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So what is SLC flash memory anyway?

Today Brando announced a 4GB SLC flash drive. Well, what’s the big deal about that…Single Layer Cell memory has been around for a long time, in fact, most flash drives are the next generation after SLC or MLC which is Multi Layer Cell flash drives. So what’s the difference?

To boil it down into simple terms, picture the size of a stamp…now, that size can be used as memory and a Single Layer Cell flash memory will hold what can be stuffed into that sized stamp, but Multi Layer Cell flash memory can double that capacity yet stay at the same physical size. Or x2. The advantage to using MLC is reducing the cost of memory production, suddenly you have twice the capacity at the same price, which is a big advantage for flash drive manufacturers. It allows the company to offer larger memory storage products at cheaper prices. Of course there is a hook.

A significant portion of the flash-based memory devices on the market today are made from MLC flash and the continuing growth of flash drive products can be considered an indication that the performance is meeting consumers’ needs. However, since the use of MLC technology offers the highest density there is a tradeoff, and you guessed it, a tradeoff of lower performance. Lower performance in the form of slower write (and potentially erase) speeds, as well as reduced write/erase cycling endurance. In addition, life expectancy of SLC flash is rated at approximately 100,000 cycles and MLC flash is rated to have approximately 10,000 cycles. That’s 10 times longer with SLC based products. However, in many cases, 10,000 erase cycles is more than sufficient for the life cycle of the product.

So for Brando to announce a 4GB SLC device is impressive news. They’ve managed to do several things. Offer the largest SLC device while at the same time keeping the product price at a competitive level. So for you power hunger geeky types that have the need for transfer speed, an SLC device like the Brando is just for you…literally.

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