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SSD Roundup June 2009

SSD Roundup June 2009

Intel X25-M SSD – 80 GB

This drive actually won our last SSD roundup however since then it has received a significant firmware update and is therefore worth covering again. Originally the drive was supplied to us by Intel with their Core-i7 review kit and therefore has no packaging or bundled items, the retail samples actually arrive in a very basic brown box with paper installation leaflet. We feel that the reason for this basic packaging is that people purchasing this drive have researched it and know what they are buying rather than Intel having to compete in the retail space with drives in other fancy boxes.

Externally the drive is reasonably plain, there is a sticker attached to the top of the drive which tells us that this is an 80 GB unit which uses the 3GB/s SATA 2 interface. This is a 2.5inch drive and is actually slightly thinner than most other models and weighs 80gramms. Power consumption is low, even for an SSD and is listed as 0.15w when in use and 0.06w when idle. Intel has chosen to offer a 2-year warranty on this device.

Inside the drive we find Intel’s own controller alongside ten NAND MLC flash chips which are branded with 29F32G08CAMC1. Alongside the controller we find Samsung DRAM but unlike other SSDs this memory is not used as a cache, for that the controller has 256kb on-die. The DRAM chip is actually used by the controller to decide on where to write data as part of the wear levelling and reliability algorithms. As well as offering these two features the X25-M is able to clean up its flash chips after periods of random writes to the drive. This ensures that future operations do not suffer from significant performance drops when the drive next tries to write to the flash chips. This is not ‘TRIM’ but it does give a similar effect in that it ensures the drives performance does not suffer from large drops in performance over time. In terms of performance the X25-M is rated for 250MB/s read and 70MB/s write.

As mentioned above Intel recently released a firmware update for this drive and the process to update was simple. Download an ISO, boot from it, let the tool find and flash the drive(s), reboot. One of the benefits of Intel’s firmware and flash process is that data on the drive is maintained where as on some competitors’ products the drive is wiped by the flashing process. We would still suggest that consumers back-up data before flashing but in theory that backup should not be required.

Finally, Intel has confirmed for us that the X25-M will support TRIM in Windows 7 when it is released.

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Stuart Davidson

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