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Lower prices from Intel and others could push SSDs into the mainstream in 2010

Intel is announcing a new generation of Solid State Drives (SSDs) using 34nm NAND flash memory from IM Flash Technologies, its joint venture with chipmaker Micron Technologies. IMFT had previously announced production of 34nm NAND flash in November of last year, but various problems had led to a delay in the scale of mass production that Intel needed.

The most important thing that Intel will be able to do with the new SSDs is lower their prices in order to spur consumer purchasing. Intel says the new drives are so much cheaper because of "the reduced die size and advanced engineering design" of the new SSDs. Many consumers have been waiting patiently for prices to drop and the market to stabilize before jumping in with a purchase, despite the dramatically improved performance that SSDs can offer.

The two largest hurdles for SSD adoption have been cost and capacity. Although designs for SSDs as large as 1TB have been announced, their cost will still be much greater than traditional HDDs. Most users who adopt SSDs in a desktop setting will choose to pair a SSD boot drive with a larger magnetic drive.

NAND flash built on the 32nm process by Samsung and Toshiba, along with a much improved JMF612 flash controller from JMicron, are expected to lead to lower prices on competing SSDs from other manufacturers.

 “Our goal was to not only be first to achieve 34nm NAND flash memory lithography, but to do so with the same or better performance than our 50nm version,” said Randy Wilhelm, Intel's Vice President and General Manager of the NAND Solutions Group.
“We made quite an impact with our breakthrough SSDs last year, and by delivering the same or even better performance with today’s new products, our customers, both consumers and manufacturers, can now enjoy them at a fraction of the cost.”

This improved performance is not shown in the X-25's sustained sequential write speed, which can only achieve up to 70 MBps. Instead read latency is now 65 microseconds and write latency is just 85 µs. That compares to read and write seek times of 4.2 ms and 4.7 ms, or 4200 µs and 4700 µs, on Western Digital's VelociRaptor drives. The VelociRaptors, spinning at 10,000 rpm, are the fastest SATA hard drives using traditional magnetic storage media.

The X25-M has a maximum sustained sequential read speed of up to 250 MBps, unchanged from its predecessor. There aren't any apparent major changes to Intel's flash controller, which still uses the same 10 lane Parallel Channel Architecture with ONFI 1.0 compatible flash.

Support for Windows 7 and the TRIM command, which improves performance when deleting files, will be available later in a firmware update. There will also be an end user tool which will help users to optimize the performance of their SSDs on the Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems.

Interestingly, Intel will continue to use the X25-M moniker in 80GB and 160GB sizes. However, new SKUs are starting to appear with the 34nm 80GB (SSDSA2MH080G2C1)and 160GB (SSDSA2MH160G2C1) models. A 320GB model is expected to arrive later, but has not yet been announced. The X18-M, which comes in a 1.8 inch form factor, will begin shipping with 34nm parts later this quarter.

Intel originally introduced the 80GB X25-M for $595 less than a year ago. Now, the new 34nm 80GB X25-M will sell for $225 to the channel for quantities up to 1,000 units. The 160GB version will be available at $440 to the channel at the same quantities, down from a remarkable $945 at its launch in December.

Kingston Technology has partnered with Intel to sell rebadged X25-M and X25-E SSDs before, and is expected to quickly adopt the new product line. This could give consumers an additional price break.

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Seems like were not getting the trend just yet
By nugglife4me on 7/21/2009 1:33:40 PM , Rating: 1
I'm not sure why most people (posting comments) are all talking about replacing magnetic storage, and $/GB comparisons, and 'I will buy one when it reaches $/GB' type comments. This technology, still in its ramp up stage, has a very useful purpose, its speed. Being as capacity is relatively low and prices high you have to look for the trade off here. Put this low capacity/high speed drive where it will impact you most - say, as you boot drive, then load all your apps and storage onto your big ole' magnetic beast. Basically we have a 'hybrid' situation of drive storage, this is no different then when people were using three drive setups(1 - OS & 2xRaid=0 - Programs/Cache/etc) so now we have a replacement for the OS drive where it may see the most benefit. No need for 'replacement' more like 'augment' your current setup with one of these drives. At 32GB you would have plenty of space for a few current games you might be playing at any given moment and use your current drive array for OS/Storage. I think we need some additional testing of performance of these drives paired with traditional magnetic storage in different configurations so people can start to see how this technology can benefit them NOW, at the ~$100 price point everyone loves to talk about in their current systems. I'm not looking to dump my 3 x 32GB Raptors in raid 0, but rather relegate them to storage and loading programs and add one of these for boot duty. Lets be real, for a gaming/heavy office app machine, the performance is your goal, power savings doesn't come into play in this instance.

RE: Seems like were not getting the trend just yet
By Guspaz on 7/21/2009 2:11:01 PM , Rating: 1
Some points:

- Cost per gig matters if you can't afford to pay for it

- Just using it as your boot drive won't provide that much of a speed benefit. You'll boot fast, but applications and everything else will load slowly. You're going to want your OS *and* your apps on your solid state drive, and your bulk data elsewhere

- 32GB is barely enough for Windows and supporting files! Windows Vista/7 can easily attain 10+ gigs for the Windows directory alone. With individual games pushing 10-15 gigs these days, 32GB won't get you anywhere. 64-80 would be a bare minimum for most people trying to put any apps on it.

- You can't find any decent SSD drives at $100. You can find an OCZ Agility (Indilinx) 30GB drive for $137 on NewEgg, but that's almost fourty bucks more and 2 gigs less. That's the cheapest Indlinx or Intel drive I'm seeing.

- Not everybody is putting these in desktops. Remember, SSDs are typically 2.5" drives, the form factor designed for servers and notebooks. You need an adapter just to mount the thing in a desktop chassis. Of course, if the case manufacturers were smart, they'd start including 2.5" bays/adapters with their higher-end cases. Throwing a single 3.5" to 2.5" adapter (which hold two 2.5" drives) could be a very smart thing for a high-end desktop case.

By sxr7171 on 7/21/2009 6:31:35 PM , Rating: 2
If you can't afford $140 then I have to say this is for performance computing not ultra-budget computing.

Plus, you have no idea what the heck you are talking about. I have been running Win 7 64-bit (large installation than 32-bit) for several months on a 32GB SSD. I love the performance and lack of moving parts in my machine. I have as of today 16.7 GB free and 32GB comes to 29.7GB formatted.

You have to know some basic things like setting a custom swap file, and disabling hibernate. It boots so fast that on the rare occasion hibernate is better than just plain sleep it doesn't even matter since resuming from a HDD is the same as fresh booting from an SSD.

By sxr7171 on 7/21/2009 6:26:05 PM , Rating: 2
I current use a 32GB SLC SSD on my laptop. Half of it is free running Win 7 64-bit.

I keep my data on a homeserver anyway. If I need extra space, and I mean really need it I could get a 32GB SD or 64GB Expresscard. But I don't, I don't need to carry large media files around, that's what an iPod or even 2.5" external is for.

On a desktop, why would anyone need more than 32GB for single OS or even 2 OSes. With 64GB you could comfortably triple boot or even quadruple boot in a pinch. With 80Gb Quad boot is easily done. Your data can be on a 2TB drive in another slot or homeserver or RAID array or whatever.

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