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Laptops are about to get a whole lot faster

Lucas Mearian | Aug. 30, 2016
SSDs will offer as much as 10X the speed of HDDs

Macbook Pro SSD PCIe

SSD prices have dropped so precipitously that as many as half of all laptops sold worldwide in 2018 are expected to have the non-volatile memory in them, according to a new report.

DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce, said today that prices stabilized for the first time in a year for mainstream client-grade SSDs in the PC-maker market during the current third quarter.

Though there are signs of tightening inventories in the SSD supply chain during the second half of this year, DRAMeXchange maintained that the adoption rate in the notebook market will exceed 30% in 2016 and may reach 50% in 2018.

ssd dramexchange graphic 

"The second quarter had an increase in work days and this allowed branded notebook vendors and their channels to significantly reduce their excess inventories," said Alan Chen, senior manager of DRAMeXchange. "Furthermore, notebook demand was stimulated by new model releases. Global notebook shipments in the second quarter posted an 8.2% sequential increase, while global shipments of SSDs for notebooks also grew 24% over the prior quarter."

SSD are approaching price parity with HDDs

As SSD makers have transitioned from two-bit per cell MLC (multi-level cell) NAND flash to three-bit per cell TLC (triple level cell) NAND flash, they've been able to cram more capacity into a smaller space, reducing production costs. The greater densities have led to lower SSD prices for computer manufacturers.

The prices of mainstream consumer SSDs have fallen dramatically every year over the past four, and by 2017 they are expected to be within 11 cents of the per-gigabyte price of hard disk drives (HDDs).

While SSD pricing has dropped dramatically, HDD pricing hasn't. From 2012 to 2015, per-gigabyte pricing for HDDs dropped one cent per year from 9 cents in 2012 to 6 cents last year. However, through 2017, the per-gigabyte price of HDDs is expected to remain flat at 6 cents per gigabyte.

That means a 1TB hard drive will continue to retail for an average of about $60, though they can be found for under $45 on many online retail sites.

By comparison, consumer SSDs were selling for 99 cents a gigabyte in 2012. From 2013 to 2015, the price dropped from 68 cents to 39 cents per gigabyte. This year, SSD prices declined to 24 cents per gigabyte and in 2017, they're expected to drop another 7 cents. That means a 1TB SSD, on average, would retail for $170.

Along with TLC NAND flash, one of the technologies driving down the cost to produce SSDs is 3D NAND flash, which stacks flash cells like tiny skyscrapers up to 48-layers high. The ability to move from planar, or flat, NAND flash to vertically-oriented architectures has greatly increased the density of the medium, meaning more capacity can be created in a vastly smaller space.


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