We currently use SSDs and emmc hard drive drives in most of our computers. However, some laptops do not use SSDs but instead, have eMMC. What are these types of memories, and why are they currently used in devices such as mobile phones, tablets, or cheap laptops?
Some cheaper notebooks sold abroad, and entry-level Chromebooks may offer a type of memory called eMMC to store user data. Unlike hard drives and SSDs, this type of memory uses technologies similar to those applied to SSDs. Despite this, they do not reach the same speeds, sizes, and durations associated with the best SSDs available on the market.
You will learn about this technology and better understand its application on computers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is eMMC?
A Kingston eMMC ™ is an on-board non-volatile memory system that combines flash memory and a flash memory controller. It simplifies the design of the application interface and eliminates the need for the central processor to support low-level flash memory management. EMMC hard drive memories are widely used in many consumer electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and mobile internet devices. They are increasingly adopted by a large number of embedded and industrial applications.
What is the difference between SSD and eMMC?
We will explain the differences between the eMMC hard drive and SSD storage units. These are two types of NAND-based flash memory, but their characteristics and the variety of devices you can find them on are quite different. EMMCs are slower and are used in mobile devices, while SSDs are faster and are intended for laptops and desktops.
In any case, this is an excellent opportunity for you to get to know the eMMCs by comparing them to a more popular type of memory. We will start by describing both of them in different sections, and then we will go on to compare them and explain their main differences a little more slowly.
A solid-state drive or SSD
Solid-state drives or SSDs (Solid State Drive) are an alternative to hard drives. The big difference is that while hard drives use moving mechanical components, SSDs store files on microchips with interconnected flash memories. Therefore, we could almost consider them as an evolution of USB sticks.
SSDs often use NAND-based flash memory, which, as well as being non-volatile, keeps the information stored when the disk is disconnected. They do not have physical heads to record the data. Instead, they include an integrated processor to perform operations related to reading and writing data.
These processors, called controllers, are the ones who make the “decisions” about how to store,
retrieve, cache and wipe data from the disk, and their efficiency is one of the factors that determine the overall speed of the drive. Furthermore, by not depending on the rotation of a physical component, a quieter drive is also achieved than mechanical discs.
Regarding size, these disks are usually 2.5 “, and have a design almost identical to that of mechanical hard drives, which helps them to fit into the same housings and slots where conventional hard drives are mounted in a computer.
Embedded MultiMediaCard or eMMC
In 1997, Siemens AG and SanDisk launched the MultiMediaCard (MMC) storage system, which is the forerunner of the Secure Digital (SD) cards that are still in use today. MMCs have also evolved, and today you can always find them with the embedded MultiMediaCard (eMMC) format.
You will find eMMC hard drive storage, especially on mobile phones, as well as exceptionally compact, thin, or inexpensive tablets or laptops. The word embedded means embedded, and this storage is called so because it is welded directly to the motherboard of the device in which it is installed.
The eMMC consists of a NAND flash memory module, the same type you’ll find in USBs, SD cards, and even SSD solid-state drives. But despite using the same kind of NAND memory, eMMCs are quite different from SSDs. For example, they do not reach the same speeds.
Its current standard is v5.1A, and it allows files to be transferred with speeds of around 400 MB / s, very similar to those of SSDs. However, they have fewer memory gates, which means that the volume of data they transfer is lower even though the peak speeds may be similar. They also have no other components and features that make SSDs go faster.
In addition to having a smaller size, which makes it a suitable memory for small devices, its capacity is also less. Also, despite not reaching the speeds of a modern SSD, some models average 250 MB / s and 90 MB / s of sequential read and write. However, its random read and write are about eight times less than SSDs.
eMMC vs SSD: main differences
- EMMC hard drive
- Generally between 256GB and 4TB
- Generally between 4 and 256 GB
- Higher consumption
- Lower consumption
- Much more expensive
- Much cheaper
- Quiet for no moving parts
- Quiet for no moving parts
- Does not vibrate due to not having moving parts
- Does not vibrate due to not having moving parts
- Does not have
- Does not have
- Your cells can be rewritten a limited number of times
- Generally between 200 and 550 MB / s
- Generally between 100 and 250 MB / s
AFFECTED BY MAGNETISM
In this table, practically the same as the one we used in the comparison of HDD vs SSD, you can find the main characteristics of both types of storage. As you will see, the most notable is its storage capacity. SSDs do not stop growing in this regard, while eMMCs usually stay at 64 or 128 GB, although in some cases such as the latest iPhone they have also risen to 256 GB.
