Tiny SSDs for Embedded Designers

Dec. 30, 2010
Intel's 3 Gbit/s SATA-based SSD 310 Series plugs into a Mini PCI Express socket.

Intel 310 SSD (top and side view)

Intel 310 SSD and 2.5-in drive

Intel has been in the solid state disk market (SSD) for quite awhile. It's latest Intel SSD series uses a 3 Gbit/s SATA interace and plugs into a Mini PCI Express socket. The 50.80 mm x 29.85 mm form factor is being called m-SATA. The Intel 310 SSD (Fig. 1) targets embedded applications as well as laptops and tablets. It is available in 40 Gbyte and 80 Gbyte capacities. The SSD is significantly smaller than 2.5-in hard drives (Fig. 2).

The SSDs utilize Intel 34nm, multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash memory. As with most SSDs, the number of flash chips dictates the throughput because chips can be read and written in parallel. The module uses a 10-channel controller internally. In this case, the sustained sequential read bandwidth is 170 Mbytes/s for the 40 Gbyte SSD and 200 Mbytes/s for the 80 Gbyte SSD. Write speed is slower but the differences are greater. The sustained sequential write bandwitch is 35 Mbytes/s and 70 Mbytes/s for 40 Gbytes and 80 Gbytes respectively. The drives deliver 25 K IOPS and 35 K IOPS respectively for 4K random reads. That is impressive but far short of high end enterprise SSDs. Of course, the two are designed for much different applications.

The Intel 310 SSD components weigh in at only 10 grams and are only 4.85mm thick. The active power is typically only 150mW and idle power is half that amount. The operating temperature is 0°C to 70°C.

The SSDs can be used as primary drives but are likely to be used to accelerate hard drives on larger laptops. They make ideal primary drives for smaller tablets and mobile devices. For embedded applications they provide an excellent primary storage device. They are fast, small and rugged. They also take advantage of standard SATA interfaces allowing designers to easily support these devices or larger hard drives.

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