Intel announces 34nm flash X25-M and X18-M SSDs

Subject: Storage | July 21, 2009 - 03:56 PM |
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Earlier today Intel announced their second generation SSD line.  Models will retain the X25 and X18 names, but will contain "G2" at the end of their model numbers.  The G2 drives are based on new Intel 34nm flash, which promises to bring speeds up a bit.  The smaller process will enable more units per wafer and will ultimately bring costs down.  New processes normally take some time for the lower costs to trickle down to end users, but Intel plans to undercut the current market.  This is especially significant when you consider the X25 series are among the best performing SSD's available.  Here is a brief diff chart between the old and new lines, purely from the data we have available to us:

Spec

G1

G2

Sequential Read

250 MB/sec

250 MB/sec

Sequential Write

70 MB/sec

70 MB/sec

Read Latency

85 usec

65 usec

Write Latency

115 usec

85 usec

Read IOPS

35K

35K

Write IOPS

3.3K

6.6 / 8.6 K
Launch price

$595 / $945

$225 / $440

Intel states 70 MB/sec for writes, but we consistently see above 80 with recent firmware and I expect that trend will continue with the G2.  The smaller flash process enables lower latencies.  The greater than 2x improvement in write IOPS is likely from lower level optimizations of their controller data pipelines, and are unlikely to filter back to the G1 drives with newer firmware.  Pricing of these new drives is significant, but don't get too excited as the G2 figures are channel prices.  It will take some time for distributors to drop pricing near to that level.  Either way, this is a great step in both performance and pricing.


Intel has hinted that the one feature that *could* trickle back to G1 may not do so - TRIM support.  I realize many will scathe Intel for not rolling TRIM into G1 drives, but users should consider that Intel M-series drives are able to outperform the competition even without TRIM at play.  We will be diving deeper into the perceptible differences once we can get a few hours logged on a review sample.

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