How the evolution of flash storage keeps changing how we use tech

The Samsung family of Flash and SSD storage means fast, reliable memory for every situation

Progress in computing is too often measured solely in terms of raw processor power. Moore’s Law is a catchy shorthand for this. It’s the premise the number of transistors in a CPU doubles every couple of years, providing the rapid pace of change we have become accustomed to.
This leaves out another area of innovation, one just as important in how it affects your actual experience, if not more so: flash storage. Samsung has been at the forefront of flash from the first moment it became a real consideration for the average PC builder or laptop buyer more than a decade ago.

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And you may well have a few memories from the days before flash memory based SSDs were a thing. Remember booting ZX Spectrum games from a cassette? Waiting an aeon for Windows 95 to load? The clicks and whirs of your old iPod Classic or gazing out the window daydreaming as your Xbox One loaded a saved game? Flash storage fixes all of that, and the most recognisable form of flash memory is the SSD or solid state drive.
Storage at 60 times conventional speed
Samsung’s NVMe SSD 980 PRO is one of the most advanced consumer solid state drives in existence. The very latest custom controller and memory wafer technologies enable read speeds of up to 7,000 megabytes a second. That’s the bandwidth of around two and half hours of Netflix HD streaming data every second.
This is also 60 times faster than the average 7,200rpm hard drive. And the initial revelatory experience of running Windows off an SSD, rising from standby instantly and booting from cold in just a few seconds, required only a fraction of the speed of a Samsung 980 Pro.

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SSDs have been around since 1976, but it was in 2006 they reached a mainstream audience. Samsung made the first mass-market device with a built-in SSD in that year. It was the Samsung Q1 SSD, a portable Windows computer not drastically different to a tablet you might use today.
It had 32GB storage with read speeds four times as quick as the mechanical hard drive version, and was released four years before the first iPad.
Samsung introduced its first range of SSD drives designed to replace a standard hard drive in 2007. It was the first tech giant to really get behind the medium, seeing the potential earlier than most.
Harnessing the power of flash memory
At this point, though, solid state drives were a luxury item for early adopters. For one, they were expensive – a small capacity drive (by 2020 standards) would cost as much as a good laptop or a bad car.

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However, their benefits were already clear to see. Solid state drives have no moving parts that might be irreparably damaged by a bump.
Secondly, a traditional mechanical hard drive stores data on spinning discs. It has to be retrieved by an arm, like a researcher digging through a stack of encyclopaedias. An SSD can pull up any piece of data from its memory chips near-instantly. Flash offers multi-faceted performance.
Flash storage goes mainstream
2010 was the year for true mass adoption of SSD flash storage. It was when Apple started using SSDs in its MacBooks as standard, rather than only as an expensive upgrade. In the same year, Samsung’s 470 drives brought the price of entry down to $140 for PC builders, equivalent to just £90 in the exchange rates of the day.
The SSD drive in a laptop or desktop is something you can be grateful for every day, but flash memory is now ubiquitous. What storage did the first Android phone to make it to the UK have? That’s right, the T-Mobile G1 had 256MB of Samsung flash memory with a Samsung controller module.

Storage in these early Android smartphones was not super-fast by today’s standards, but flash was the perfect type of memory for the job. Chips soldered onto one of the T-Mobile G1’s circuit boards meant much of the phone would have to be destroyed before the internal storage was damaged.
In the latest hi-spec phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 20, there’s every chance its storage is much faster than that of your laptop. Samsung’s UFS 3.1 technology provides read speeds of 2100 MB/s. It introduced this type of storage earlier in 2020, in the Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Z Flip, well and truly removing data access times as a potential performance bottleneck in flagship mobiles.
Moore’s Law may be running out of steam, but flash storage speed increases are not slowing down.
SSD and the future of gaming
The latest development outside of phones is in NVMe drives with a PCIe 4.0 interface, the technology used by the Samsung 980 Pro. Samsung was one of the first companies to bring NVMe PCI 4.0 hardware to market when it announced this drive in September 2020.
This same interface standard powers much of the innovation seen in the Xbox Series X and Sony PS5. Games consoles are finally catching up with the solid state storage revolution. It means an all-but eradication of game load waits, and the ability to treat traditional storage more like RAM. This is the single most important piece of technological progress in next-gen games consoles.

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In practice this should lead to more expansive and detailed game worlds, which a super-powered protagonist can fly through at incredible speed – And the ability to jump between games from the very state you left them in.
Flash storage is the quiet engine behind how fast your laptop, desktop, phone and games console feel to use. The Samsung 980 series SSDs and Samsung T7 Touch portable SSDs are some of the best ways to experience this progress first-hand.
–For more information, visit samsung.com/ssd

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