Intel Begins Shipping 160GB Solid-State SATA Drives for Laptops

Intel, which began offering its own line of solid-state drives earlier in 2008, is now shipping a 2.5-inch SSD with a 160GB data storage capacity. In January, Intel will also ship a 1.8-inch version of its SSD SATA drive for ultraportable notebooks. The new Intel SSDs come as the price of NAND flash memory continues to drop.

Intel is now shipping a 160GB version of its solid-state Serial ATA drives for mainstream laptops, and the chip giant is preparing to launch a different version for ultraportable notebooks in January.

Intel announced that it had begun shipping a 160GB version of its 2.5-inch X25-M SSD (solid-state drive) for mainstream laptops on Dec. 22. In January, Intel plans to ship a 160GB version of its 1.8-inch X18-M SSD, which is geared more toward ultraportable laptops.

The 160GB X25-M and the X18-M SSDs will sell for $945 when purchased in 1,000-unit quantities. The original 80GB versions of these two SSDs sell for $595 when bought in 1,000-unit quantities.

Intel first introduced the X25-M and X18-M SSDs at its Developer Forum in August and began shipping the 80GB versions in September. In October, Intel rolled out its X-25E Extreme SATA Solid-State Drive for workstations, servers and storage systems. Intel is already shipping a 32GB version of the X-25E SSD and a 64GB version is expected in the first quarter of 2009.

The Intel X25-M and X18-M SSDs are based on NAND flash memory, which holds the promise of faster read/write performance than conventional hard disk drives. The technology also allows for faster boot times in PCs and the ability to save power and reduce overheating by eliminating the moving parts that are standard with more conventional drives.

The 160GB SSD that Intel released on Dec. 22 is based on MLC (multilevel cell) storage technology. This type of SSD based on the MLC flash chip will provide 250MB-per-second read/write performance. The X25-E SSD, on the other hand, uses single-level cell technology.

While SSDs based on NAND flash memory may mean better PC performance, the technology remains an expensive option. In many cases, an SSD can add between $500 and $1,000 to the average price of a laptop, which makes the technology out of reach for most consumers, as well as enterprise users who are interested in upgrading to a notebooks such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X300 or X301.

However, due to an oversupply of product, the price of NAND flash memory continues to fall. In addition, the recession in the United States has meant that consumers are cutting back on their purchases this holiday season, which is forcing NAND flash vendors to reduce prices even further.

At the CES expo in Las Vegas beginning the week of Jan. 5, Toshiba is expected to share details about a new 2.5-inch SSD with a 512GB data storage capacity. The fact that Intel, Toshiba and Samsung are all preparing to introduce new SSDs could help lower the price of NAND flash memory even further, making the technology more affordable for consumers and enterprise buyers.