NAND Flash upgrade from 4GB to 8GB


flash

We used to use H27UBG8T2BTR in all our OLinuXino and SOM boards with  NAND flash. Hynix stopped 4GB NAND manufacturing back in 2014, fortunately there were huge stock supplies in Asia and we kept buying this part until recently, now this stock is gone and these ICs are either not in stock either some refurbished pulls from old boards with unknown quality, so once we couldn’t find these at official Hynix distributors we decided to move to another ICs.

Our first attempt was to use the bigger version H27UCG8T2ETR-BC but after losing months trying to make uboot working with these we gave up. The problem? There is ZERO information about this flash and zillion of combinations of block sizes and parameters, which we have no time to test all.

Fortunately Micron’s MT29F64G08CBABAWP is supported by Allwinner uboot and Livesuit and relatively easy to find.

I write relatively as memory prices are CRAZY last months, both RAM and Flash, here is the price trend from Hong Kong IC memory stock exchange:

memory

With these rising prices all official distributors and manufacturers slow down their sales waiting for bigger prices, if you ask officially Micron for quote they can’t give you price and say – allocation, minimum delivery time 20 weeks, good luck 🙂

What we found is that all Android images work well with Micron 8GB part, the Linux images we had to work with 4GB will not work with the 8GB parts as the Allwinner Android uboot (which is used if you want to boot from NAND) has bugs and 1 out of 10 times will fail to boot if the memory is bigger than 4GB (32 bit arithmetic bug? nobody knows as this is binary blob) and mainline uboot has no NAND flash support, so if you want to boot Linux from NAND Flash the solution is to make small 16MB FAT16 partition for the Allwinner uboot to boot then you can use second partition with EXT4 format and there will be no problems.

To make things more complex we use eMMC Flash for some of our boards (A20-OLinuXino-LIME2 and A64-OLinuXino) which are in industrial temperature grade.

To separate eMMC from NAND Flash we add letter ‘e’ or ‘n’ in the board names.

A20-OLinuXino-LIME2-e4GB means LIME2 with 4GB eMMC Flash memory

A20-OLinuXino-LIME2-n8GB means LIME2 with 8GB NAND Flash memory

eMMC memory works like SD card, it’s faster than NAND and has wider operating temperature range.

We upload end of this week new Linux images which will work on both old 4GB and new 8GB boards.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Morgaine
    Jul 15, 2017 @ 21:42:17

    Did something bad happen in Asia to freeze the march of progress in flash, akin to the floods that caused disk prices to soar some years back?

    If 4GB NAND stopped being manufactured back in 2014, that must have been because 8GB or larger had already occupied the size/price sweet spot at that time. Now 3 years later one would expect 16GB or larger to be at the sweet spot, while 8GB should be nearing its own EOL. (The 8GB prices might indeed be soaring as you noted, but that would be no surprise if 8GB is becoming scarce close to its EOL.)

    If 16GB isn’t the best-priced flash size by now, then this isn’t following the expected trends. Did something bad happen out there?

    It should be possible to determine the best-priced flash size from looking at the products on the Chinese market. What is the normal flash size for today’s lowest-end Chinese smartphones and cheapest tablets? That flash size usually tells us where the price sweet spot currently stands.

    Morgaine.

    Reply

  2. LinAdmin
    Jul 16, 2017 @ 12:54:22

    In the last 9 months prices for ssd and flashcards also have dramatically increased. Any hints why this happened?

    Reply

  3. Morgaine
    Jul 16, 2017 @ 18:37:35

    If that is the case then there is definitely a major slowdown: 8GB was already at the sweet spot in 2014, or 4GB production wouldn’t have been discontinued. It shouldn’t still occupy the sweet spot 3 years later.

    Note that the price of devices being offered internationally is not a reliable indicator at all. What is available to the bottom end of chinese manufacturing tells the real story.

    Reply

  4. Sergio
    Jul 19, 2017 @ 14:11:15

    @olimex, your comment that “suppliers are holding onto stock waiting for the price to rise” is actually good news in the long term. I remember something similar happened many years ago. It lead to non-existent ultra high demand (many buyers were placing the same order with different distributors). The manufacturers ramped up because projected profits were huge then the bubble burst (suddenly a lot of orders vanished) and prices came crashing down. The manufacturers couldn’t just stop because of the investments they had made and the price remained low for the consumer. I’m not 100% sure but I think this was RAM related.

    Reply

    • OLIMEX Ltd
      Jul 20, 2017 @ 11:24:08

      I doubt this is good news, as at the end customer pays the bill, DDR memory prices were sold under their cost due to excessive manufacturing, lot of companies closes and went off this business, since then prices start to rise with 50-60% per year, several years in a row and nobody sees the end of this, now the price is x4 times what it used to be and the trend is still up, I guess the vendors now recover all their losses 🙂 but we pay the bill, it would be better without these ups and downs to may plan in advance your costs

      Reply

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