Intel set a new benchmark for SSD performance when it launched its X25-M range of solid-state drives in 2008. While the chip maker promptly updated the range a year later, even those second-generation X25-M SSDs now look fairly dated when compared to more recent alternatives, of which there are plenty in an increasingly competitive market. Intel on Monday ended a two-year-long wait for its third generation of SSDs by announcing the new Intel SSD 320 series.
A password bug forced Intel to halt shipments of its new 34nm X25-M G2 SSDs after some customers -- including OEM builder Puget Systems -- complained of data corruption if a password is set on the drive in the system BIOS and then is changed or disabled later. Intel was able to hammer out a firmware update that squashes the bug and resume shipments of the new drives.
For those who purchased one of the potentially faulty drives before they were pulled, Intel has posted the firmware update to its website. The firmware applies to both the X25-M and X18-M SSDs on 50nm (black case, G1) and 34nm (silver case, G2), however there are some issues with the latest firmware.
According to Intel, some Nvidia chipset-based systems, including Macs, will not recognize an Intel SSD. The solution? Install the SSD in a different system to update the firmware and then reinstall in the Nvidia rig. Other potential roadblocks include a "known website compatibility" issue with Apple Safari (Intel recommends running Firefox to download the update), and the Firmware update Tool does not support updating SSDs in systems running RAID.
Much to the delight of power users who avoided the temptation of spending too much for too little capacity in Intel's first-generation X25-M solid state drives, the chip maker earlier this week announced a second generation of SSDs with a die shrink (34nm down from 50nm) and reduced pricing. Even better, Intel's latest pricing has at least one competitor reevaluating its own price points.
That competitor is OCZ, who said it plans to reduce prices on its Vertex, Agility, and Colossus SSD lines. Pricing for Intel's 80GB and 160GB X25-M (34nm) check in at $2.81 and $2.75 per GB respectively, while all but one of OCZ's nine drives receiving a price cut will undercut Intel by at least a few cents per GB, with the 128GB Agility expected to cost $2.11 per GB.
While OCZ is so far the only manufacturer to announce price drops, don't be surprised to see other third-party SSD makers forced to do the same as a result of Intel's comparatively aggressively pricing strategy.
Look for OCZ's price cuts to go into effect in the coming weeks.