Intel on Tuesday updated its line of NAND flash-based solid state drives (SSD) with its advanced 34-nanometer (34nm) technology, and cut prices by up to 60 percent.
Intel's X25-M SSDs, which were introduced last September using 50nm technology, now feature 34nm technology, a move which allowed Intel to cut the price, increase the performance, and leave room for expanding the capacity in the future, said Troy Winslow, director of marketing for Intel's NAND Solutions group.
The X25-M SSDs come in a 2.5-inch standard SATA hard drive form factor, and drop into an existing desktop or mobile PC with no modifications. Intel also has a separate line of similar drives, the X18-M, that come in a 1.8-inch standard SATA drive form factor.
With the new technology, Intel has dropped the price of the 80-GB X25-M to $225 for quantities of up to 1,000 units. This represents a 60 percent cut in the price from the original $595 price when it was introduced.
The 160-GB version of the X25-M is now priced at $440 in quantities of up to 1,000 units, down from its $945 price when introduced.
The 34nm technology also means a 25 percent reduction in latency to 65 microseconds, as well as a doubling of the random write performance of the new drives, Intel said.
Intel's X18-M SSDs are also available in 80-GB and 160-GB versions. They are currently built using 50nm technology, but will be available soon with 34nm technology as well, Winslow said.
Intel has a number of plans for taking advantage of its 34nm technology, Winslow said.
Rumors have been swirling around the Internet that Intel plans to unveil a 320-GB SSD in the near future.
Winslow said that he cannot discuss specific plans, but he did say that the 34nm technology lets Intel build the drives using 32-GB monolithic dies compared to the 16-GB dies in the past.
"So the 34nm X25-M drives use only half the space for the capacity as before," he said. "So we can do 320 GB. But we're not announcing anything yet. Also, there are some performance enhancements we can do."
Intel also has another line of SSDs, its 32-GB and 64-GB X25-E, for enterprise storage applications. They were introduced last October.
The difference between the two is in the type of flash memory technology used.
The X25-E features single-level cell technology, in which one bit of data occupies one cell of the flash memory. The X18-M and X25-M feature multilevel cell technology, in which four bits of data occupy one cell of the flash memory. That makes the X25-E optimized for performance and reliability of the data, and the X18-M and X25-M optimized for capacity.
Another difference is that the single-level cell technology offers a vast improvement over the multilevel cell technology in terms of number of write and erase cycles, making it more suitable for enterprise applications, Winslow said.
Intel plans to update its X25-E SSDs with 34nm technology in the near future, he said.
While the X25-M and X18-M SSDs, with their multilevel cell technology, are targeted at desktop and mobile PC users, some customers are using them for certain enterprise-class applications where their larger capacities compared to the X25-E SSDs are needed, Winslow said.
For instance, some customers with streaming video are using the X25-E drives because those applications have fewer requirements for writing data, he said.