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Comparative and specific information on Industrial Compact Flash

SLC vs. MLC: An Analysis of Flash Memory

1. Introduction

Single-level cell (SLC) and multi-level cell (MLC) Flash memory are similar in their design. MLC Flash devices cost less and allow for higher storage density. SLC Flash devices provide faster write performance and greater reliability, even at temperatures above the operating range of MLC Flash devices.
Table 1 provides a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of SLC Flash and MLC Flash.

Table 1: Qualities of SLC and MLC
High Density yes
Low Cost per Bit yes
Endurance yes
Operating Temperature Range yes
Low Power Consumption yes
Write/Erase Speeds yes
Write/Erase Endurance yes

These factors make SLC Flash a good fit in embedded systems, while MLC flash makes it possible to create affordable mobile devices with large amounts of data storage.

Given a choice of two like products, consumers will buy the one with the lower price. In figure 1, we see two Flash memory chips that look identical.

Figure 1: Flash Product Comparison
If Chip 1 costs $30 and Chip 2 costs $10, why would a consumer buy Chip 1? The answer, of course, lies beneath the surface. These chips are not really identical. The chip on the left is a Single-Level Cell (SLC) device, while the other is a Multi-Level Cell (MLC) device.

In order to select the right Flash memory for an application, it is important to analyze the how it will be used. For example, product developers integrating memory into a portable barcode reader will most likely need SLC Flash since performance and durability are important. On the other hand, a company building a portable media player will need the low cost and high density of MLC to price their device competitively. This paper analyzes the differences between SLC and MLC Flash.