Inside the Drive: 2x Density Flash and more DRAM

We of course had to pop the top and see what's changed inside the drive. As soon as you get the cover off you realize exactly what Intel has done:

The old X25-M G1

The new X25-M G2

Both of these are 160GB drives; Intel is now using 16GB flash packages instead of 8GB packages from the original drive. Once 34nm production really ramps up, Intel could outfit the back of the PCB with 10 more chips and deliver a 320GB drive. I wouldn't expect that anytime soon though.

The controller-side of the PCB looks similar, although Intel stopped using the black goup they used to cover all of the NAND flash contacts of the original drive. I wonder if that was a manufacturing measure or something to prevent competitors from hooking up an oscilloscope to the pins on the flash and reverse engineering the controller...

The old X25-M G1

It could have also been a thermal expansion thing; Microsoft had to use a similar approach to help prevent Xbox 360s from red-ringing.

The new X25-M G2

The new controller comes in the same physical package as the old one:

The old controller

The new controller

The part numbers have changed. The old one was an Intel PC29AS21AA0, the new one is an Intel PC29AS21BA0.

Intel also swapped vendors for the X25-M's on-board DRAM. The old 160GB drive used a 16MB Samsung 166MHz SDRAM (CAS3):

Goodbye Samsung

The new 160GB G2 drive uses a 32MB Micron 133MHz SDRAM (CAS3):

Hello Micron

DRAM size went up, while clock speed went down. I wonder what Intel is doing with all of that additional DRAM on the new drives? Hmm...

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  • Bolas - Friday, August 21, 2009 - link

    So... does it work yet?

    What's the current status of the G2 firmware bug? Any idea when we'll be able to buy G2 drives on Newegg?
  • krazyderek - Sunday, August 16, 2009 - link

    I know this is a bit pre-emptive, but i really hope that if the introduction of TRIM goes well that we see a double bar graph showing new AND used performance bars for each drive (ie: TRIM on, TRIM off). Once TRIM is implemented it may level the playing field for some drives and that should be easily and fairly shown in the charts. I know you had shown used vs new benchmarks during the anthology but in different charts sometimes on different pages made it tricky to see exactly the difference. Again, if TRIM is all it's touted to be, "new" state may be, the longterm state of an SSD.

    Here's hoping Intel get's it act together with those seq writes.

    PS, i own an 50nm 80gb intel, i'm semi ticked intel won't release a firware with TRIM in it, at the same time, it still has the second fastest random read and write (second only to it's newer version) and it feels rediculously fast to me launching every application on my computer at once when i start windows, and a sub 20 second boot time in OSX.
  • Alberto122 - Tuesday, August 4, 2009 - link

    I think computer market will slowdown in the next two years. Industry results in July shows profit warnings and losses in many companies. Intel lost 398 US$ mill and AMD 335 US$ mill.

    New Google Chrome operating system (which has lesser hardware requirements than Windows), virtualization runing on multicore computers (one computer, many users) and financial crisis can hit very hard the sales for PC market.

    Well see how can they sale new processors.">
  • krazyderek - Sunday, August 16, 2009 - link

    Intel with it's high IOPS, and SSD's in general with their non-existent response time seem poised to dominate multi-user, and virtualization setup's. It does seem like hard times ahead, but that's where bang for buck is really going to count and not to many people actually "need" a 2TB drive, where as HD's have been the bottleneck in computer's ever since the GHZ race spread out into the multi-core arena. SSD's seems ready to stand up in a multi user server, or virtualization setup to take it from "hold on a second i'm on a shared server login" to.. "really, this is a shared computer?"
  • jimhsu - Sunday, August 2, 2009 - link

    Hey Anand, I think I finally found the Achilles Heel of the X25-M: Poor random read performances under a heavy seq write workload.">

    Reproduce with:
    PerformanceTest 7.0 (x64)
    Advanced Disk Test
    2 synchronous threads
    500MB test files
    Uncached Win32 API
    Thread 1: 100% Read, 100% Random, 4096 byte block size
    Thread 2a: 100% Write, 0% Random, 1 MB block size
    Thread 2b: 100% Write, 100% Random, 4096 byte block size

    In general, the X25-M lags HEAVILY when doing a seq write (e.g. file copy) while doing random reads (e.g. opening microsoft word). Heavy RANDOM writes are not a problem, suggesting possibly poor interleaving of large seq writes and small reads.

    Worth discussing with Intel?
  • jimhsu - Saturday, August 15, 2009 - link

    What makes this even harder to understand is that performance on the drive is dynamic - the algorithms gradually accommodate changing workloads under a fragmented condition. This only happens under LOW free space conditions in the used state.

    I copied a lot of files sequentially to the SSD these few days. Seq write speeds increased from 30-40MB/s to over 80MB/s these few days, but random writes dropped to 15MB/s. These are Crystaldiskmark benches so I don't trust them much at all, but seq writes definitely became faster (can't feel the effect of slower random writes).

    The performance profile of these Intel drives is VERY confusing. TRIM will probably help a lot to make performance less confusing.

  • iwodo - Monday, August 10, 2009 - link

    Interesting, does this problem exsist in other SSD drive from Samsung or Indilix?
  • HexiumVII - Wednesday, July 29, 2009 - link

    Do these new drives support it?
  • Alkapwn - Sunday, July 26, 2009 - link

    Came across this information, and wonder if there is any way to verify it. Anyone heard of drive problems on these new g2's?">

  • somedude1234 - Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - link

    I ordered one from Puget last week. I can confirm that they are doing exactly as they said in the linked post and contacting people with pending orders directly.

    I fell into the category of "not likely to use a BIOS password on the drive, but willing to wait if Intel thought a hardware change was necessary".

    Once they confirmed that a simple firmware update would resolve the issue, I gave them the go-ahead to ship mine. I should be receiving it soon.

    So far I've been very impressed with the customer service at Puget Systems. They are definitely responsive to their customers.

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