If 2010 was the year of the tablet, 2011 may well be the year of the SSD. Earlier this year, Apple upped the ante by using flash memory chips instead of a traditional 2.5 or 1.8-inch drive in its new MacBook Airs and earlier this week Intel released a new line of tiny mSATA SSDs that connect a notebook’s PCIe slot. Dubbed the Intel SSD 310, the chip-makers new drive provides the same blazing performance as its earlier X25-M drives in a package that’s 1/8 the size.
While end users will not be able to use the SSD 310 as an upgrade part for any current notebooks, the drives will enable a new generation of notebooks. With the small form factor, vendors will be able to either save precious space by eschewing 1.8 or 2.5-inch drive bays altogether or pair the SSD 310 with a 2.5-inch mechanical hard drive to provide both speed and capacity. As part of Intel’s announcement, Lenovo disclosed that it will use the SSD 310 as a boot drive in some of its notebooks, giving users a fast place to store their operating system and programs while providing them with a standard hard drive for storing data.
“The Intel SSD 310 series will allow us to provide the advantages of a full-performance Intel SSD paired with the storage of a hard disk drive in a small, dual-drive system,” Lenovo Director of ThinkPad Product Marketing Tom Butler said in an Intel press release.
Notebooks aren’t the only likely destination for the tiny mSATA SSD. Tablet makers, many of whom currently use slow PATA SSDs, could use SSD 310 to provide much faster read and write performance for their devices. As part of Intel’s announcement, DRS technologies said that its new ARMOR communications rugged tablet will use the drives.
Initial pricing for the Intel SSD 310 is $99 for the 40GB capacity and $179 for an 80GB version, both in quantities of 1,000. With those initial sizes, we expect the drive to be used primarily in combination with standard hard drives as Lenovo is doing, but perhaps in the future, Intel or some other SSD-maker will release larger capacity drives in the new mSATA form factor.
We hope to see notebooks featuring the new SSD 310 in the very near future, perhaps at CES 2011.