Third gen Intel X25-M specs leaked

Faster, bigger, cheaper?

THERE’S NO SECRET that Intel is working on a new range of SSD drives where the new consumer orientated drives oddly enough are listed as a refresh of the current Postville or X25-M G2 drives that Intel is currently selling. The third generation of X25-M brings a lot to the table, such as improved performance, larger capacity and potentially even lower pricing.

Anandtech has revealed what is expected to be the feature set of the new X25-M G3 drives and although some of the details have already leaked, the new information fills in a few gaps. For starters the new 25nm MLC NAND Flash based drives only appears to be getting a write performance boost from about 100 to 170MB/s whereas the read performance remains at 250MB/s. There’s no support for SATA 6Gbps either, although Anand does mention that this might come later via a firmware upgrade once Intel’s new chipsets arrive in 2011 with official support for SATA 6Gbps.

On the other hand, it seems like the random 4KB performance has been given a serious boost with the read performance going up from 35K IOPS to 50K IOPS and the write performance jumping from 8.6K IOPS to 40k IOPS. The new models will also have their life span boosted from 7.5-15TB of 4KB random writes to 30-60TB of 4KB random writes. Intel has also added a “power safe write cache” to the third gen drives which should not only help boost the performance, but it should also have some kind of backup power via a capacitor or a battery that allows it to store all its data onto the NAND Flash in case of a power cut. Another new feature is support for AES-128 encryption, but the details on how this is implemented are scarce.

We should be seeing capacities of 80, 160, 300 and 600GB which would make the third gen X25-M the largest consumer orientated SSD drive in the market. As with the current generation of X25-M drives, Intel will offer both 2.5 and 1.8-inch drives, although the 1.8-inch drives will top out at 300GB. Price wise Anand is expecting that the new drives should cost less than the current line-up which suggests that we should be seeing some very affordable models in the market and this could potentially tip the scale in favour of SSDs over traditional hard drives.

Intel is also readying a new range of SSDs for the enterprise market which goes under the codename of Lyndonville. Here we’re looking at a slightly different kind of MLC NAND Flash that is meant to meet enterprise grade applications and as such can handle more random writes to the scale of hundreds of petabytes. The Lyndonville or X25-E drives as they’ll most likely be known as will be available in 100, 200 and 400GB sizes and are expected to launch in the first quarter of 2011.

It looks like next year is going to be interesting when it comes to the SSD market as the new 25nm NAND Flash drives should not only help boost the capacity and performance of SSDs – especially in combination with some of the new controllers that are being developed – but hopefully also lower the cost of SSDs. We’re still some time away from when SSDs will become mainstream technology, but we’re at least on the verge of where more and more people will consider getting an SSD in favour of a hard drive in their notebook, or as a boot drive for their desktop system.S|A

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