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Average cost of a 128GB SSD is now US$50 for PC makers

Lucas Mearian | June 4, 2015
The average price that computer manufacturers pay for a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) dropped to $50 in the second quarter, while the average price of a 256GB SSD plunged to almost $90, according to research from DRAMeXchange.

The average price that computer manufacturers pay for a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) dropped to $50 in the second quarter, while the average price of a 256GB SSD plunged to almost $90, according to research from DRAMeXchange.

Those prices are significant drops when compared to pricing in the first quarter of 2014, when a 128GB SSD had an average price of $77.20, and a 256GB SSD sold for $148. The decline has been steady, quarter after quarter, since then, according to DRAMeXchange data.

Of course, that's not what you or I would pay. The average retail price that consumers pay for a 128GB SSD is $91.55, and for an SSD in the 240GB to 256GB range, the price is about $165.34, DRAMeXchange's data showed.

Still, that's significantly less than what you would have paid two years ago or even a year ago, according to Jim Handy, principal analyst at Objective Analysis.

"Flash prices have been in a slow decline for the past year. They have come down about 25% since last June. Flash accounts for around 80% of the cost of the average drive, but remember that it's a higher share of higher-capacity SSDs, and a lower share of low-capacity SSDs," Handy said in an email reply to Computerworld.

There are two components to SSD pricing, the flash memory cost and then the other components, such as the controller or integrated circuit that manages the read and write commands from the computer.

Other than increased SSD adoption, which spurs production and results in economies of scale and lower costs, there has been a conversion over the past few years from flash that stores two bits per transistor to products that store three bits. The more dense NAND flash memory is, the less it costs to produce SSDs with the same or more capacity.

The conversion from two-bit or multi-level cell (MLC) flash to triple-level cell (TLC) flash has dropped costs about 20% over the past year, Handy said.

"Controller prices seem to be falling at something closer to Moore's Law, or about 30%," Handy said.

Shrinking NAND size leads to lower cost

The latest research from DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce, indicates prices for internal SSDs are declining at an accelerated pace as the production of NAND flash also migrates to the 15 and 16 nanometer manufacturing processes. Previously, the width of transistors were in the 19-plus nanometer range: More density, lower production costs.

Flash manufacturers have also been stacking NAND flash transistors vertically — so-called 3D NAND flash — which further adds to its density and lowers production costs.

In the third quarter), the ratio of 3D-NAND flash products in shipments will start to increase and the market penetration of notebook SSDs will speed up. According to DRAMeXchange's projection, notebook SSDs' market penetration will be more than 30% for 2015 and will surpass 50% by 2017, taking over from hard drives that currently dominate the notebook sector.

 

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