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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  • pennyfan87 - Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - link

    so i heard you're giving the sample away to your readers...
  • Souka - Thursday, July 23, 2009 - link

    I heard there were two samples being given away... ;)
  • Zelog - Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - link

    I'm guessing the new FLASH chips aren't BGA, then they don't need the potting. Would explain why the new controller still has it.
  • tajmahal - Thursday, July 30, 2009 - link

    well hello! Nothing like a little corruption of data is there.">
  • has407 - Sunday, July 26, 2009 - link

    Take a close look at the part numbers. A bit hard to read given the resolution of the pic's, but I'd bet the old unit uses the equivalent of Micron MT29F64G08CFxxx 64Gb parts, and the new unit uses the equivalent of Micron MT29F128G08CJxxx 128Gb parts.

    Micron production MLC parts for both are available only in TSOP 48. The package dimensions also appear to be the same, and per ONFI 1.0 (on which Intel says they're based), that could be easily verified from the package dimensions. The controller is obviously BGA.

    As to why the potting or lack of... thermal, shock, anti-whatever... but I'd guess Intel has just gotten better with the qualification/manufacturing process.
  • FaaR - Thursday, July 23, 2009 - link

    BGA chips typically do not need potting. In fact, the vast, vast majority of BGAs - including some that run very hot - are not potted at all.

    If the original Intel SSD used extensive potting - I don't know myself, I've not opened up my 60GB SLC drive - I'd assume it would be as an anti-counterfiting measure to prevent far-east outfits from screwing with the innards and then selling the drives more expensively as a higher capacity unit.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - link

    Very true, although the new controller doesn't have it to the exact same extent.

    Take care,

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