Apple rumored to feature high-speed 400MBps flash memory in new MacBook Air

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Apple is said to adopt "Toggle DDR 2.0," a 19-nanometer process for NAND flash memory offering 400 megabyte-per-second speed, in its next MacBook Air, according to a new report.



The high-speed NAND flash memory is said to appear in Apple's new MacBook Air, rumored to see an imminent release, according to Macotokara. Citing a person with an "Asian electronics component company," the report said that the new technology will replace the Blade X-gale found in the current MacBook Air models.



The new 19-nanometer flash memory is said to be packaged on a smaller chip, and will be soldered onto the base circuit of the new thin-and-light notebook directly.



The report noted that the Open NAND Flash Interface Working Group, which standardizes NAND flash, has released the ONFi 3.0 specification for 400MBps speeds, but most memory processing companies do not yet offer compatible chips. It said that "Toggle DDR 2.0," which is a standardized procedure from the JEDEC Solid State Technology Association, is believed to have been embraced by Apple.



Apple's MacBook Air was made thinner and lighter with a new model released last October that features instant-on capabilities with no hard drive and no optical drive. The ultraportable notebook sports only NAND flash memory for storage.



That storage was initially provided by Toshiba, but later changed to Samsung. The change allowed for read times to be upgraded to 261.1MBps, from 209.8Mbps, while write times were boosted to 209MBps from 175.6MBps.







Rather than relying on traditional 2.5-inch or 1.8-inch SSDs, the new MacBook Air drives utilize a new form factor known as mSATA. After the thinner and lighter MacBook Air was unveiled last year, Toshiba announced its Blade X-gale SSD series, the same hardware found in Apple's thin-and-light notebook.



Apple is said to have built nearly 400,000 of its next-generation MacBook Air last month in preparation for a launch that is expected to occur soon. The anticipated new notebooks are believed to feature Intel's latest Sandy Bridge processors, as well as the new high-speed Thunderbolt port.



While new MacBook Air hardware is expected to launch soon, it will not debut until Apple's next-generation operating system is released. AppleInsider was first to report last month that Apple would freeze the introductions of new Mac hardware until Mac OS X 10.7 Lion is released. The "Golden Master" of Lion was released to developers last week.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 100
    carmissimocarmissimo Posts: 837member
    If this memory is soldered directly, does this mean that when it fails one either spends a lot of money to repair the unit or throw it out to buy another one?



    Not sure what the expected lifespan of this tech would be but if we're talking two or three years, it's unacceptable to have a $1,000 device that would basically have a three-year lifespan. Not sure about others but I can't afford to drop $1,000+ into a new machine every couple of years.



    I can see this sort of scenario playing out with a $300 iPod but not a $1,000 MacBook.
  • Reply 2 of 100
    bounoubounou Posts: 12member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post


    If this memory is soldered directly, does this mean that when it fails one either spends a lot of money to repair the unit or throw it out to buy another one?



    Not sure what the expected lifespan of this tech would be but if we're talking two or three years, it's unacceptable to have a $1,000 device that would basically have a three-year lifespan. Not sure about others but I can't afford to drop $1,000+ into a new machine every couple of years.



    I can see this sort of scenario playing out with a $300 iPod but not a $1,000 MacBook.



    Not sure for this specific technology but SSD's in general are very reliable and have a lifespan of 10+ years



    Bottom line, a normal hard drive will fail sooner then an SSD





    Wonder if this means there will be higher capacity options available? Like a 512GB air...
  • Reply 3 of 100
    cloudgazercloudgazer Posts: 2,161member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post


    If this memory is soldered directly, does this mean that when it fails one either spends a lot of money to repair the unit or throw it out to buy another one?



    Not sure what the expected lifespan of this tech would be but if we're talking two or three years, it's unacceptable to have a $1,000 device that would basically have a three-year lifespan. Not sure about others but I can't afford to drop $1,000+ into a new machine every couple of years.



    I can see this sort of scenario playing out with a $300 iPod but not a $1,000 MacBook.



    Do you expect to do home repairs on your $600 iPhone or iPad? If you need ultraportability then you sacrifice ease of servicing, that's just how it is. If you want something that you can service yourself then'll always be best with a full sized laptop.
  • Reply 4 of 100
    recrec Posts: 217member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post


    If this memory is soldered directly, does this mean that when it fails one either spends a lot of money to repair the unit or throw it out to buy another one?



    Not sure what the expected lifespan of this tech would be but if we're talking two or three years, it's unacceptable to have a $1,000 device that would basically have a three-year lifespan. Not sure about others but I can't afford to drop $1,000+ into a new machine every couple of years.



    I can see this sort of scenario playing out with a $300 iPod but not a $1,000 MacBook.



    Isn't soldering RAM and storage directly to the motherboard what they currently do anyway? Why is this a problem?



