Be sure to read our latest SSD article: The SSD Relapse for an updated look at the SSD market.

No one really paid much attention to Intel getting into the SSD (Solid State Disk) business. We all heard the announcements, we heard the claims of amazing performance, but I didn't really believe it. After all, it was just a matter of hooking up a bunch of flash chips to a controller and putting them in a drive enclosure, right?

 

The closer we got to release and the more time I spent with competing products, the more I realized that Intel's biggest launch of 2008 wasn't going to be Nehalem - it was going to be its SSDs. If Intel could price them right, and if Intel could deliver on the performance, the biggest upgrade you could do for your PC - whether desktop or notebook, wouldn't be to toss in a faster CPU, it would be to migrate to one of these SSDs. Combine Nehalem and one of these mythical SSDs and you were in for a treat. But that was a big if...Intel still had to deliver.

We already talked about the drives back at IDF. The Intel X25-M and the X18-M, available in 80GB capacities, 2.5" and 1.8" form factors (respectively) with 160GB versions on the way. Today we are allowed to share performance data and pricing information, one of which is more impressive than the other. Intel will be selling the X25-M at $595 MSRP through OEMs and channel vendors, although I hear the street price may be lower.

 

Both of the -M models are based on Intel's MLC flash, while a X25-E using SLC flash will be due out by the end of this year. I'll detail the differences in a bit.

The pricing is rough, that puts Intel's X25-M at cheaper than SLC drives on the market but more expensive than MLC drives. Your options are effectively to get a 128GB MLC drive, an 80GB Intel X25-M or a 64GB SLC drive. But as you can expect, I wouldn't be quite this excited if the decision were that easy. Over the next several pages we're going to walk through the architecture of a NAND flash based SSD, investigate the problems with current MLC drives (and show how the Intel drive isn't affected) and finally compare the performance of the Intel drive to MLC, SLC and standard hard drives (both 2.5" and 3.5") in a slew of real world applications.

If you want to know the ending first I won't make you wait. Intel absolutely delivered with its first SSDs. After I completed my initial testing of the drive I sent AnandTech Senior Editor, Gary Key a message:

"I think Intel just Conroe’d the HDD market."

Honestly, within 6 months I'd expect it to be just as important to have one of these drives in your system, as your boot/application drive, as it was to have Conroe in your system back in 2006. The only issue here, the only problem I have is the price. I was hoping for something much lower from Intel and although the pricing is justified based on the performance, it ensures that the X25-M like most high performance SSDs, remains a luxury item.

While the X25-M isn't the world's fastest storage device across the board, it is among the fastest. And in the areas that it does dominate, it does so unbelievably well. The other great thing? You’ve got one of the world’s fastest hard drives, and it can fit in your notebook.

Let's get to it.

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  • Googer - Monday, September 08, 2008 - link

    Today, you can pick up a 160GB HDD for $50 and a 320GB HDD for around $90-100. This make the 80GB SSD 20x more expensive than a HDD of the same size.


    Reply
  • aeternitas - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    I dont know where you shop, but 100$ can get you 750GB.


    It doesnt make much of a point anyway, as flash based and typical hard drives will coexist for at least the next ten years. One for preformance, the other for storage.

    Maybe some of you are too young to remember, but it was only about 10 years ago that a 20GB hard drive cost 200$ at costco. We are a huge step in terms of the new technology from where we were before. 32 GB for 100$? Yes please. In ten years i expect to see 3+TB flash drives running over 1GBps throughput for around 200$.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    I assume they were referring to 2.5 inch drives, as those prices are more in line with what was stated.

    Also don't forget that with the drop in $/GB of drives has come an increase in demand for storage. Ten years ago digital photography was almost non-existent, with file sizes topping out under a megabyte. Images on the web were maybe 640x480. Now we have digital cameras that average 4-6MB as JPEGs, and some can turn out images over 30MB, not counting the medium-format backs (over 100MB IIRC for the 65Megapixel Phase 1). When I was in college any movie you saw on the network was sized to fit a 700MB CD, Now HD movies can range well over that. MP3s are still the same, or you can store in a lossless format if you choose.

    Will 3TB be small in 10 years? Possibly. The key for flash completely replacing mechanical will be getting the price low enough to hold large amounts of the current data.
    Reply
  • aeternitas - Saturday, September 13, 2008 - link

    Even if they were useing 2.5" drives in the example, it doesnt matter. The fact that these drives will be replaceing 3.5" ones makes their point just as misguided in the point they were trying to make.

    Laptop and desktop drives were differant due to size, now they arnt, so you cant comapair them (HDD vs SSD) in such a illogical manner.
    Reply
  • Blimeynext - Friday, April 23, 2010 - link

    "Intel went one step further and delivered 5x what the OEMs requested. Thus Intel will guarantee that you can write 100GB of data to one of its MLC SSDs every day, for the next five years, and your data will remain intact."

    Any tool out there which tells me how much I write to my HDD each day? It would be nice to find out my present usage and compare it with the 100 GB/day limit....

    If I write less than 20GB a day does that mean the SSD will last at least 25 years?
    Reply
  • Smokerz - Sunday, January 02, 2011 - link

    http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/apple/2010/07/01/...

    read it all
    Reply
  • Smokerz - Sunday, January 02, 2011 - link

    sorry for the misspell Reply

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