What's this? The long awaited specs for Intel's third generation SSD? Indeed.

Internally it’s called the Postville Refresh (the X25-M G2 carried the Postville codename), but externally it carries the same X25-M brand we’ve seen since 2008. The new drive uses 25nm IMFT Flash, which means we should get roughly twice the capacity at the same price. While Intel is sampling 25nm MLC NAND today it's unclear whether or not we'll see drives available this year. I've heard that there's still a lot of tuning that needs to be done on the 25nm process before we get to production quality NAND. The third generation drives will be available somewhere in the Q4 2010 - Q1 2011 timeframe in capacities ranging from 40GB (X25-V) all the way up to 600GB.

Despite the Q1 release of Intel’s 6-series chipsets, Intel is listing the new X25-M as being 3Gbps SATA only. The SATA implementation has been updated to support ATA8-ACS so it’s possible we may see official 6Gbps support once Intel has a chipset with native support.

The new drive’s performance specs are much improved. The comparison between old and new is below:

Intel Consumer SSD Comparison
  Intel X25-M G2 (34nm) Intel X25-M G3 (25nm)
Codename Postville Postville Refresh
Capacities 80/160GB 80/160/300/600GB
NAND IMFT 34nm MLC IMFT 25nm MLC
Sequential Performance Read/Write Up to 250/100 MB/s Up to 250/170 MB/s
Random 4KB Performance Read/Write Up to 35K/8.6K IOPS Up to 50K/40K IOPS
Max Power Consumption Active/Idle 3.0/0.06W 6.0/0.075W
Total 4KB Random Writes (Drive Lifespan) 7.5TB - 15TB 30TB - 60TB
Power Safe Write Cache No Yes
Form Factors 1.8" & 2.5" 1.8" & 2.5"
Security ATA Password ATA Password + AES-128

If these numbers are accurate, the new Intel drive should be roughly equal to Crucial’s RealSSD C300 and SandForce SF-1200 based drives. There are many different ways to measure this data however so the numbers may be higher or lower in our tests. Note that performance could also go up by the time drives are available as there's still a lot of tuning going on right now. I'd say that at these performance levels Intel had better be very aggressive with pricing because I'm expecting much better from the next-generation SandForce drives.

Write amplification appears to be more under control with the third gen X25-M. Intel upgraded the total 4KB random writes spec from 7.5TB - 15TB on the G2 to a much higher (and wider) range of 30TB to 60TB depending on drive and spare area.

Intel hasn’t disclosed any information about spare area, but given the huge increase in longevity of the drives I suspect that spare area has gone up as well (at least on the larger drives).

The G1 and G2 drives didn’t store any user data in the off-controller DRAM, the third gen drive changes that. A large part of why the C300 is so quick has to do with its large external DRAM, something Intel has avoided implementing in the past due to the associated risk of data loss. Intel refers to the 3rd gen X25-M has having a power safe write cache, which sounds to me like it has an external DRAM paired with a big enough capacitor to flush the cache in the case of sudden power loss.

Full disk encryption is the next big feature on the Postville Refresh. You get AES-128 support on the consumer drives. I’m guessing there’s a new version of the SSD Toolbox in the works as Intel is also promising Windows based firmware updates.

The new X25-M will be available in both 1.8” and 2.5” versions. The 1.8” drive tops out at 300GB, you’ll need the 2.5” form factor for 600GB.

In addition to the new X25-M there’s a new X25-E due out in Q1 2011. Codenamed Lyndonville, this will be the first Intel Enterprise SSD to use MLC flash. It’s not quite the same MLC used on the consumer drives but rather a modification of the 25nm process that trades data retention for longevity.

Standard MLC will last for 12 months after all erase/program cycles have been consumed. Enterprise grade MLC will last only 3 months after exhausting all erase/program cycles but will instead support many more cycles per cell.

