Intel announced the third generation of its line of solid-state drives. The new drives are bigger, and less expensive than their predecessors, but are still exorbitant compared with similar capacity traditional hard drives, making the SSD still somewhat of a niche luxury.
Intel did more than just double capacity and lower the price of the solid-state drives. It also enhanced functionality and made performance improvements. So, let’s start with a look at what the new 320 Series SSDs bring to the table.
The 320 Series SSDs use the 3 gigabit per second SATA II interface for high-speed data read and write operations. Intel more than doubled the sequential write speed from the second generation X25-M SSD line, and can sustain one of the highest read throughputs available on any drive. The blazing read and write speed enable the PC to multitask–downloading a video from the Web, and playing music in the background, while writing a document in Microsoft Word–without introducing any notable lag on the system.
Intel built the 320 Series SSDs using a proprietary firmware and controller–demonstrating that not all SSDs are created equally, and that the architecture of the hardware can make a significant difference in performance. The new SSDs have added redundancy to protect data, even in the event of a power loss, and include 128-bit AES encryption to protect the data stored on them.
Pete Hazen, director of marketing for the Intel Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) Solutions Group, stated in the Intel press release, “Intel’s third generation of SSDs adds enhanced data security features, power-loss management and innovative data redundancy features to once again advance SSD technology. Whether it’s a consumer or corporate IT looking to upgrade from a hard disk drive, or an enterprise seeking to deploy SSDs in their data centers, the new Intel SSD 320 Series will continue to build on our reputation of high quality and dependability over the life of the SSD.”
As mentioned earlier, the 320 Series SSDs also increase capacity and reduce costs compared with the X-25M drives. The new SSDs come in 40GB, 80GB, 120GB, 160GB, 300GB, and 600GB models. The price for the new drives in 1000-unit quantities will be $89, $159, $209, $289, $529, and $1,069 respectively. Retail prices on individual drives will be slightly higher than these wholesale prices.
I understand that the SSD is faster, and that it is supposed to be more reliable due to the lack of mechanical moving parts, but the price still has to come down before it will be embraced by the mainstream. The catch-22 of that quandary is that if the drives catch on in the mainstream the economy of scale might help bring the costs down further.
As it stands right now, though, you can buy a 2TB Seagate Barracuda drive at Best Buy for $100. That is more than three times the storage capacity of the 600GB SSD for less than the wholesale cost of the 80GB SSD. When SSD prices drop below one dollar per gigabyte, it might be easier to justify the higher price for the performance benefits, but more than 10 times the cost for less than one third of the storage is just not a good deal.