Intel 320 Series SSD boosts capacity, drops cost

The newly announced Intel SSD 320 Series represent a significant upgrade to the company’s existing lineup of solid-state drives. This series boosts capacity to a maximum of 600GB and improves performance, at a better price than the generation of SSDs it replaces, Intel’s popular X25-M series. We ran the drive through our tests in the PCWorld Labs, and found that it did indeed hum in its performance — putting it right up there among a tight and fast field.

The 320 Series fulfills the promise of Intel’s 25-nanometer (nm) multilevel cell (MLC) flash manufacturing process. This process, which ramped up production through 2010, increased SSD capacity points and reduced production costs by packing 8GB of storage on a single 167mm flash die — which is twice the capacity the previous 34nm process could produce.

With the 320 Series, Intel has gone beyond simply revving the flash inside. Everything about the SSD is redesigned. It uses an all-new Intel controller and supports 128-bit AES encryption (joining the parade of self-encrypted drives that are fast becoming standard fare). The 320 Series also enhances data reliability through extra data arrays that amplify the error correction already in the flash, and adds a fail-safe to enable the drive to complete writing a file even if it’s been interrupted by a loss in power.

Given these new features, the drive should have no difficulty appealing to its target audience of consumers and business users alike. Intel even expects the 320 Series to find a home in data center and server applications, as a replacement for 15,000rpm hard drives.

Intel declined to supply expected retail pricing, but the company expects the drives to sell in quantity for $89 (40GB), $159 (80GB), $209 (120GB), $289 (160GB), $529 (300GB), and $1069 (600GB). By comparison, the 256GB Crucial RealSSD 300 currently sells at retail for $475, and the 160GB Intel X25-M sells for about $410.

Intel has said it expects the 160GB SSD 320 Series to sell for “about $100” less than the X25-M. Still, considering that a year ago a 256GB SSD cost around $750, if Intel’s expected volume prices can translate into retail prices, Intel’s new lineup could help speed SSD adoption.

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