    I think for the most part Apple has answered this criticism and people ought to know the tradeoffs they're getting by now. You could make the same complaint about an iPad battery being non-removable, except that the batteries tend not to fail (reliability is very very high) and they have much longer lifespans than batteries from even 5 years ago. So why would anyone ever want to replace the battery? It will outlive the product.



    Same goes for flash memory soldered to the motherboard. The failure rate on this memory is probably insanely low and has a very long lifespan. Flash memory advances have been staggering in this regard just in the past few years. You don't have to worry about things you used to have to worry about with platter drives like bad sectors or stiction. And if it does get damaged somehow through no fault of your own, Apple traditionally replaces broken parts (or whole motherboards) for free.



    I'm pretty sure the lifespan is well beyond 2 or 3 years. That would've been true of Flash memory from a few years back but a lot has changed since then.
  • Reply 5 of 100
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Carmissimo View Post


    If this memory is soldered directly, does this mean that when it fails one either spends a lot of money to repair the unit or throw it out to buy another one?



    Not sure what the expected lifespan of this tech would be but if we're talking two or three years, it's unacceptable to have a $1,000 device that would basically have a three-year lifespan. Not sure about others but I can't afford to drop $1,000+ into a new machine every couple of years.



    I can see this sort of scenario playing out with a $300 iPod but not a $1,000 MacBook.



    By all or almost all indications, flash memory is a lot more durable than the old style drives, so reliability shouldn't be a problem.



    I would prefer storage to be upgradable. Upgrading a drive is the #1 thing that I do to breathe new life into a computer.
  • Reply 6 of 100
    carmissimocarmissimo Posts: 837member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cloudgazer View Post


    Do you expect to do home repairs on your $600 iPhone or iPad? If you need ultraportability then you sacrifice ease of servicing, that's just how it is. If you want something that you can service yourself then'll always be best with a full sized laptop.



    I would take the unit in to be serviced professionally regardless. It's the cost that's the issue. Mainly I was wondering just how reliable SSDs have become and I'm assuming that if you don't have memory that is easily swappable, does that mean the cost of repairing the unit would make it not worth the bother.



    Bottom line, a $1,000 piece of electronic equipment better not have a projected lifespan of three years. Not acceptable.



    Certainly based on responses so far, my concerns are not well founded. Good to know. I haven't followed the progress being made re SSD reliability, only that it was a concern in the early going.
  • Reply 7 of 100
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 827member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bounou View Post


    Not sure for this specific technology but SSD's in general are very reliable and have a lifespan of 10+ years



    Where did you get that from? Flash is reliable yes, but the lifetime isn't so good. Thats completely false if the drive is written to a lot, SSDs have a limited number of erase/write cycles. Mine is just a year old, and already has 25% of its erase/write cycles consumed. I have virtual memory turned off and write to the drive as little as possible. Turning VM off on a device that could have as little as 2GB RAM isn't practical, and the SSD would be used a lot for swap space.



    Unless Apple is using SLC NAND, which is unlikely die to the price, having the NAND chips soldered directly to the logic board would be insane. I think it's unlikely Apple would solder them directly on, as it'd make the cost of replacing the logic board two or three times more expensive.
  • Reply 8 of 100
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Let's not confuse flash memory (NAND/SSD) with RAM memory. This story seems to focus on the flash memory which is currently on a separate card that connects electronically via SATA but physically to a mini-PCIe slot.
  • Reply 9 of 100
    hattighattig Posts: 830member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Let's not confuse flash memory (NAND/SSD) with RAM memory. This story seems to focus on the flash memory which is currently on a separate card that connects electronically via SATA but physically to a mini-PCIe slot.



    People are talking about this statement in the story: "The new 19-nanometer flash memory is said to be packaged on a smaller chip, and will be soldered onto the base circuit of the new thin-and-light notebook directly."



    What I read from that is that there is a 64MB/128MB fast on-motherboard boot/app drive, and there will still be another mSATA SSD available for expansion.
  • Reply 10 of 100
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Sandy Bridge + 400 MB/s disk + Thunderbolt -- and all in a MBA form factor!
  • Reply 11 of 100
    cloudgazercloudgazer Posts: 2,161member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    Let's not confuse flash memory (NAND/SSD) with RAM memory. This story seems to focus on the flash memory which is currently on a separate card that connects electronically via SATA but physically to a mini-PCIe slot.



    Yes but the story says



    The new 19-nanometer flash memory is said to be packaged on a smaller chip, and will be soldered onto the base circuit of the new thin-and-light notebook directly.



    Which does seem to indicate that flash is being soldered on directly. Still we'll have to wait for the iFixit teardown to see if that's actually the case. It is the case for the iPad though, so it's not inconceivable.
  • Reply 12 of 100
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Hattig View Post


    What I read from that is that there is a 64MB/128MB fast on-motherboard boot/app drive, and there will still be another mSATA SSD available for expansion.



    Maybe they think Thunderbolt is fast enough for external SSDs, so mSATA not needed?
  • Reply 13 of 100
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Hattig View Post


    People are talking about this statement in the story: "The new 19-nanometer flash memory is said to be packaged on a smaller chip, and will be soldered onto the base circuit of the new thin-and-light notebook directly."



