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Samsung Starts Mass Production of 4TB QLC SSDs

Samsung has entered mass production of the first 4TB QLC SATA SSDs for the consumer market. The news today comes on the cusp of this week's Flash Memory Summit, an annual storage conference where all of the newest flash and memory tech is normally announced. Samsung is usually a premier conference sponsor and dominates the show floor, but the company is curiously absent this year.

In either case, Samsung's announcement of its new 4TB QLC SSD comes on the heels of QLC announcements from Intel, Micron, Western Digital and Toshiba, which leaves SK Hynix as the only flash-fabber that hasn't announced a new QLC product.

Samsung Flash - YearBits per CellNodesChip CapacityDrive Capacity
20061-bit SLC70nm-class4Gb32GB
20102-bit MLC30nm-class32Gb512GB
20123-bit TLC20nm-class64Gb500GB
20184-bit QLC4th generation V-NAND (undisclosed lithography)1Tb4TB

Samsung based its QLC flash on the same 1TB V-NAND that it currently uses as a base for its TLC flash. TLC flash stores three bits per cell, making the technology denser and cheaper than previous-generation flash. The move to QLC flash, which stores four bits per cell, promises to bring even lower prices and higher capacity SSDs to the market soon. The extra 33% in storage density results in lower endurance and performance, but advances in 3D manufacturing technology have made the new NAND viable for light-use applications, which includes desktop PCs.

Samsung claims that it has circumvented the traditional challenges associated with QLC flash and can maintain the same speeds that it achieves with its TLC SSDs, like its popular 970 EVO series. Samsung will continue to leverage much of its existing technology, like TurboWrite and its proprietary SSD controllers, and promises sequential throughput of 540/520MB/s read/write. Samsung hasn't provided random performance metrics or endurance, both of which are more important than sequential throughput. The 2.5-inch SATA SSD will come armed with 32 chips based on the company's 4th generation 64-layer flash.

Samsung plans to follow up with 1TB and 2TB models later in the year. Naturally, NVMe SSDs will follow, but they'll come as M.2 models for enterprise applications. The company is also developing a 128GB QLC memory card for smartphones.

Samsung hasn't provided information on shipping dates, pricing, or branding, but more details will likely emerge soon.

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.