As Intel ships 160GB SSD, pricing nags buyers

Solid-state drives are still a pricey alternative to hard disks, even as drive makers jockey for position with ever more capacious offerings.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. PST with pricing information.

Intel is now shipping 160GB solid-state drives as it vies with Samsung and Toshiba to deliver high-capacity SSDs that rival hard-disk drives in capacity. Price, however, remains a big obstacle for many consumers.

Intel

Intel said Monday that it will add 160GB versions of its X25-M and X18-M Serial ATA (SATA) solid-state drive. To date, Intel has limited shipments to its 80GB versions. Laptop-size 2.5-inch versions of the 160GB drive are shipping now; 1.8-inch models for ultraportable laptops will ship next month, Intel said.

Larger-capacity drives from other SSD suppliers are also on the way. In November, Samsung said it had begun mass production of 256GB SSDs. And Toshiba recently said it would show a 512GB drive at the Consumer Electronics Show in January that would ship in the second quarter of 2009.

Solid-state drives are generally faster at getting data than hard-disk drives (and in some cases, much faster) but pricing is a big hurdle for consumers. Toshiba indicated last week that sample quantities of its new solid-state will range in price from $220 for the 64GB drive to $1,652 for the 512GB drive.

That kind of pricing--even if it's for pricey sample drives--is hard to swallow when a laptop-class 500GB hard-disk drive sells for well under $200.

"Introductory" pricing for the Intel 160GB solid-state drives is $945 for less than 1,000 units, Intel said.

Currently, adding an Intel 80GB solid-state drive option to an HP EliteBook 2530p ultraportable laptop adds $659 over the cost of a 5400RPM 1.8-inch 120GB hard disk drive.

Adding a 128GB solid-state drive to an Apple MacBook Air ups the price by about $500.

Additional comments:: Note that the only first-tier PC vendor to publicly say it is using Intel SSDs is Hewlett-Packard. This is a significant customer for Intel since HP is the largest PC vendor in the world. HP offers Intel SSDs in all of its EliteBook notebooks.

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