    What I read from that is that there is a 64MB/128MB fast on-motherboard boot/app drive, and there will still be another mSATA SSD available for expansion.



    I'm hoping for the next MBPs to either have on-board NAND + SATA III 2.5" HDD/SSD, or SATA III mini-PCIe card (like in the MBA) + SATA III 2.5" HDD/SSD.



    I've been using a similar setup of an SSD for m boot/app drive and a HDD for my Home folder for over a year and still barely use 40GB of my Intel X-25 SSD, which include ≈8.5GB for the sleep image since I have a 8GB RAM in my machine.



    From my PoV it's the only way I can see to have performance and high capacity so I would have no problem with Apple putting 64GB on the logic board directly.





    PS: Isn't ~/Applications (under the Home folder) new to Lion?
  • Reply 14 of 100
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post


    Where did you get that from? Flash is reliable yes, but the lifetime isn't so good. Thats completely false if the drive is written to a lot, SSDs have a limited number of erase/write cycles. Mine is just a year old, and already has 25% of its erase/write cycles consumed. I have virtual memory turned off and write to the drive as little as possible. Turning VM off on a device that could have as little as 2GB RAM isn't practical, and the SSD would be used a lot for swap space.



    Unless Apple is using SLC NAND, which is unlikely die to the price, having the NAND chips soldered directly to the logic board would be insane. I think it's unlikely Apple would solder them directly on, as it'd make the cost of replacing the logic board two or three times more expensive.



    There is a lot of progress on this lately, see the "Memory wear" section here:

    Wikipedia - Flash memory.



    Besides, there are lot's of strategies for writing, especially regarding virtual memory, and it is very likely that Apple took advantage of these. If the rumor that Apple is holding off the shipment of the new hardware for Lion release is true, there might be a technical reason for that.
  • Reply 15 of 100
    tailpipetailpipe Posts: 345member
    As usual, most of the comments here are 'glass half empty' criticisms based on unsubstantiated speculation.



    I think the bottom-line is that MBAs with Sandy Bridge and Thunderbolt are likely to be an insanely desirable pice of technological hotness.All the more if 19-nanometer process gives us 400MBps and 512 Gb of memory.



    Will the new MBAs be useless in 3 year's time? I doubt it.
  • Reply 16 of 100
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 827member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by EUiPhoneUser View Post


    There is a lot of progress on this lately, see the "Memory wear" section here:

    Wikipedia - Flash memory.



    Besides, there are lot's of strategies for writing, especially regarding virtual memory, and it is very likely that Apple took advantage of these. If the rumor that Apple is holding off the shipment of the new hardware for Lion release is true, there might be a technical reason for that.



    The ultra-high erase count drives are only SLC ones, not much cheaper MLC used in consumer products.



    Going on how long (i.e. years) it took Apple to implement TRIM, I wouldn't be so sure they've got anything special going on with the swap space. Even now TRIM is artificially limited to Apple-shipped drives.
  • Reply 17 of 100
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by EUiPhoneUser View Post


    There is a lot of progress on this lately, see the "Memory wear" section here:

    Wikipedia - Flash memory.



    Besides, there are lot's of strategies for writing, especially regarding virtual memory, and it is very likely that Apple took advantage of these. If the rumor that Apple is holding off the shipment of the new hardware for Lion release is true, there might be a technical reason for that.



    There is a lot Apple could do with the file system since they control the HW and OS. I've been waiting for them to make the OS more "intelligent" to know files are best to keep on the (on-board) SSD and what to keep on main storage (HDD/SSD) area. Right now I use a simple built-in system to change my Home directory to a different volume but it's far from what I'd consider to be "intelligent."
  • Reply 18 of 100
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,051member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tailpipe View Post


    As usual, most of the comments here are 'glass half empty' criticisms based on unsubstantiated speculation.



    You don't say!
  • Reply 19 of 100
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post


    The ultra-high erase count drives are only SLC ones, not much cheaper MLC used in consumer products.



    Going on how long (i.e. years) it took Apple to implement TRIM, I wouldn't be so sure they've got anything special going on with the swap space. Even now TRIM is artificially limited to Apple-shipped drives.



    I can't vouch for it but here is an app that will enable TRIM on non-Apple SSDs.
  • Reply 20 of 100
    cloudgazercloudgazer Posts: 2,161member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    There is a lot Apple could do with the file system since they control the HW and OS. I've been waiting for them to make the OS more "intelligent" to know files are best to keep on the (on-board) SSD and what to keep on main storage (HDD/SSD) area. Right now I use a simple built-in system to change my Home directory to a different volume but it's far from what I'd consider to be "intelligent."



    Does anybody do that well yet outside the data-centre SAN market? Even the prosumer HDs that come with an SSD cache component don't seem to offer spectacular performace improvements from what I've seen.
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