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4K Video is Coming and SanDisk is Making Room

Thu, 10/03/2013 - 4:18pm
Ben Munson

4K video is barging its way into mobile devices regardless if their owners have any use for it. 

Acer has already claimed to be the first with a 4K-ready smartphone when it announced its Liquid S2 6-inch phablet. The much more anticipated Samsung Galaxy Note 3 followed with a 4K sensor but it can’t actually play back the 4K videos at full-size. But that’s just one of the early limitations in the new mobile 4K world.

A whole lot of stars still need to align for 4K video to be an everyday reality. Moving those files on and off of a mobile device is likely to eat a lot of clock. And owning a compatible display large enough to do those 4K videos justice likely won’t factor into most people’s budgets for years to come. 

At a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, 4K videos nearly double the resolution of 1080p, at 1920 x 1080 pixels, and multiply out even further in terms of file size. When SanDisk spoke with us about the storage crunch 4K video will unleash upon mobile devices, Ron Javor, director of strategic business development, illustrated the vast difference in strain a three-minute clip can put on storage. As he pointed out, a 1080p video of that length would take up 400 MB while a 4K video of that length would take up a whopping 2.1 GB.

Files that size will weigh heavy on the available storage of standard 16 GB model smartphones.

That’s where SanDisk’s iNAND Extreme flash memory could prove useful. The iNAND extreme can speed up the 4K video process by offering sequential write/read speeds up to 45/150 MB/s and random write /read speeds up to 800/4K IOPS. The eMMC, with capacities going as high as 128 GB, was built on to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 Dragonboard developer kit when we saw it.

But SanDisk promised that the iNAND Extreme 128 GB is already in production at some of the biggest OEMs.

As a companion to the embedded storage, SanDisk showed off Extreme microSD card in a 64 GB flavor with up to 80MB/sec read and up to 50MB/sec write speeds. In tandem with the iNAND Extreme aboard the Snapdragon 800, SanDisk may actually have the memory bandwidth and capacity to make 4K video on a mobile device a more fluid reality.

Javor noted that DRM-protected content must be kept on embedded storage so when 4K-compatible video starts becoming available through digital storefronts like iTunes, the potential for strain on embedded storage looms large. But given the near impossibility of holding the enormous files a full 4K movie could render, as well as the fact that the smallest 4K displays are about 10 inches, it’s not possible to slap a compatible screen on a smartphone. Android 4.3 was rumored to support 640ppi, well above 1080p’s 480ppi, but it’s likely that’s for a larger displays (TVs) like the ones that will run with Samsung’s HomeSync Android-based home entertainment hub.

But even if users are a ways from downloading massive 4K movies on to their mobile devices, 4K video sensors are already hitting the market and smartphones will need the speed and space to write your insanely high-definition home movies to memory. And it appears that SanDisk may have reached a level of letting your phone do that without it losing the capability to do much else.

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