Time for an SSD? Intel drops 120GB to $249

Intel has introduced its most competitively priced solid-state drive to date, in an attempt to lure customers to this speedy storage option. Will consumers bite?

On Friday, Intel introduced its most competitively priced solid-state drive yet and will be selling the drive to consumers through major retail outlets. Are SSDs finally becoming a worthy upgrade?

Intel's 120GB solid-state drive goes for $249. Still pricey compared to HDDs but much more reasonable than a couple of years ago for this speedy storage technology
Intel's 120GB solid-state drive goes for $249. Still pricey compared to HDDs but much more reasonable than a couple of years ago for this speedy storage technology. Intel

The Intel X25-M 120GB Solid-State Drive is set to be offered at Best Buy and Fry's Electronics for a suggested retail price of $249. Newegg is already selling the drive. Competitive SSDs would include a 128GB drive for $269 from Crucial.

Though still pricey by traditional spinning hard disk drive standards (1 terabyte desktop HDDs can be had for less than $100), it's a dramatic change from two years ago when Intel was selling its 160GB SSD for $945 .

And now that drive is being sold at a suggested retail price of $415.

Generally, the allure of SSDs--which use flash memory--is that they can be extremely fast, leaving traditional hard disks in the dust when reading data, and can be more practical from a pure technological standpoint. Particularly in thin laptop designs like the new MacBook Air or Sony Vaio X series that cannot accommodate the relative bulk and heat of a standard hard disk.

Price has been the primary reason solid-state drives have failed to take the storage world by storm since their introduction to the mainstream consumer in January 2008 with the debut of the MacBook Air. That packed a 64GB SSD, sending the initial price of the high-end Air at that time to almost $3,000.

Times have changed, of course, with the new 11-6-inch MacBook Air selling for $1,199 with a 128GB flash drive. And an increasing number of laptops from Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Toshiba, and Sony are sold with an SSD option. But it's still a pretty stark choice for many consumers. If a buyer opts for a 128GB SSD in the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the price jumps $300 over the standard higher-capacity 320GB hard disk. Add 512GB of solid-state drive storage to the 13-inch Pro, and it leaps a whopping $1,400.

There may be a more cost-conscious alternative, however. Hybrid drives, which combine spinning disks with flash memory, are expected to become more prevalent . Seagate, for example, offers a 500GB Momentus XT hard disk with flash added for extra speed. It sells today for $129.

For its part, Intel is trying to make the migration to SSDs as smooth as possible. The Intel drive also includes a free cloning utility--Intel Data Migration Software, which assists in transferring information from the old hard drive, including operating systems, applications, documents, and personal settings. It can be downloaded free of charge here.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.


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