Intel ships solid-state drives for PCs, plans server version

Intel has begun shipping solid-state drives for PCs, and plans to release server models soon.

Intel is shipping solid-state drives that are designed for use in desktop and laptop computers, the company said Monday.

The X-18M and X-25M solid-state drives fit into 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch drive bays, respectively. Both models use multi-level cell flash memory chips and come with storage capacity of 80G bytes and cost US$595, in 1,000-unit quantities. A 160G-byte version of these drives will be available to hardware makers in sample quantities later this year, Intel said.

The 80G-byte drives can write data at speeds up to 70M bytes per second and have a read latency of 85 microseconds, Intel said.

Solid-state drives are more costly than hard disks that store data on magnetic platters, but they offer several advantages. They have no moving parts, which makes them more reliable and consume less power. That also makes them silent, a feature that can be key in certain applications, such as home entertainment systems.

Besides higher cost, there are other tradeoffs with solid-state drives. Flash memory cells wear out over time, and this problem is more serious with multi-level cell flash chips. To get around this problem, drive makers use wear-levelling technology that relies on an algorithm that spreads write cycles evenly across all of the chip's memory cells. This prevents some cells from wearing out before others and extends the life of solid-state drives.

Single-level cell flash chips last longer than multi-level cell chips and can write data faster, but they are significantly more expensive. Solid-state drives based on single-level cell flash chips are generally designed for high-end applications, such as servers. Intel plans to soon release a solid-state drive, the X-25E, based on this type of flash memory.

Designed for storage arrays and servers, these drives will be available in about 90 days, the company said.

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