The latest research from DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce, indicates prices for solid-state drive (SSD) products are declining at an accelerated pace as the production of NAND flash migrates to the 15/16nm manufacturing processes and incorporates the 3D-NAND flash technology. The average contract price for 128GB Client-SSDs made by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) has dropped to US$50 in the second quarter, while 256GB Client-SSDs have seen their average contract price lowered to nearly US$90. 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 over 30% for 2015 and surpass 50% by 2017.
“The OEM market for Client-SSDs has experienced a rapid price decline due to the increasing adoption of SSDs based on triple level cell (TLC) technology,” said DRAMeXchange’s Assistant Vice President Sean Yang. “Among the OEMs, Samsung Electronics Co. especially has been aggressively promoting TLC-based SSDs since their memory chips and controller chips are developed in house.” Starting in 2014, the rising price-performance ratios of Samsung’s TLC products have led to a rapid expansion of their share in the OEM market for PCs.
Additionally, SSDs that incorporates both 3D-NAND and TLC technologies have completed the client verification process in the first half of 2015 and are set to begin mass production and shipments in the second quarter. The shipments of TLC products will grow faster in the second half of 2015 when Intel Corp. introduces its latest processor platform, Skylake. Hence, other SSD vendors will be in a hurry to develop their TLC-based SSD products, and this in turn will drive the transition of NAND flash production to the 15/16nm processing technologies. DRAMeXchange expects TLC-based SSDs using NAND flash from suppliers besides Samsung will be sent to PC-OEMs for testing in the third and fourth quarter. Furthermore, SSDs carrying multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash will be introduced in the third quarter. These factors will contribute to a sharp price drop in the OEM market for Client-SSDs during the latter half of this year.
In terms of interface application, Intel is becoming more active in ensuring its processors supports different SSD architectures via different interfaces. Interfaces based on the high-speed serial bus standard PCIe are steadily making inroads in the market that is dominated by interfaces belonging to the mature SATA 3.0 technology. Both MacBook Pro and Air series adopted PCIe in 2014, encouraging other PC-OEMs to design products with the same interface and urge NAND flash suppliers to develop SSDs that match the application. The market penetration of PCIe interfaces will be around 20%, based on DRAMeXchange’s projection. And with Skylake and subsequent Intel processor platforms supporting SSDs with PCIe interfaces, SSD controller chip vendors will roll out more related, price-competitive ICs. The SSD market therefore will see a noticeable increase in the share of products with PCIe interfaces next year.