Ever since we first heard the news, we've been giddy with anticipation at the prospect of Intel moving into the SSD market. With its expertise in all manner of integrated circuit design and its massive fabrication capability, if anyone could turn these much hailed mass storage devices from an expensive niche product into a truly mainstream commodity then Intel was it.
Now, finally, these drives are here. Well actually they're not quite available in the shops yet - for that we'll have to wait a few months still - but we do at least have one in our office for testing.
As Hugo reported on the day of their official launch, the eventual line-up will consist of two basic ranges dubbed E and M. The former will be the flagship, performance range and will come in 32GB and 64GB flavours and have sustained read and write speeds of 240MB/s and 170MB/s respectively. The (M)ainstream range, meanwhile, will be available in rather more attractive 80GB and 160GB capacities, with drive size of 1.8inch (X18) and 2.5inch (X25), but will only have read speeds of 250MB/s and write speeds of 70MB/s. Today we're looking at the 80GB X25-M.
To understand the differences between the two ranges we have to get a little technical. You see, all flash memory devices are based on the same basic building block, the floating-gate transistor.
Essentially, the floating gate stores electrons and it's the number of these electrons that determines the threshold voltage of the cell. It's this voltage that is then measured to determine the state of the cell. When the threshold voltage is above 5.0V, say, the cell is read as erased (yes, it's the opposite way round to how you'd expect). Below 5V, the cell is seen as being programmed.
This type of memory is called Single Level Cell, as the transistor has only one threshold voltage so can store only one bit - the cell is either charged or not.