Intel X25-M 80 GB SSD

Madana Prathap 2009-05-15
84 Very Good
Price: Rs 13,500

Full Review

PC hardware today is pretty fast for most purposes. The biggest bottleneck that remains is that of the hard disk – the slow speed at which data is read and written to the HDD when requested to by the processor. This is being solved by using Solid State Drives (SSD) that use NAND flash technology, as against the spinning magnetic platters used by hard disks so far. The Intel X25-M 80GB drive (where M stands for Mainstream) is meant to be the drive that brings SSDs to mass market. We received the model SSDSA2MH080G1GC, which has a 2.5-inch form factor similar to laptop hard disks.

Enthusiasts would take to an SSD right away, considering that it makes no noise at all, doesn’t heat up, and can withstand shocks.

Enthusiasts would take to this drive right away, considering that it makes no noise at all, doesn’t heat up, and can withstand shocks (such as falling from a desk onto the floor). It helps conserve power too, with its rated usage of 0.06W (60 milli-Watts) at idle and 0.15W (150 milli-Watts) during read/write operations. Considering that normal desktop drives consume about 5 Watts, this drive uses only a fraction, about one-hundredth which is saying quite something!

We run synthetic benchmarks and real world tests using the fastest PC components, to ensure no bottlenecks hold back performance. Read speeds averaged a consistent 174.4 MBps – right across the drive, without ever a dip in the speed graph. Write speeds averaged a consistent 75.7 MBps with a CPU utilization of 5 per cent. Random access times averaged 0.23 ms (milli-seconds). In comparison, most desktop drives average 75 MBps read, 60 MBps write, and 12 ms random access time.

Real world write speed while copying a single large 6.42 GB onto the SSD stood at 73.86 MBps. Copying multiple smaller files (800 files totaling up to 6.36 GB) onto the SSD was almost the same speed, at 73.17 MBps – this is a good thing. Copying multiple small files from one partition to another, was at 51.28 MBps. All of these are good speeds, especially in conjunction with the low access time which ensures that data can be fetched almost instantly.

The speeds we measured in our real-world speeds though, were a bit one-sided – when transferring files from our source HDD (Western Digital VelociRaptor 300 GB) to the SSD, the limitation was the SSD’s write speed. The reverse, copying files from the SSD onto the VelociRaptor was almost child’s play since the SSD supplied data at 216 MBps and the limitation was the VelociRaptor drive’s write speed!

To name just one area of the many where we noticed a large performance difference, loading times for heavy applications (like Photoshop) changed from taking a few seconds, to starting almost instantly. Unlike magnetic HDDs that use a buffer (of 8, 16, or 32 MB) this drive does not have one, simply because it doesn’t need it (the entire SSD consists of flash memory, which is what is used as buffers on magnetic drives). This drive uses multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash which is slightly slower than the single-level cell (SLC) tech used in Intel’s faster X25-E (Extreme) SSDs. Flash memory is meant to be able to go through only a certain number of write operations, after which the cells wear out. To reduce the impact of this, this SSD uses so-called wear leveling, so that it lasts longer. Most users will never hit this ceiling of write operations within a reasonable time period (around 3 years atleast), and most day-to-day operations on the hard disk are read-related, so it is not something that you will have to worry about.

The only reason this SSD doesn’t get an even higher rating, is that newer entrants like the Kingston SSDNow V+ 64GB exceed the write speed of the X25-M. Also, the current generation of high capacity normal spinning magnetic HDDs easily exceed its sequential write speed and are much cheaper. However, if you can afford it, this is ideal for usage as an OS drive. Intel offers a limited warranty of 3 years on this drive.

Bottom Line

With low power consumption, no noise/heat and a read speed of almost 200 MBps, this Solid State Drive simply can’t go wrong. This relatively affordable drive is a must-buy for enthusiasts looking to speed up their computer. Prices might fall later but for now, all you’ll get after paying for this drive is 80 GB of storage capacity. If you need lots more storage, get the Kingston SSDNow V+ 512GB. If your budget is lower than the asking price of the X25-M 80GB, buy a well-priced 64GB SSD from Kingston or Strontium.

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