August 12, 2022

SSD performance in MicroSD format? We’re almost there, but a battle is brewing

Kioxia, the company formerly known as Toshiba, has started shipping a new storage device based on a new form factor, XFMEXPRESS, which aims to bring the best of the SSD and microSD worlds.

The XT2 is a removable PCIe attached NVMe storage device that, according to Kioxia’s marketing materials, “will enhance next-generation mobile and embedded applications.”

The technology – which has three years of development – is removable like a microSD card, with dimensions (18 x 14 x 1.4 mm) slightly larger than the latter (14 x 11 x 1 mm). Its connector is similar to what smartphones use for nano SIM cards, requiring the cover to be slid sideways to access the card.

A company spokesperson said Tech Radar Pro that the XT2 will be priced competitively with other SSD form factors of similar performance and will come in capacities ranging from 128GB to 1TB. As for speeds, given that it comes with PCIe lanes Gen 4 x 2, sequential reads and writes are expected to exceed 2500 Mbps and 650 Mbps respectively.

A microSD rival?

Don’t expect XFMExpress to replace microSD anytime soon, even though demand for small cards has been on a downward trajectory as mainstream smartphones ditch removable storage altogether.

There’s also the conundrum associated with rival format SD Express, which is also a PCIe NVMe standard, which can reach up to 4GB/s, offers advanced security features and is backed by the SD Association.

Which brings us to the question of whether the market needs another new form factor when the current incumbent enjoys greater market support, better performance, minimal retooling and of enhanced security. We posed this question to Kioxia and will update the article when we get back to you.

As for use cases that require high performance and high storage capacity, there are many (eg prosumer cameras, IoT/edge servers, etc.), but they are likely to be niche and unlikely to support a market where rival formats exist.

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