Both drives show strong performance even with early firmware and existing flash technology. The controller and flash combination used for the reference design boards will likely never materialize in a retail product. It's important to keep that in mind because the performance will only get better with next-generation TLC flash.
SSD manufacturers could ship products based on the new controller designs before the end of the year. The emerging 96-layer flash may push some release timelines back to early 2019, but we're optimistic about the release schedule. Some of the more established brands should be able to ship products before the end of 2018, even with 96-layer memory. Others may choose to use 64-layer memory flash shipping today and later build a new product using 96-layer memory.
The dark horse we haven't looked at is how QLC or 4-bit per cell memory will factor in. QLC announcements started last year and companies have teased media with pictures of enterprise products on the cusp of coming to market. Both of the next-generation controllers we looked at today support QLC memory and the combination could be used to build a product tier between mainstream and premium while enticing users with higher capacities. We suspect companies will be eager to prove QLC's longevity and fitness for a wide range of uses just as we saw when TLC first came to market.
The most interesting aspect will be how you react to premium SSDs again. The market suffered from high prices for so long due to the flash shortage. For nearly two years, prices remained stagnant but in the last three to four months consumer SSD prices have dropped significantly. In that time we've spotted a number of entry-level models come to market and premium SSD prices have followed to stay competitive. Next-generation flash is less expensive to manufacture but the new "new" thing usually increases prices slightly before taking the technology side down. Some shoppers may opt for lower cost previous generation products instead of moving to the latest and greatest. From the signs we're getting from the flash fabs, it won't be long before we get an answer to that question.
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