Intel plans cheaper, higher-capacity solid-state drives

After years of an internal storage market dominated by conventional hard drives, solid-state drives are finally beginning to take off. Low-end sub-notebooks like the Eee PC rely on small SSDs exclusively, while ultra-portable laptops like the MacBook Air offer larger and more expensive models as options. Lenovo has even gone all-solid-state with its upcoming ThinkPad X300 business notebook.

Despite those strides, flash-based storage devices haven't entirely caught up with mobile hard drives in terms of price and capacity. According to a CNet blog, however, Intel plans to make some progress on both fronts in the coming months. The chipmaker is reportedly cooking up 1.8" and 2.5" SSDs based on multi-level cell flash chips, and it plans to unveil them later this year. The drives will have storage capacities ranging from 80GB to 160GB, and they'll couple 300MB/s Serial ATA interfaces with blazing-fast transfer speeds.

CNet doesn't mention any actual performance numbers, but it quotes Intel NAND Group Marketing Manager Troy Winslow as saying the drives will perform "much better" than today's fastest offerings, which can hit read speeds of almost 100MB/s. "When Intel launches its...products, you'll see that not all SSDs are created equal," Winslow elaborates, adding that "the way the controller and firmware operates makes a huge difference."

Fast and high-capacity SSDs aren't of much interest to most folks if they cost several grand a piece, but Winslow tells CNet Intel expects "steep declines" in SSD prices over the next couple of years. Prices have typically fallen 40% per year, and Winslow thinks that could accelerate to 50% per year in 2009 and 2010. (Thanks to DailyTech for the tip.)

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