Intel SSD - details. 32-160GB, production in next 30 days, £400-ish

Briefing time! Intel is telling us about its solid-state drives.
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor

Briefing time! Intel is telling us about its solid-state drives. There are two types of SSD, the multi-level cell NAND flash and the single-level cell NAND flash. Multi-level cell stores more bits per memory location but at a performance hit; single-level cells are faster and more reliable but less dense.

More later – here are the official specs:

There are two 'Mainstream' models using multi-level cell; the X18-M and the X25-M, at 80GB and 160GB, 1.8” and 2.5” form factors. Claimed figures are sequential read at 250 megabytes/second and write at 70 megabytes/second, and an 85 microsecond read latency. Power levels are very low – 150 milliwatts typical active, 60mw idle. At 1.2 million hours mean time between failures (MTBF), reliability is equally impressive. These will have around a five year useful life with a 100GB/day workload - the industry norm is 20GB/day.

The 80GB is sampling, with production due to start in 30 days; the 160GB is expected to sample in the fourth quarter and hit production in the first quarter of 2009.

The 'Extreme' model, X25-E, is single-level cell, with 250MB/s read, 170MB/s write, two million hours MTBF, 75ms read latency, and a whole 2.4 watts active power. That's only available in 2.5” form factor, in 32 and 64 GB capacities, and is aimed at replacing 15KRPM server drives. The 32GB is sampling now, with production expected in the next 90 days; the 64GB will sample in Q4 and go into production in Q1 '07.

Intel is talking of 40% - 150% performance increase in disk-intensive tasks over a 5400 RPM hard disk in ordinary PC clients, and between 1.4 and 25 times speed advantages over (unnamed) competitor SSDs. A HDD video server capable of supporting 2000 streams can be replaced with an SSD system supporting 2400 streams, 98 percent power reduction,75 percent space reduction and 6x read performance increase. How closely these figures match real-world numbers is to be seen, but they're bold.

Inside, the flash drives have a parallel ten channel architecture with advanced wear leveling algorithms (and no, they're not saying how they work).

All of the above comes with SATA 1.5Gb/s and 3.0Gb/s interfaces.

Now, let''s see if we can get some prices... ah, no, we can't. Pricing will be announced when production is announced. But 'very competitive and value oriented' when announced next month.

PRICE UPDATE: - No, Intel's still not talking. But HP, which has also announced new glittery notebooks with Intel's SSD, is talking about a premium of between $800 and $900 for the SSD variants.

FUN UPDATE: - Intel gave everyone the briefing 'mechanical models' of the SSDs, with stickers on them proclaiming their mechanical modelhood. Peel those stickers off, though, and they looked remarkably like the real thing.

Which they were. But on pulling one apart with my fingernails, I discovered that they had the flash memory inside (ten 64 gigabit chips) and a Samsung cache chip, but the controller chip (where all the cleverness lives) had been ripped out. I asked - yes, that had been done to all the drives, in order to give Intel a few more weeks of secrecy. Still, I now have twenty 64 gigabit flash chips...

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