Be sure to read our latest SSD article: The SSD Relapse for an updated look at the SSD market.

No one really paid much attention to Intel getting into the SSD (Solid State Disk) business. We all heard the announcements, we heard the claims of amazing performance, but I didn't really believe it. After all, it was just a matter of hooking up a bunch of flash chips to a controller and putting them in a drive enclosure, right?

 

The closer we got to release and the more time I spent with competing products, the more I realized that Intel's biggest launch of 2008 wasn't going to be Nehalem - it was going to be its SSDs. If Intel could price them right, and if Intel could deliver on the performance, the biggest upgrade you could do for your PC - whether desktop or notebook, wouldn't be to toss in a faster CPU, it would be to migrate to one of these SSDs. Combine Nehalem and one of these mythical SSDs and you were in for a treat. But that was a big if...Intel still had to deliver.

We already talked about the drives back at IDF. The Intel X25-M and the X18-M, available in 80GB capacities, 2.5" and 1.8" form factors (respectively) with 160GB versions on the way. Today we are allowed to share performance data and pricing information, one of which is more impressive than the other. Intel will be selling the X25-M at $595 MSRP through OEMs and channel vendors, although I hear the street price may be lower.

 

Both of the -M models are based on Intel's MLC flash, while a X25-E using SLC flash will be due out by the end of this year. I'll detail the differences in a bit.

The pricing is rough, that puts Intel's X25-M at cheaper than SLC drives on the market but more expensive than MLC drives. Your options are effectively to get a 128GB MLC drive, an 80GB Intel X25-M or a 64GB SLC drive. But as you can expect, I wouldn't be quite this excited if the decision were that easy. Over the next several pages we're going to walk through the architecture of a NAND flash based SSD, investigate the problems with current MLC drives (and show how the Intel drive isn't affected) and finally compare the performance of the Intel drive to MLC, SLC and standard hard drives (both 2.5" and 3.5") in a slew of real world applications.

If you want to know the ending first I won't make you wait. Intel absolutely delivered with its first SSDs. After I completed my initial testing of the drive I sent AnandTech Senior Editor, Gary Key a message:

"I think Intel just Conroe’d the HDD market."

Honestly, within 6 months I'd expect it to be just as important to have one of these drives in your system, as your boot/application drive, as it was to have Conroe in your system back in 2006. The only issue here, the only problem I have is the price. I was hoping for something much lower from Intel and although the pricing is justified based on the performance, it ensures that the X25-M like most high performance SSDs, remains a luxury item.

While the X25-M isn't the world's fastest storage device across the board, it is among the fastest. And in the areas that it does dominate, it does so unbelievably well. The other great thing? You’ve got one of the world’s fastest hard drives, and it can fit in your notebook.

Let's get to it.

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  • aeternitas - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    Wow.

    #1 Meaning; Great read.
    #2 Meaning; Why do you not use World of Warcraft in your testings more? This game still has huge system requirements on absolute full settings in crouded areas. No one is getting 60fps in that game in Shatt on a saterday night 16xAA/AF full distance view. Everything maxed running a high resolution. Also, the disk access of this game may not be as much as Crysis, but its far FAR more prolonged as people play this game for a matter of years, instead of a handfull of months tops.
    Reply
  • hoohoo - Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - link

    What?! Google Chrome Launch Time? Is this a new benchmark? The world was waiting for that test I can tell ya! Did Google slip a little something in your pocket? Reply
  • Ph0b0s - Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - link

    Sorry if this repeats what anyone else has said, but I think this is the best harddisk review I have seen. All the other hdd reviews I have read though, all go into detail about how many mb/s the drive can transfer and what the access time is, I/O performance etc. This is all very nice, but all we really care about is how does the hdd perform in real world apps and games in comparision to other drives. How much faster is my browser going to load.

    And that is why I was so impressed with this review. I realise it probably took more time to create this review, but it was well worth it. You can see how much the drives in the comparision compare to the amount of money you will spend instead of having to extrapolate from throughput benchmarks.

    I would feel a lot more confident in putting down money on the X25 after this review. Because I can see what the benefit I would get after in comparsion to other drives. Though the X25 needs to be another $100 dollars cheaper...

    Anyway, please more hdd reviews like this...
    Reply
  • bruto - Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - link

    Anand, could you please post map load times for R6 Vegas 2 using
    these drives?
    That game was killing me, and I'd like to know just how much
    happiness is around the corner :)
    Reply
  • FFFFFF - Tuesday, September 09, 2008 - link

    I am very familiar with the tech works of SSDs and it is interesting to know of the security risk that involves the technology. http://www.techworld.com/SECURITY/NEWS/index.cfm?n...">http://www.techworld.com/SECURITY/NEWS/...cfm?news...
    This is one reason why I am not going to upgrade to SSD just yet till they figure out a more secure encryption.
    Reply
  • cokelight - Tuesday, September 09, 2008 - link

    RE: PLEASE LEARN HOW TO USE COMMAS! by ggordonliddy, 19 hours ago

    You are just making it clear that you do not have a firm grasp of English. You are afraid of those who criticize poor grammar, because you know that you yourself will be exposed for the fraudulent pustule that lies beneath your slimy veneer.

    I have a life. I'm just sick of illiterate authors. Just because it is a tech site is no excuse for extremely poor writing skills. I'm talking about skills that should be completely mastered before being allowed to graduate from elementary school.

    ^
    Take your elitism elsewhere. If you actually practiced what you preached then you'd note your own comma abuse:

    "You are afraid of those who criticize poor grammar, because you know that you yourself will be exposed for the fraudulent pustule that lies beneath your slimy veneer."

    The second clause is dependent. Therefore, it does not necessitate a comma.
    Reply
  • aeternitas - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - link

    Use the reply link. Reply
  • xenon83 - Tuesday, September 09, 2008 - link

    "Do keep in mind though, the numbers we're talking about here are ridiculously low - even 900 µs to write to MLC flash is much faster than writing to a mechanical hard disk."
    But when it comes to random writes ssd's in general - this intel ssd included - fails miserably.
    http://www.alternativerecursion.info/?p=106">http://www.alternativerecursion.info/?p=106
    Reply
  • johncl - Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - link

    Yes as the other poster say, the Intel drive have solved the issues with small random writes that the OZC and other MLC drives so far have been suffering from. If you read the whole article thoroughly you will see that clearly.

    Lets hope OCZ can come up with a better controller in their next generation MLC SSDs. We really need the competition here to bring those prices down, the Intel drive is a tad too expensive atm imo.
    Reply
  • balotz - Tuesday, September 09, 2008 - link

    Random writes are exactly as fast as sequential writes on this Intel SSD (10,000 random 4k writes per second).

    The article you referenced uses data from an SSD which appears to suffer from issues relating to the JMicron controller.

    The Intel SSD is obviously not affected, this is clearly shown by the numbers in this very review!
    Reply

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