To USB or Not to USB


Is your NAND Flash fast enough to require USB 3.0? Part 1

Many factors lead to either great USB performance, or poor USB throughput.

The storage in your smartphone or tablet, the NAND flash is one factor.


The question is: Is the NAND flash you use fast enough that you need USB 3.0?

Can you read and write to your NAND flash fast enough so that you can use USB 3.0?

If your NAND flash is slow, why bother with USB 3.0?

That is the real question.

If USB 3.0 costs more, costs more chip/die area, more pins, more software, why bother?


I love this question.

NAND Background

NAND is memory used to store your phone numbers, apps, music, pictures, and videos

NAND Flash is used to store your music, movies, pictures.

Phones use it for phone numbers

Smart Phones store apps, music, video, and your Facebook updates

Digital cameras store videos and pictures

Ultrabooks and Tablets store everything.

NAND Flash chips look like this:


NAND Flash is different from a hard disk drive (HDD). 

An HDD has disks that spins, and takes more energy because it has to spin.

NAND Flash doesn’t spin (unless you carry your cell phone when you dance)

NAND Flash is packaged in many forms:

  1. SD or Secure Data Cards for your digital camera
  2. USB Flash/Jump/Thumb Drives
    1. USB Flash drives can be fast like our Fastest USB 3.0 Flash Drive in the Universe demo
    2. USB Flash can be slow
      1. Like the free ones given out in exchange for your personal information at trade-shows
      2. or in the cheap drives in the checkout line at Target, Nova, Bic Camera, Fanuc, Gomez, Yodobashi…
  3. SSDs (Solid State Drives)
    1. Ultrabooks all use SSDs, some laptops do.
    2. SSDs consume (in general) 1/3rd the power of an HDD and and 3x faster than an HDD.
    3. If you drop a PC with an SSD, the SSD won’t “crash” because it has no moving parts like an HDD.
    4. SSDs are 3x more expensive than an HDD.
      1. To keep the Ultrabook price down, the size of an SSD will usually be 128GB or less
    5. Tablets use NAND flash. So do Ultrabooks like the Macbook Air, Toshiba Protégé, HP Envy, and Dell…
    6. SSDs are usually the same size and shape of a laptop HDD because they fit in the same physical space.

Here’s a picture of SSD’s


What’s important about NAND speeds and price

Some NAND is slower, and cheaper.

Some is faster, and more expensive.

I’ve been told many, many times that “We can make NAND as fast as we want, but people have to be willing to pay for it”

At the same time, we see NAND prices dropping over time.

More memory, same price.

Faster memory, same price.


What’s your point?

With NAND, you get more memory and faster memory each year.

You are designing products that will ship in 2 years.

Will the those products use the faster, cheaper NAND flash?

The answer does NOT come only from the COST of flash.


I’ll answer this through the next few articles.  This article provides the baseline for the discussion.

The next few blog entries will cover:

  1. NAND Read Write Speeds
  2. Factors influencing Performance
  3. Applications and NAND Speeds
  4. Why is your competition eating your 2014 lunch?




It turns out, I can’t tell how many of you actually subscribe.

According to Feedburner I have 10 subscribers. I think Feedburner is broken since our readership has gone up a shocking 25%+ in the past 30 days and Google says it was more than 2.5 people.


Reader Comments

My marketing colleague, Prasad, dropped by to comment on the Thunderbolt versus USB 3.0 Blog.

“I really liked your Thunderbolt blog entry. I liked the video.  Gervais was funny which was totally unexpected.”

I’m planning more videos with Gervais.

Gervais brings the funny.



In case you missed it, we shoot videos, and sometimes, something funny happens.

I paused the video and accidently got this screenshot.


To revisit this blooper click here or click on the image above. It will be the best 11.5 seconds of your day.


Next Entries:

NAND Flash and USB 3.0

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