Windows, and everything else had to go to the HDD! Why? Because a simple 32 or 64GB drive cost an absolute shame. A reality very different from the current one, in which most people no longer even use traditional storage (HDD) in their machines, betting only and only on SSD storage.
Because prices started to drop out of nowhere! Well … More or less, the truth is that it didn't come out of nowhere! So, how did it all happen?
How did SSDs get so cheap 'out of nowhere'?
Let's imagine that the cost per GB of an SSD is the blue line.
In short, this is the power of exponential growth, something that happens a lot in the world of microprocessors. But let's go by parts.
Technological evolution (Miniaturization of transistors)
Well, exponential growth starts slowly, but when it starts, nobody gets it! For example, an 80's processor had something like 5000 transistors. However, in 2020, the Apple A13 SoC that gives life to the iPhone SE, 11 and 11 Pro already has 8.5 billion transistors. That said, if we imagine that we need one transistor for each memory cell, as the process goes through miniaturization steps and it is possible to put 2 transistors in the space of one, the cost of at least space has already halved.
So, as you may have noticed, after putting 2 transistors we put 4 … 8 … 16 … 32 … Out there … And of course, the price keeps dropping. We are basically talking about Moore's Law, which is not really a law, but it was a rule that microprocessor manufacturers followed for many years.
In the world of SSDs, this evolution happened with the introduction of technologies like TLC or QLC, where we put 3 or 4 bits per transistor. Which of course helped to make flash memory cheaper, although it does affect performance and durability a little.
After miniaturization comes the stacking of chips
However, there comes a time when it is no longer possible to further miniaturize the size of a transistor, due to difficulties in electron storage. So manufacturers started experimenting with stacking chips, known as 3D chips.
Thus, Samsung already has flash memory chips with 90 layers, and has even announced that it is working on new chips with 160 layers. This way it is easy to increase the amount of memory without increasing production complexity too much.
Increasingly cheaper production
Each chip produced costs a certain amount of resources, so as the size of each chip increases, it is possible to build the same storage unit with fewer ‘parts’. In fact, if we look at a simple SSD M.2, it is a simple circuit board with chips, without ‘housing’, without connectors, etc… Which allows a significant drop in production costs.
In the past, flash memory was mostly used in memory cards for cameras. Therefore, there was not much pressure for the evolution of technology. Yes, the digital camera market wanted more and more storage. However, this segment alone is not in sufficient demand to make the gears move.
Therefore, it was only when the smartphone started to be the king of the technological world that the production of NAND Flash memory went through a revolutionary era. Things have changed so much that all computing devices have started looking at this type of storage, especially portable and desktop PCs.
The price drop didn't come out of the blue, it was all due to a series of things that were happening, all based on the image at the beginning of the article. As demand increases, as technology evolves, and the price of production falls, prices in the market itself also begin to fall.
(Special) How did SSDs get so cheap 'out of nowhere'? – Besides, what do you think about all this? Share your opinion with us in the comments below.
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