Intel yesterday announced its second-generation solid-state drives.

Intel made a splash with it launched its first solid-state drive (SSD) last year: its models delivered the best performance we'd seen on SSD to that point.

The company yesterday announced its second-generation drive, the Intel X25-M Mainstream SATA Solid-State Drive (SSD). The new 2.5in drives, available in the same capacities as before - 80GB and 160GB - uses smaller and less expensive 34nm NAND multi-level cell flash memory, which translates to big cost savings for consumers.

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The previous X25-M used 50nm flash circuits. Intel says the new iteration has improved on some aspects of performance, boasting up to a 25 percent reduction in latency (which translates into greater speed for accessing data); Intel says a hard disk drive's latency spec would be at 4,000 microseconds, while the new X25-M carries a rating of just 65-microseconds.

The new drive also has faster random write Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) as compared the first-generation model: it's up to two-and-half-times as fast for the 160GB model, and 2X as fast for the 80GB.

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Intel says the 80GB model can deliver up to 6,600 4KB write IOPS performance, while the 160GB model can achieve 8,600 IOPS. Likewise, the drives feature a similar boost in random write performance, which Intel says will translate into faster system and application responsiveness.

Notably, Intel rates the life expectancy of these mainstream drives at 1.2 million hours mean time between failure. By comparison, only enterprise-class magnetic hard disk drives are given comparable ratings by hard disk drive makers.

The new X25-M models carry significantly lower prices as compared with the previous generation drives. Now, the X-25M 80GB has a channel price of $225 (compared with $595 a year ago), and the 160GB version has a channel price of $440 (down from $945).

Intel's price move is bound to make SSD a more affordable and viable option for consumers than it has been thus far. The X25-M drives still carry a price and capacity premium - storage-hungry fiends will look to hard disk drives with more than triple the capacity, not look to the Intel SSDs to satisfy those needs. But SSD has its strengths, especially if you're using it for disk-read intensive tasks.

And for those users looking we anticipate more SSD makers will turn to the new flash chips to achieve competitive pricing with Intel; and the new pricing should help drive SSD adoption, which has been slow to take off in the past couple of years.