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Samsung Unveils First UFS Removable Flash Cards, Up To 530 MBps And 40K IOPS

Samsung introduced the first JEDEC UFS 1.0-compliant memory cards designed to provide performance that is similar to low-end SSDs, such as up to 530/250 MB/s of sequential read/write throughput. In comparison, the latest MicroSD cards have an interface-imposed limit of 104 MB/s (which most cannot reach). Today's MicroSD cards also offer rather anemic random workload performance (~2,000 IOPS), but the new UFS cards provide up to 40,000/35,000 random read/write IOPS. The new UFS cards come packing the heat, but they also offer prodigious storage capacities of 32, 64, 128 and 256 GB.

The world of flash memory moves quickly, and lately, the fastest flash has outstripped the speed of the conventional interconnects used to communicate with the card. An industry consortium that consists of several member companies, such as Samsung, Micron and SK Hynix, developed and ratified the new UFS standard to unlock higher levels of performance. There are actually two standards: the Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.1 revision, which standardizes embedded flash SoCs and is designed to replace eMMC, and the UFS 1.0 Card Extension standard, which applies the same principles to removable devices.

StandardThroughput
UFS 1.0 Card Extension600 MB/s Bi-Directional
UHS-I104 MB/s
UHS-II312 MB/s

The new standard was designed to circumvent the limitations of the current UHS standards. Most removable MicroSD storage employs the UHS-I connection, and though there is a clear upgrade path to a faster UHS-II connection, there is precious little industry support on the device side. This sluggish adoption indicates that many OEMs and manufacturers are likely planning to shift to UFS, which will provide much higher performance than UHS-II.

Unfortunately for us, the UFS cards are not compatible with MicroSD cards, which means they will not slot into your phone. A quick glance at the bottom of the card reveals the custom connection scheme that provides the multiple paths into the device. UFS is designed specifically for low-power mobile and computing applications, but the current devices are relegated to such high-performance use-cases such as drones, action cams, DSLRs and 3D/360 VR cameras.

UFS supports command queuing, which allows numerous commands to stack up while awaiting completion, and it also provides simultaneous reading and writing, a feat even common SATA SSDs cannot match, through the use of separate read/write channels. The paths allow the device to read and write simultaneously, which alone is a huge advancement in comparison to the UHS competition. Managing the robust interface and providing support for command queuing requires a small dedicated controller that is built into the diminutive device.

Surprisingly, Samsung did not reveal availability nor pricing information, and we await further clarification.

Paul Alcorn is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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