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In the mainstream PC-Client OEM SSD market for the second quarter, the average contract prices of TLC- and MLC-based products respectively fell 4~11% and 6~10% compared with the prior quarter, according to DRAMeXchange, a division of TrendForce. Looking ahead to the third quarter, the overall supply-demand situation in the NAND Flash market may become more balanced. Therefore, the decline in SSDs’ average contract prices will moderate by then because major SSD suppliers will be under less pressure to reduce their inventory stockpiles and can instead focus on increasing profits. Furthermore, Samsung’s next-generation SSDs based on TLC V3 (V-NAND) architecture will exert significant influence on the market during the second half of this year. Changes in SSD contract prices will depend on whether Samsung can successfully mass produce this product.
DRAMeXchange Senior Manager Alan Chen said HDD suppliers will continue to raise product prices to boost their gross margins. Towards the end of the year, Chen forecasts that the prices of 128GB SSDs will be lower than those of 500GB HDDs, while the price difference between 256GB SSDs and 1TB HDDs will be less than US$5. Thus, SSDs will become more attractive in terms of cost-performance. DRAMeXchange projects that SSD adoption rate in the notebook market will exceed 30% in this year and may even approach the 40% threshold in this fourth quarter.
First-quarter Client-SSD shipments exceeded expectations; TLC-based products to become mainstream
Seasonality and fewer working days caused notebook shipments to decline significantly in the first quarter. Correspondingly, shipments of notebook SSDs also fell by about 8% on a quarterly basis. Shipments of SSDs in the worldwide retail market on the other hand grew about 7% quarterly against the market headwinds because of the increase of NAND Flash supply and aggressive pricing from SSD makers. The SSD adoption rate in the notebook market for the same period was around 28~29%. On the whole, DRAMeXchange estimates that the total shipments of Client-SSDs in the first quarter (notebook SSDs plus retail SSDs) at 22.6 million units. This figure is above market expectations.
Chen said SSD shipments to both PC-OEMs and retail channels will increase in the second quarter due to the greater number of working days, rising HDD prices and other factors. The quarterly growth in the total Client-SSD shipments is estimated around 9~11%.
Excluding Samsung, other branded NAND Flash SSD vendors such as SanDisk, SK Hynix, Toshiba and Liteon has begun shipping 15/16nm TLC-based SSDs in the second quarter, thereby avoiding the price competition with MLC products and Samsung’s TLC products as in the past. In the race to develop 3D-NAND Flash SSDs, Samsung is the only vendor that is well into the mass production phase. The Micron/Intel team is expected to be the next 3D-NAND Flash SSD maker to begin shipping out products after Samsung. Other vendors will not begin mass production until the first half of 2017. For 2016, the mainstream manufacturing technology for the SSD application will still be the 15/16nm process. However, TLC-based SSDs are expected to become the market mainstream this year as its share in the overall shipments is going to exceed that of MLC products.