Micron unveils its first 1TB SSD -- for under $600

At about 60 cents per gigabyte, the M500 is priced well below average SSD pricing

LAS VEGAS -- Micron on Thursday unveiled its first terabyte-sized solid-state drive (SSD) for consumers, the Crucial M500, which will sell for under $600, or 60 cents per gigabyte.

The new SSD, almost doubles the capacity over its predecessor the 512GB C400 drive, and comes in several versions, including an ultrathin card. A 2.5-in. laptop drive version that can hold up to 960GB of data will sell for $599.

M500
The 2.5-in. laptop version of the Crucial M500 SSD

The Crucial M500 SSD uses the latest SATA 6Gbps drive interface and performs at up to 80,000 input/output operations per second (IOPS). The drive's sequential read and write speeds reach up to 500 MBps and 400 MBps, respectively.

By comparison, OCZ's first 1TB SSD, the Octane, delivers up to 560MBps read performance and up to 45,000 random IOPS, but at about $1.10-$1.30 per gigabyte, it retails for well over $1,000.

Online sites price the Octane from $2,549.99 and $3,006.99.

Samsung's latest high-performance SSD, the PM830, offers sequential read/write speeds of 500MBps and 350MBps, respectively; a 480GB model retails for around $800.

Intel's fastest consumer drive, the 520 Series SSD, can also deliver up to 80,000 4K-block random write IOPS and up to 50,000 4K random read IOPS. And, it boasts sequential read/writes of up to 550MBps and 520MBps, respectively -- according to Intel's specification sheet.

While the performance may be similar to the new Micron SSD, the price isn't.

Intel's 520 Series SSD retails for $999 for a 480GB model, based on 1,000 unit orders. You can also find the Intel 520 SSD on sites such as Amazon.com for little more than $1 per gigabyte of capacity.

The 60-cent per gigabyte M500, introduced at International CES here today, is priced well below the average 80- to 90- cents-per-gigabyte price of most SSDs today.

"It is an aggressive introduction for a high-density SSD, where per GB pricing is still over $1/GB," said Ryan Chien, an analyst at IHS.

"The peak performance is impressive as is fitting 960GB of NAND in a 2.5-inch form factor. However, many enthusiasts and businesses have been burned by low-cost consumer drives with poor quality characteristics, and sustained success of products in this segment ultimately depends on latency, endurance, and sustained performance during mixed workloads," Chien added.

The M500 uses Micron's densest NAND flash chips, made with 20 nanometer node lithography. Micron claims the 128Gbit-sized chips are an industry first.

The new SSD also comes with power management capabilities.

The average active power use is 150mW, but a Device Sleep mode allows that to be cut by 93% to only 5mW, said Ben Thiel, Micron's senior product marketing manager.

"By comparison, hard disk drives draw five to 10 times more power than this drive when its active," Thiel said. "With Device Sleep, we can still recover in less than 100 milliseconds, or about 65 milliseconds. All of this comes together with idea of giving ... a system builder the ability to claim extended battery life."

Form factors

Micron's new drive comes in three form factors: an M.2 SATA card that's not much larger than a stick of gum (22mm wide by 80mm long by 35mm high); an mSATA (mini-SATA) card (50.8mm long by 29.8mm wide by 3.75mm high); and a traditional 2.5-in laptop SSD.

The M.2 and mSATA drives are geared for use in tablets, ultrathin netbooks and thin clamshell-style notebooks, while the 2.5-in is designed to run in a typical notebook.

The M.2 and mSATA cards include 120GB, 240GB and 480GB capacity versions. The 2.5-in. SSD adds to the latter a 960GB model.

Micron would not release pricing of anything but the 960GB, 2.5-in model.

The M500 SSD comes with native, hardware-based 256-bit AES encryption.

The drive is also compliant with the Opal 2.0 Storage Specification from the Trusted Computing Group. The Opal specification provides for a secure boot capability (pre-boot authentication).

The M500 is compliant with Microsoft Window eDrive, also known as Encrypted Hard Disk Drive. Microsoft eDrive can be used With Windows 8, RT and Windows Enterprise OSes automatically encrypt a drive by using TCG and IEEE 1667 transport standards.

Additionally, Micron's new SSD includes a power loss data prevention feature that uses internal capacitors to store data for up to one microsecond after a system shutdown.

"We don't use DRAM as a buffer on our SSDs; that's used for page table management," Thiel said. "But we've all had software hang on us when we've hit to power button, and that's when data in flight is not saved. This addresses that."

The 2.5-in. Crucial M500 SSD is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2013 through global channel partners. The M.2 and mSATA drives are expected in the second quarter of 2013.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

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