Intel Unveils New Flash Drives, Marks Prices Down

Intel says it is able to discount its new X25-M 34nm drives by 60 percent due to the reduced die size and advanced engineering design.

Intel on July 21 introduced the world's first 34-nanometer solid-state NAND Flash drives for desktop and laptop computers, then immediately tagged them with a "60 percent off" sale price.
How is this possible? Simple enough: Intel said that its move to put its X25-M processor on the 34nm chip allows lower prices due to the reduced die size and advanced engineering design.
Solid-state flash drives use enterprise-class flash memory to store and retrieve data, enabling read/write response times that are about 30 times faster than the current highest-quality hard disk drives. Because they have no moving parts, SSDs require much less power to run, and mechanical breakdowns are rare.
SSDs have been playing a key role in the emergence of ultra-thin and light notebook PCs that are becoming popular due to their design, size and longer battery life.
"We've been manufacturing these for a couple of quarters now, and during that time we've compute-hardened them and made sure they are up to our SSD quality-assurance levels," Troy Winslow, Intel's director of SSD marketing, told eWEEK.
"We've put that new Flash into the massively parallel architecture with a new controller and firmware to deliver equivalent-to-better performance than our existing [50nm] SSDs -- but at a fraction of the price."
For example, the 2008 channel price of Intel's 80GB 50nm Flash drive was $595 apiece [based on quantities up to 1,000 units]; the 80GB 34nm drives released July 21 will cost $225 each. Similarly, the 2008 price for the 160GB 50nm drive was $945; the new 160GB 34nm drive will cost $440 -- again, based on quantities up to 1,000 units.
The X25-M comes in a standard 2.5-inch form factor. The X18-M, in a 1.8-inch form factor, will begin shipping on 34nm later in Q3 2009, Winslow said.
Computer makers such as Dell, IBM, Acer, Lenovo and others will be very happy to hear this news.
The Intel X25-M on 34nm flash memory is drop-in compatible with the current 50nm version and will continue to be drop-in compatible to replace existing hard disk drives, Winslow said.
Winslow said the new Intel X25-M features the same or faster random write IOPS [input/output operations per second] at 35K per read than the 50nm drive.
"That's almost to the threshold of what you can do," Winslow said. "From a write standpoint, we've moved out from 3,300 to 6,600 4KB write IOPS/sec. From a hard-drive perspective, it's measured in the tens and hundreds."
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Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...