Intel Now Shipping Solid-State SATA Drives for PCs

Intel has begun shipping its new line of solid-state SATA drives for notebooks and desktops called the Intel X18-M and the X25-M. Intel's solid state drives will first offer 80GB of data storage capacity with 160GB solid state drives to follow later. While Intel's SSDs are first targeted at notebooks and desktops, Intel plans to ship SSDs for server systems by year's end.

Intel is now shipping the first in a new line of solid-state SATA (Serial ATA) drives that will specifically target notebooks and desktops and initially offer up to 80GB of data storage capacity.

Intel first detailed its new line of SSDs (solid state drives) at its Developer Forum in August and announced Sept. 8 that it would begin shipping the first of these solid-state SATA drives called the Intel X18-M, a 1.8-inch drive, and the X25-M, a 2.5-inch drive.

The first of these Intel SSDs with an 80GB capacity will cost $595 when bought in 1,000 unit quantities. In the fourth quarter of this year, Intel will begin sampling a 160GB version for customers and PC vendors.

The solid-state SATA drives Intel released Monday will use MLC (multilevel cell) storage technology. The SSDs based on the MLC flash chip will provide 250MB-per-second read/write performance. In the next three months, Intel is expected to launch another SSD, the X25-E Extreme SATA Solid State Drive, which is based on single-level cell technology and is designed for servers and storage systems.

Prices for the SLC SSD have not been set yet.

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

On Sept. 8, Hewlett-Packard announced that it would be one of the first PC vendors to offer the Intel X18-M and the X25-M with its HP EliteBook 6930p notebook. When coupled with an optional ultra-capacity battery, this HP notebook with the Intel solid-state SATA drives is expected to provide up to 24 hours of battery life. This version of the HP EliteBook 6930p laptop, which has a 14.1-inch display and weighs about 4.7 pounds, will be available in October.

Intel is also looking to expand its SSD options as companies are increasingly looking to add solid state drives as an option for servers and storage systems. Earlier this year, EMC announced that it would ship storage arrays that use SSDs. Sun Microsystems and Dell also are using SSDs in server systems as a replacement for HDDs.

Right now, the main obstacle in brining more NAND flash memory into the market, especially the PC market, is price. With its new solid-state SATA drives, Intel is offering better memory technology, but also adding more than $500 to the price of a notebook or desktop. Other SSD technology with even greater storage capacity can add $800 to $1,000 to the cost.

However, prices for NAND flash have been dropping, and Toshiba recently announced a new laptop with a 128GB SSD that is the same price as a notebook it sold last year that offered just a 64GB SSD.

While Intel is continuing to focus on NAND flash memory, the chip maker spun off its NOR memory division earlier this year and formed a new company called Numonyx. While NAND flash is used in solid state drives, NOR is designed for use in smaller devices such as cell phones.