The consumption of eMMCs is usually lower since it is less powerful and is used in computers with less hardware. We could say that eMMCs is very similar to having an SD soldered to the hard drive, and its cost is also very internal. Although of course, as most usually come soldered on the motherboard, it is not something so familiar to buy them as it happens with SSDs.
In both cases, neither the SSD nor the eMMCs have moving parts, so there is no vibration or practically noise when compared to HDD hard drives. Also, they do not usually suffer from fragmentation, so they do not need to be maintained like mechanical hard drives.
And in speed is where the differences are. As we have said, modern eMMCs can reach peaks of 400 MB / s, but in practice, the average rates are much lower when compared to an SSD. Its speed is not wrong compared to that of mechanical discs, but they still have to be on par with solid-state drives.
Much of the blame for this is that eMMCs are extremely simple, and have neither the firmware, the multiple memory chips, or the high-quality hardware that often makes SSDs the fastest storage.
In short, eMMCs are a cheap and profitable alternative for the internal storage of most small devices, such as mobiles or tablets. They also take up very little compared to SSDs, which are, however, a better solution for laptops and desktops that have more storage space.
In any case, you will never have to buy an eMMC for your desktop computer, so although it is a component that should be known, you do not have to worry too much. Also, in the devices where it is usually installed, you will not generally have the option of changing it for another type of storage.
USB flash drives, SD cards, and SSDs: faster than eMMCs
Flash memory is currently found in devices that we use daily, such as USB sticks, SD and microSD cards, or SSDs. A USB memory has a NAND flash chip attached to a circuit, in addition to having a fundamental controller and a USB interface with which to connect it to our computer. Similarly, the SD card has a flash memory chip, a circuit, and a controller. Being so simple, its price can be easily reduced.
The speed of USB sticks and SD cards leaves a lot to be desired concerning an SSD, so it is not recommended to install an operating system on any of them (although it can be done, as in the case of Raspberry Pi). Also, unlike them, SSDs have more components inside that differentiate them. In addition to having more NAND chips, these are faster and better quality and include a more advanced driver.
For example, the controller of an SSD allows us to distribute the writing and reading tasks equally among all the chips that compose it (that is, parallelize the job), so it is not limited to write everything on a single disk as it happens with USB sticks or SD cards. The controller of these SSD drives is like a kind of RAID but within a single device. The controller is also in charge of controlling the possible wear and tear of the drive when writing data to it so that all are written consistently to all chips to avoid memory wear.
Therefore, writing a file to an SD card takes about 10 to 15 times longer than an SSD. This is usually the speed limiting factor since USB 3.0 has rates similar to those achieved with a SATA Express port (5 vs 6 Gbps)
eMMC: the forerunner of SD cards still in use
Once the flash memories are cleared, it’s time to talk about the eMMC (embedded MultiMediaCard). This type of memory is very similar to an SD card since MMC memory was a precursor to them. Therefore, whenever possible, attempts are made to avoid the use of MMC memories in computers. However, there are times that it is unavoidable if costs are to be kept to a minimum.
EMMC memory cannot be expanded or modified since it is soldered to the motherboard (as the embedded part of its name indicates) to save costs and reduce size. This type of memory is much less advanced, both in terms of performance and speed. If it is used, it is usually for two main factors: it is cheaper, and it has a driver that can make eMMC memory bootable, that is, it allows booting the operating system stored in it. Therefore, it is reasonable to find it on mobiles, laptops, tablets, and convertibles with Android, Windows and Chrome OS, and it is also quite versatile to be used with both Windows and Android.
The tablets with two operating systems have been reduced in price in recent years, and below 200 euros is not possible to offer an SSD because it would have to increase the final price considerably. For this reason, the eMMC fulfills the functions of being cheap and small. In the case of the mobiles that we all use daily, there are not many more options if we want the size of the device to be reduced.
To know if a device that we are going to buy uses this memory, we must look at the specifications. Even if it is not specified in them, if we find that the storage capacity is 32 or 64 GB, it is most likely that we are dealing with eMMC memories. It is also possible to find devices with 128 or up to 256 GB, as is the case with the latest iPhone models.
EMMC memory has a performance similar to that of a hard disk in real uses
Also, there are quite a few performance tests that let you know the write and read speed. Although these speeds are usually much slower than those of an SSD, they do allow us to use a device with relative normality for most uses, and we will find a performance similar to what we would see if we were using a hard drive.
Therefore, as we recommended last week, it is not good to buy a very cheap laptop if we can afford to spend more money since we are going to find quite a few limitations. In this case, eMMC memory is slow and quite limited in storage capacity. For regular tasks such as browsing or watching videos, we may not notice it, but as soon as we want to perform tasks such as editing photos or videos, we will realize that we need something else.