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Meet Intel's SSD 310: Like X25-V, Only Smaller

Intel SSD 310 80 GB: Little Notebooks Get Big Storage Flexibility
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The 310-series marks the entry-point of mSATA for the masses. This new standard brings the native SATA protocol straight to a slot form factor. We are talking about pure SATA performance without any bottleneck.

In case you were wondering, the two sets of contacts on the cards pictured below do not correspond to the power and data connectors you'd normally attach to a SATA hard drive (15 pins and seven pins, respectively). Even still, the 52-pin interface hosts a pair of differential signal pairs, just like the desktop SATA interface.

If that number rings a bell, it's because that's how many pins you'd find on a mini PCI Express slot instead. We'll go into more depth on the slot specifics shortly.

Intel's latest SSDs are rather small, but they are supposed to deliver performance on par with full-sized SATA-based SSDs. Indeed, there's certainly the potential for high-end throughput, as the mSATA-based SSD 310-series uses Intel's PC29AS21BA0 NAND controller--the same one seen on the company's X25-M drives.

Remember, though, the controller represents only one variable in the SSD performance equation. Intel's X25-M and X18-M drives employ a 10-channel parallel architecture that facilitates sustained sequential reads of up to 250 MB/s and writes of up to 100 MB/s (for the 120 and 160 GB versions of the drives).

Though Intel doesn't cite the figure specifically, its SSD 310-series features five NAND flash ICs, suggesting a more conservative five-channel architecture employed on the 80 GB version we have here for testing, rated for up to 200 MB/s reads and up to 70 MB/s writes. Intel also claims 4K read IOPS of up to 35 000 and 4K write IOPS as high as 6600--identical to the 80 GB X25-M that earned so much praise more than two years ago when it launched.

The 40 GB drive's stats are notably handicapped in comparison, ducking in at up to 25 000 read IOPS and 6600 write IOPS. But with maximum reads at 170 MB/s and writes clocking in at up to 35 MB/s. Write performance, at least, might suffer compared to the faster 7200 RPM mechanical disks out there.

Incidentally, Intel's 40 GB X25-V also employs a five-channel architecture. Not surprisingly, its performance specifications are identical to the 40 GB SSD 310


40 GB
80 GB
Components
34 nm NAND Flash Memory (MLC)
34 nm NAND Flash Memory (MLC)
Read/Write IOPS
(maximum, Queue Depth 32)
25 000 / 2500
35 000 / 6600
Bandwidth Performance
Read/Write (Sustained)
170 MB/s
35 MB/s
200 MB/s
70 MB/s
Latency
Read/Write
65 μs / 100 μs
65 μs / 75 μs
Power On to Ready
1.5 s
Form Factor
mSATA (50.80 mm x 29.85 mm)
Operating Voltage (3.3V mSATA rail)
Min / Max
3.14 V / 3.47 V
Power Consumption (Typical)
Active/Idle
150 mW / 75 mW
Temperature
Operating: 0 C to 70 C
Non-Operating: 55 C to 95 C
Shock
 1500 G/0.5 msec
Vibration
Operating: 2.17 GRMS (5-700 Hz)
Non-Operating: 3.13 GRMS (5-800 Hz)


SSDs continue to be one of the most expensive upgrades, and the 310s is no exception to that rule. We were originally told to expect prices just under $100 for 40 GB and $180 for 80 GB, which falls in line with pricing for the X25-M. The price for the 80 GB version is a little high at the moment, because we only see it in stock at a single retailer. This should change once more inventory hits the market. Intel says that it's expecting motherboards to start popping up with mSATA slots onboard, which will give desktop enthusiasts an opportunity to try this technology out. Knowing full well that Intel intends to expose SSD-based caching on the desktop with its Z68 chipset in the Computex time frame, we wouldn't at all be surprised to see mSATA become even more prevalent on desktop motherboards in Q3'11 explicitly for that purpose.

Make no mistake, these diminutive drives are purpose-built for systems where there is no physical way to squeeze in a second drive: netbooks, thin-and-light notebooks, mini/sub-notebooks, all-in-one computers, nettops, and embedded platforms.


Street Price
Price/GB
Intel 310 40 GB
$100
$2.50/GB
Intel 310 80 GB
$200
$2.50/GB
Intel X25-M 80 GB
$170
$2.13/GB
Intel X25-M 120 GB
$225
$1.88/GB
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