The X25-E improves specs compared to its predecessor:

Intel Enterprise SSD Comparison
  Intel X25-E (50nm) Intel X25-E (25nm)
Codename Ephraim Lyndonville
Capacities 32/64GB 100/200/400GB
NAND IMFT 50nm SLC IMFT 25nm eMLC
Sequential Performance Read/Write Up to 250/170 MB/s Up to 250/200 MB/s
Random 4KB Performance Read/Write Up to 35K/3.3K IOPS Up to 50K/5K IOPS
Max Power Consumption Active/Idle 3.0/0.06W 5.0/0.095W
Total 4KB Random Writes (Drive Lifespan) 32GB: 1PB
64GB: 2PB
100GB: 900TB - 1PB
200GB: 1PB - 2PB
400GB: 1.4PB
Power Safe Write Cache No Yes
Form Factors 2.5" 2.5"
Security ATA Password ATA Password + AES-128

Larger capacities, higher performance, AES-128 support and comparable lifespans to the old X25-Es are all in store early next year. Note that Intel tests 4KB random write performance differently on enterprise vs. consumer drivers so you can’t directly compare the numbers between the X25-M and X25-E. The X25-E will be 2.5” only.

Intel isn’t the only one working on a controller update. SandForce and Indilinx are both heading towards production versions of their next-generation controllers. I expect we’ll see preview class hardware before the end of the year, with mainstream availability in Q1 2011.

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  • zing99 - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    You'ld get a lot more out of it just by purly running windows 7 and having the file system be native ntfs. Macbooks are also fairly slow. So when you go to do bootcamp etc, you don't get that great of an end product. Also they have slow core2duo. An i7 based pc tower would be best. If it must be mobile, then an i7 based laptop. You can do that in mac, but they charge double with no real benefits. At least not for me. And I do a lot of stuff, video editing included on pc. Long waits for video to encode is something I don't enjoy on macs. But if you must.. you must :-) Reply
  • o2eazy - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 - link

    And I'm new to this is that I just been reading the comprehensive article on the reasons why SSD Drives slow down, ever since Windows NT 4 I have allocated the swap file to a separate hard drive to increase performance, it seems that within SSD drive it would be best to have all temporary and swap files on my traditional platter drive rather than using up original speed capabilities of the SSD drive. My question is how do I install so that this happens during setup as if my understanding is correct once the data has been written to the SSD drive the damage has been done so changing these things afterwards and would be less effective than doing it during setup. I'm currently running Windows 7 ultimate 64-bit on Intel x48 chipset with a Reply
  • CharonPDX - Thursday, December 02, 2010 - link

    Spammity spam! Reply
  • Calle2003 - Saturday, January 15, 2011 - link

    Any release date out yet? Reply
  • athanasios917 - Saturday, January 22, 2011 - link

    they can take the old hdd platters,and start melting the metals from it to make a terminator that breaks into ssd plants,and destroys intel to save hdds Reply
  • Cyborg1024 - Wednesday, February 02, 2011 - link

    Intel's SSD's are better at wear leveling and least likely to fail prematurely. Random access is top notch, after reading many reviews on multiple sites about OCZ and other brand issues. Sandforce controllers tend to be over-rated and sequential r/w speeds is not the biggest factor in OS drives. I can vouch that a 4yr old processor is booting in 20 seconds usable with Win 7 pro on an 80 GB X2 drive. Thats compared with about 1.5min on a 7200RPM Seagate. There is alot of great benchmarks online that show the Intel G2 series drives still perform extremely well and are the most reliable with a 1.1 wear leveling ratio. If you drive is wasting writes thats lost lifespan and to me reliability is the number one factor. You can check reviews on NewEgg too and see how many DOA's or Dead in a week drives people are dealing with. Ofcourse properly aligning the drives to 4K sector size is critical as well for the SSD's. Make sure if you image one using Acronis or other app that you check alignment. I had to use Paragon Alignment Tool to correct mine. Also on the Intels its important to schedule drive optimizations to take advantage of TRIM. If you do that your SSD should stay lightning fast. For the average Joe an SSD is going to make a much more meaningful difference than a processor upgrade. The hard drive is still the biggest bottleneck on everyone's systems. My older system boots and responds faster than my quad core now. Now about those G3 drives, anyone have an official release date on inside scoop. My thought is Intel may be having issues working with the new 25nm size and reduced writes. Makes you wonder if its worth shrinking the die anymore using the existing tech. Personally I wouldnt mind having a 3.5" 1TB using the current tech since its proven to be a workhorse. Ofcourse the price on such a beast would be way out of my paygrade but maybe in a couple years that will be feasable. For now its SSD for boot drive and good old platter drive for media and data files. Either way I wouldnt stop running your full backups! Reply
  • Edgemil - Friday, February 11, 2011 - link

    Does anyone know what the drive´s lifespan were on the Intel G1 drive?

    Would be nice to see the G1 stats in the comparison table as well.
    Reply

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