Intel X25-M SSD: Intel Delivers One of the World's Fastest Drivesby Anand Lal Shimpi on September 8, 2008 4:00 PM EST
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At the high level, SSDs are still the key to truly solid performance and this is where the issues with the JMicron based MLC drives are really unfortunate, because it means that the most accessible SSDs on the market can actually deliver a pretty bad user experience. But if you look at what Intel's X25-M and the Samsung SLC drives can deliver, it's really quite good.
As I've mentioned before, the random write issues with JMicron JMF602 based MLC SSDs are simply unacceptable and in my opinion they make the drives unusable for use in any desktop or notebook that you actually care about. Next year we may see a JMicron controller that fixes the problem but until then, I'd consider those drives off limits.
This thing is fast, and I want one in my system...actually, two. It's the only SSD that I would actually go out, buy and stick in my desktop machine at this point. I think that's the first time I've ever said something like that in a review, but I'm absolutely convinced. I've been using SSDs in my systems for a few months now and I'm hooked.
What Intel did with the X25-M is show the world what is possible with MLC flash. You get better than SLC performance, at lower than SLC prices. Despite that, the absolute only thing that bothers me about Intel's X25-M is the price. Although Intel is totally justified in pricing the X25-M at $595, I was hoping for pricing inline with the JMicron based MLC SSDs. At $300 - $400 this would be a no brainer for any enthusiast, and honestly even at $595 it's worth considering if you have other drives for data storage.
The other complaint is obviously capacity; at 80GB you can get by with this being the only drive in a corporate notebook or even your personal notebook if you've got external storage, but in a desktop machine 80GB is a bit shallow. Thankfully with better reliability than conventional hard disks you should be able to put two of these in RAID 0, doubling capacity without any fear of reduced reliability. Then we get back to the pricing problem unfortunately.
If Intel can get capacities over 100GB at reasonable prices in the near future, I'd say that the X25-M would be the best upgrade you could possibly do to your system. I'm curious to see what pricing and availability will be like for the 160GB drives, but Intel is being pretty tight lipped about them.
The implications of the X25-M are tremendous. I mentioned before that it is the great equalizer between the notebook and desktop, you can finally have a desktop usage experience on your notebook if you've got one of these in there (or a SLC SSD). If capacities grow quickly enough, these SSDs could mean that desktops would start accepting 2.5" drives, allowing for smaller form factors. Apple is already doing this on the Mac mini, and we've seen 2.5" drives used in systems like the ASUS Eee Box, but now you don't have to give up performance.
Intel didn't start the SSD revolution but it sure did kick it into high gear. Companies like Samsung and JMicron are really going to have to step up their game if they want to compete with Intel going forward. While Intel was light on details about the tricks they implemented in their controller, it's clearly enough to completely change the way we look at MLC SSD performance. And if this is the sort of performance we can expect out of its MLC drive, I'm wondering what will happen when we look at its SLC drives.
To me this is bigger than Nehalem, but then I look at the price tag and think that Nehalem will probably be a cheaper upgrade. Intel redefined the performance of the MLC SSD, I only wish they also redefined the price...