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By | Chris Mellor 4th March 2011 10:11

Intel re-invents its mainstream SSD

X25-M stays as 510 is announced

Intel has announced a 510 solid state drive (SSD) line that greatly increases the read/write bandwidth, but has lower IOPS numbers compared to its existing X25-M SSD products.

The X25-M is a 2.5-inch form factor SSD using 2-bit multi-level cell (MLC) flash. There is a 1.8-inch form factor version as well as a lower cost and performance line (X25-V) and a faster but now quite old single level cell (SLC) product, the X25-E.

The X25-M and 510 both use MLC 34nm flash chips from the fabs jointly owned by Intel and Micron, although the fabs are producing 25nm flash which is used by Micron. The 3Gbit/s SATA interface X25-M has a 10-channel controller while the 510 makes do with eight channels but has a faster 6Gbit/s SATA interface.

Intel's 510 comes in 120 and 250GB capacities whereas the X25-M has 80, 120 and 160GB capacity points. The X25-M achieves 35,000 random read IOPS, significantly more than the newer 510's 20,000. It is also faster with random write IOPS; 8,600 versus the 510's 8,000. The relationship is reversed when looking at sustained I/O performance though, with the X25-M left in the dust.

It does 250MB/sec when reading and up to 80MB/sec when writing. The 510 reads twice as fast, up to 500MB/sec reading with the 250GB version, and is almost four times faster when writing, up to 315MB/sec, a vast improvement. Read-write asymmetry has been lessened and the overall numbers are higher as well. The 120GB 510's numbers are not so good; 450MB/sec reading and up to 210MB/sec writing, but still greatly better than the X25-M. It shows what a 6 gig SATA interface and new controller functionality can do, albeit with two fewer I/O channels, eight instead of the X25-M's 10.

The X25-M still shows up on Intel's website; it has not been end-of-lifed yet, but its days must be numbered. We also expect Intel to bring out 25nm products with a possible 400GB capacity SSD this year. Intel says "the [510] product is available now and comes in a 250GB capacity priced at $584 and a 120GB at $284, for 1,000-unit quantities". ®

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