Intel Corp. is expected to announce its latest flash memory product
Thursday, improving the speed and lowering the power consumption of the
preferred storage method for mobile phones.
Flash memory can store data without the constant supply of electricity
needed to store data in RAM, and without the moving parts of small hard
drives, making it the widespread storage medium for small
battery-powered devices such as mobile phones. Intel makes a type of
flash memory known as NOR, which stands for the “not or” logic gate
used to run the chip.
Intel’s new M18 flash memory chip writes information three times faster
than its older L18 chip, and reads information twice as fast, said
Allen Holmes, director of marketing for Intel’s flash products group.
It is the company’s first multilevel cell (MLC) flash memory chip built
using its 90-nanometer manufacturing technology, which helped Intel
reduce the power consumption of the M18 chip by up to half the power
used by the L18 chip, he said. Samples of the chip were released in
Another type of flash memory, known as NAND (for the “not and” logic
gate) is gaining favor with designers of high-end mobile phones that
use an operating system and sophisticated applications. NAND memory
writes information faster than NOR memory and can store larger amounts
of data in the same sized chip, making it a better product for phones
that need to process large amounts of data. NAND memory is also used in
expansion cards and Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod nano and iPod Shuffle
NOR is considered more reliable and easier to implement, and is used in
most mainstream mobile phones. But the reliability of NAND memory has
improved, and industry-wide revenue from NAND memory exceeded revenue
from NOR memory for the first time this year, according to market
research firm iSuppli Corp. Some flash memory manufacturers, such as
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Spansion Ltd., Advanced Micro Devices
Inc.’s joint venture with Fujitsu Ltd., are developing products that
combine aspects of NOR and NAND memory.
Intel’s M18 chip improves write speeds to the point where they are
“good enough” for most mobile phones, Holmes said. The company does
stack small amounts of NAND flash memory along with NOR and RAM memory
for mobile phone vendors who need NAND’s performance for certain
applications, he said.
The new chip is also available in a denser package, with 256M-byte and
512M-byte chips shipping. Intel can stack two 512M-byte chips for a
total of 1G-byte of storage, Holmes said. NAND chips are available in
densities of up to 4G bytes.
Several phone vendors are testing the M18 chip, including Sony Ericcson
Mobile Communications AB and NEC Corp., an Intel spokeswoman said. The
company has been shipping the chip to those vendors for several weeks,
By Tom Krazit – IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)