Here's some sobering news if you're hoping to pick up a low cost, high capacity solid state drive (SSD) any time in the near future. According to A-Data chairman Simon Chen, the SSD market won't experience robust growth for at least another two years.
NAND flash chips are at the root of problem. While the development of chip controllers have matured and TRIM support is now commonplace, NAND flash memory still costs way too much to push SSDs into the mainstream on any kind of level approaching hard drives.
Chen did note that NAND flash chip prices have come down a little bit since the fourth quarter of 2009, but not nearly enough to make an impact. Market research firm DRAMeXchange backs Chen's claims, noting that contract quotes for mainstream 16Gb (gigabit) multi-level cell (MLC) chips have stayed high at $4.06 so far this month.
Patriot on Wednesday launched a new line of SSDs built on top of the JMicron JMF612 controller. According to Patriot, you can expect "aggressive pricing and performance" from their Zephyr series.
"As solid-state drive technology advances, it is becoming more affordable, allowing SSD solutions to reach an increasing segment of end users. Patriot's objective is to offer the latest technology in our solutions which provide the best performance and price options", states Les Henry, Vice President of Engineering at Patriot. "Our Zephyr family of SSDs offer great performance, aggressive pricing and the inherent benefit of SSD technology over antiquated hard disk drives: quicker boot times and shorter application loading times. Including a Zephyr SSD in your desktop or notebook upgrade plans provides one of the best bang-for-the buck improvements you can make to your system."
That's all well and fine, but while Patriot was busy tooting its own horn, the company failed to mention exactly how much these new drives will cost. However they did release capacity and performance numbers, which breaks down as follows:
Zephyr 256GB: 240MB/s read, 180MB/s write
Zephyr 128GB, 240MB/s read, 145MB/s write
Zephyr 64GB, 240MB/s read, 85MB/s write
All three drives also ship with native support for the TRIM command in Windows 7. No word yet on when these will be available.
Come this summer, Micron will go gunning for the high-end enterprise hard drive market, but not with an HDD of its own. Instead, the company will release its SATA 3.0-based P300 SSD line, which it hopes will replace 10,000RPM and 15,000RPM HDDs.
"We think [the P300] is going to lend itself much better to this space," said Kevin Dibelius, senior product marketing manager for Micron.
In addition to pushing data through a 6Gbps interface, the upcoming SSD will also use ONFI (Open NAND Flash Interface) 2.1, which is a faster connection between the flash silicon and the SSD controller. If all this sounds familiar, it's because Micron's existing C300 series share the same specs. The P300 series, however, will use SLC (single-level cell) technology instead of the cheaper MLC (multi-level cell) technology found in the C300 series.
Pricing hasn't yet been announced, but Micron did say the P300 line will ship in 50GB, 100GB, and 200GB capacities starting in June.
There's no mistaking OCZ's new Colossus LT SSD for what it is: a desktop drive. Measuring 3.5 inches, you're not going to stuff one of these inside your notebook, not if you have any hopes of it ever working again, anyway.
"Designed to offer PC enthusiasts a best-in-class storage upgrade from traditional hard disc drives, the innovative Colossus LT Series features incredible speed and ample storage for the complete gamut of gaming, multimedia and demanding productivity applications," OCZ claims. "The Colossus delivers all the proven benefits of SSDs such as superior system responsiveness, ultra-fast data access, and greater durability, while providing the storage capacity desktop users demand."
Available in 120GB, 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB configurations, the Colossus shatters the notion that SSDs have to be short on storage. Noteworthy features include an dual-controller design, internal RAID 0, 128MB of onboard cache, background garbage collection, read and write speeds up to 260MB/s each, sustained writes up to 220MB/s, and max IOPs of 15,000 (4K random).
Street pricing starts at about $450 and goes on up to about $3,500.
Intel once blazed a trail into the high-end SSD arena with its X25 series, and while the Santa Clara chip maker's X25-E is no slouch wih read and write speeds of 250MB/s and 170MB/s, respectively, those are no longer best-in-class numbers.
Don't count Intel out, however. After completing the transition to 25nm NAND flash wafers in a joint effort with Micron, Intel is reportedly making new SSDs based on the die shrink. Codenamed Lyndonville, these upcoming SSDs are expected to run faster than anything currently in Intel's stable.
Lyndonville SSDs will use MLC-based NAND flash memory and will likely be aimed at the enterprise market. Capacities are expected to come in 100GB, 200GB, and 400GB when they launch in the first quarter of 2011, though no decision has yet been made on pricing.
It seems like every few weeks OCZ comes out with a new SSD, and this time around, the company announced two new products to its flash-based storage lineup. Both the Vertex 2 and Agility 2 target enthusiasts with high transfer rates and relatively high capacities.
"OCZ’s original Vertex Series of solid state drives have become a top seller due to the product’s exceptional performance and reliability," said Ryan Petersen, CEO of OCZ Technology Group. "The new Vertex 2 and Agility 2 SSD lines continue that tradition by incorporating the latest controller and firmware technology. They are an excellent solution for customers who are looking for improved transfer rates and best-in-class input/output per second (IOPS) for a wide range of uses, ranging from entertainment to workstation and tier 2 storage applications. Additionally, this new product line highlights our continuing determination to be the market leader in the high reliability memory and flash-based storage market."
