Intel Unveils Low-Power SSD for Portable Devices

The world's No. 1 chip maker produces its first "system on a chip" for use in upcoming portable devices.

SAN FRANCISCO-Intel Dec. 14 introduced a new, thumbnail-sized solid state storage drive that it says will serve as a key component for next-generation mobile, digital entertainment and embedded applications in numerous portable electronic devices.

The Z-P140 PATA (Parallel Advanced Technology Attachment) Solid State Drive, shown for the first time to a small group of journalists and analysts here at the Campton Place hotel, is an ultrasmall, low-power, high-performance NAND flash-based storage drive with native 2GB and 4GB capacities.

Intel used the event to to preview some of the products it will showcase at January's International CES show in Las Vegas.

"It used to be that NAND flash memory was just used to run the BIOS in computers and to store data in thumb drives," said Intel NAND Products Group Product Line Manager Don Larson. "It's come a long way, and we expect to do even more with it in the future. The Z-P140 is a great example of that."

The Z-P140, which is lighter than a paper clip, uses the standard PATA interface to provide a sort of "system on a chip" that can hold an entire operating system-such as Linux or any other standard OS-and still have plenty of room on it for applications, Larson said.
The 2GB and 4GB versions will be available early in 2008; 8GB and 16GB versions are expected out later in 2008 or in 2009. All versions are designed to work within the new Intel "Menlow" platform (which includes the "Silverthorne" processor and the "Poulsbo" chip set) for mobile devices, Larson said.

Larson said the new drive will be used in laptops, PDAs, GPS devices, digital phones, gaming machines-the whole gamut of IT devices.

"We project that we'll be producing 64GB versions of this by 2010," Larson said. "NAND is really at the gates to replace disk hard drives, although this will still take some time."

Larson said the Z-P140, which features 40MB per second read and 30MB per second write throughput, has performed 30 percent faster than comparable hard drives in testing and uses 75 percent less power to do it.

"It has faster random access because it's all pure memory with no mechanical latency," Larson said. "No spinning platters means lower power consumption, and there's little or no heat produced, so no fans are needed."

The Z-P140 is expandable up to 16GB by adding up to three additional NAND devices, Larson said. Mean time between failures is listed as 2.5 million hours.

This is a major improvement from the NAND of old, Larson said.

"Intel has a great software feature called 'wear-leveling,'" Larson told eWEEK. "This allows the entire surface of the NAND flash drive to be scanned and the data distributed throughout, so no 'hot' or 'cold' spots ever develop that could cause the drive to wear out prematurely.

"This answers a lot of the old questions about the longevity of NAND flash drives."

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...