Intel laced up its gloves and boldly entered a new arena: the solid-state drive market. The chipmaker on Monday announced its first NAND flash memory product to a market dominated by heavyweights such as SanDisk and Samsung.
Intel's Z-U130 Value Solid-State Drive is based on NAND flash memory. NAND flash drives come with inherent advantages over hard disk drives, including faster boot times, embedded code storage, and rapid data access, and can serve as low-power storage alternatives for value PCs, routers, servers, gaming, and industrial applications.
The Z-U130 comes in sizes of 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, and 8 GB. The company said that, with read rates of 28 MB/sec and write speeds of 20 MB/sec, its solid-state drive is a faster storage alternative that can speed through common PC or embedded application. Still, at 32 GB, SanDisk's latest offering dwarfs Intel's.
"Eight gigs would be more than enough for the applications Intel is targeting," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, noting the chip giant's focus on value PCs, routers, servers, and industrial applications.
SanDisk, by contrast, is aiming at the conventional notebook PC market with its offering. "If you look at the potential benefits -- quicker boot time and improved battery life -- the SanDisk technology will probably play very well in mobile and ultraportable notebooks," King said. "That's not a place with the size limitations that Intel can play right now, but it probably could over time."
Let the Battle Begin
Beyond SanDisk, Samsung recently announced a hybrid drive, which incorporates NAND flash memory and offers capacities up to 160 GB of magnetic storage coupled with 4 GB of flash memory for caching data. That, again, might put Intel at a disadvantage with customers looking for maximum storage capacity.
Intel said it would distinguish its Z-U130 from other solid-state products with reliability. According to the company, the product underwent extensive validation, including more than 1,000 hours of accelerated reliability testing, and Intel expects it to meet an average mean time between failure (MTBF) rating of five million hours.
Stability and reliability are key factors in the solid-state drive market. However, King said the benefits of solid-state flash are fairly common across all vendors. "It's so early right now," he explained, "it's tough to say which vendor is going to be more reliable."