Both drives come rated at up to 285MB/s read and 275MB/s write speeds, and both are available in 50GB, 100GB, 200GB, and 400GB capacities. So what separates the two? According to OCZ, the higher-end Vertex 2 has been tuned for 4KB random writes up to 50,000 IOPs, while the Agility 2 boasts random writes up to 10,000 IOPS.
When this week began, Xtremesystems forum member SteveRo held the PCMark Vantage world record with a score of 30,359,. Now SteveRo sits in second place, having conceded the top spot to Corsair Labs with a record-breaking score of 32,947.
"To demonstrate just how fast our products are, we decided to go after the PCMark Vantage world record," Corsair said. "This benchmark heavily stresses the entire system, not just he CPU and GPU like the 3DMark Series. With PCMark Vantage the memory and SSDs are stressed just as much if not more than the CPU and GPU, with almost all of the individual benchmark tests taking advantage of the fast solid-state drives."
SSD performance proved key in Corsair's successful attempt at taking the performance crown. Corsair's record-breaking system included eleven Force Series F200 SSDs along with Corsair Dominator GTX2 DDR memory. Overclocking also played a heavy role, with Corsair using liquid nitrogen to cool an Intel Core i7 980X processor and pushing the frequency up to a blistering 5.79GHz.
We'd all love to deck out our rigs with high-capacity, high-performance SSDs, but for most, it just isn't practical. That doesn't mean the benefits of an SSD are lost on the mainstream market, and if you're willing to settle for a lower capacity drive, there are some compelling options finally starting to appear.
As a result, there's a rush among SSD makers to cater to entry-level and mainstream consumers, and Kingston thinks it has a leg up on the competition. Citing un-named industry sources, DigiTimes says Kingston has shipped about 30,000 low-priced SSDs, prompting other companies to release low-priced units of their own.
If you ask Kingston, its 30GB SSD is the better option over Intel's new 40GB X25-V, and if looking strictly at street pricing, they're right, even if just barely. Intel's 40GB X25-V streets for about $125, or about $3.12 per GB. Kingston's 30GB SSDNow V Series streets for $92, or about $3.07 per GB. Kingston's drive is also rated a little bit faster with up to 180MB/s read and 50MB/s write speeds, compared to 170MB/s and 35MB/s, respectively.
Of course, hard drives still trump SSDs in capacity and price per GB, which begs the question, is anyone interested in these so-called value oriented SSDs? Hit the jump and sound off!
Is SSD pricing finally starting to trickle into the mainstream? We're not sure, but if the latest moves by OCZ and Intel are any indication, even budget buyers might be tempted to look at flash-based storage in lieu of mechanical hard drives.
Less than a week ago, OCZ announced its sub-$100 Onyx SSD line, and now Intel is saying it too is shipping a low-cost SSD. Intel's calling it the X25-V Value, which the company says sells for $125.
That's a little bit more than OCZ's Onyx, but it also offers more capacity at 40GB versus 32GB. The X25-V is built on a five-channel architecture with 10 4GB NAND flash chips. Compared to other SSDs in Intel's lineup, performance takes a hit, checking in at 170MB/s read and 35MB/s write speeds, although it does have native command queuing (NCQ) and offers up TRIM support.
"I think what Intel and OCZ are shooting at is a price point for the consumer," said Gregory Wong, a flash memory analyst at Forward Insights. "And it's whatever capacity you can get for $100. In my discussions with Intel, they're seeing good uptake of their 40GB SSD, but it's not going to replace a hard drive in a notebook."
It could, however, replace a boot drive, and might be the start of something beautiful (affordable SSDs).
We're not the least bit surprised that OCZ has come out with yet another solid state drive (SSD), but here's something you probably weren't expecting: It costs less than $100.
OCZ's new Onyx SATA II 2.5-inch SSD series looks to tackle the mainstream market by putting more focus on price than it does with raw performance or high capacity. Available initially only in 32GB form, the Onxy drive offers up to 125MB/s read and up to 70MB/s write speeds, so it's not going to knock out the competition. But it will make a solid argument for a netbook or boot drive.
"As new technologies become available, OCZ continues to expand both our enterprise and consumer SSD lines, and one of our goals is to make SSDs more affordable to end-users. Our new Onyx series SSD does exactly that and is a perfect solution for netbooks, laptops, or home desktop PCs," commented Ryan Petersen, CEO of the OCZ Technology Group. "Designed to offer the best of both worlds, the new OCZ Onyx SSD delivers the speed and reliability of solid state storage to mainstream consumers at an aggressive price point that makes the technology more accessible to customers who want to take advantage of all the benefits of the SSDs without incurring the high cost normally associated with the solution."
Few other details are available, such as which controller the Onyx uses, though we do know it comes with 64MB of cache and serves up TRIM support.
No word yet on when this one will make it to market.