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

The Prelude

I spent about three weeks working on my review of Intel’s X25-M SSD. Most of that was research and writing and re-writing to not only review the product but also to talk about the rest of the SSDs in the marketplace and their deficiencies. Truth be told, I spent more time working on SSDs that weren’t the X25-M than the Intel drive itself. The Intel drive just worked as it should, the rest of them didn’t.

If you read the article, you know I was pretty harsh on some of the SSDs out at the time and if you’ve ever used any of those SSDs, you know why. Needless to say, there was some definite fallout from that review. I’m used to negative manufacturer response after a GPU review, but I’m always a bit surprised when it happens in any other segment.

I took a day or two off after that review went live, I think it was a day. Afterwards, I immediately started working on a follow-up. There was a strange phenomenon a few people noticed, something I unfortunately picked up on after the review went live; if you filled the X25-M up and re-benchmarked it, it got slower. And I had no idea why.

A few weeks later, I had it figured out. But then Nehalem was right around the corner. I’d tackle it after that. But then a new batch of SSDs from OCZ and other vendors were almost ready. I told myself I’d do them all at the same time. Then CES happened.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

If you look at the SSD market today, you’d assume that it’s very different from what it was just six months ago when the X25-M launched. People are worried that the Intel drive has issues with degrading performance over time. Some vendors are now shipping “revised” JMicron drives with multiple controllers, supposedly fixing all of the problems I talked about last year.

I hate to break it to you guys. As different as the world may seem today, it’s all very much the same.

The Intel drive is still the best of the best. Yes, it, and other SSDs do get slower over time and later in this article I’ll explain why it happens and why it’s not as big of a deal as you’d think. The issues I complained about with the JMicron drives from last year are still alive and well today; they’re just somewhat occluded.

Delay after delay kept me from writing this article, but I believe it’s for the best. What went in to what you’re about to read is nearly six months of research, testing and plain old work with SSDs.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect. We’re about to see a new wave of SSDs hit the market and it’s time to separate the fact from the fiction, the benchmarks from reality and the men from the boys. The last time I wrote an article about SSDs I ruffled quite a few feathers. That’s never my aim, but we’ll see what comes of this one.

Bringing You Up to Speed: The History Lesson
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  • gwolfman - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    You own Anand. Keep up the good work. I've seen you cited from many sites about the work you've done, in particular with SSDs. Best article I've read in months! Reply
  • Franco1 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    I've been waiting a long time for this review. It was certainly worth the wait! I would love to see some benchmarks with 2+ drives in RAID configurations via onboard and add-on controller cards. Maybe another follow up? Reply
  • Howard - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Looks like the Vertex is the drive to get, especially once the user base expands a bit. Reply
  • MagicalMule - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the article. Everyone is critiquing grammar and all this nonsense it seems, but I really enjoyed the article.

    It was very thorough and very informative.

    Keep up the good work. =).
    Reply
  • futrtrubl - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    You missed out a VERY significant step that causes the greater part of the slowdown associated with your scenario. After the block is read out to cache the block has to be erased before it can be written to again and as you pointed out earlier an erase cycle, and thus the entire read/modify+erase/write cycle, takes a relatively LONG time, much longer than a simple read/modify/write.

    Edward
    Reply
  • DrKlahn - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    I've worked in IT for 15 years and have played with very fast arrays and know a fair amount about storage. 2 months ago I replaced my Raptor boot/gaming drive with a GSkill Titan. In day to day use I have no stuttering. The only stutter I have seen was while installing a large patch, surfing with multiple windows/tabs open and using Outlook. It wasn't even a second. I did align the partition, turned off drive indexing and defragmentation, and turned on caching. In day to day use it simply kills the Raptor. Games and applications load in a fraction of the time. Vista boot time has decreased dramatically.

    This isn't a case of purchase justification. If the drive was a dud I would have moved it to a secondary machine, reinstalled the Raptor, and chalked it up as a bad decision. I simply have not run into any scenario in daily use that it performs worse than the drive it replaced and I have not seen any real stuttering in daily use.
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    I have a GSkill Titan drive also and really like it. However, my experiences while positive overall, do not compare with yours when it comes to stuttering (yes, all optimizations have been done to the drive and OS). I still have significant stuttering problems when using multiple IM programs and having multiple windows/tabs open at the same time. I literally have to wait a few seconds when texting colleagues if more than two conversations are occurring at the same time as the system pauses, hitches, and stutters in this scenario. It is especially aggravating when on Skype and trying to text, speak, and transfer files at the same time. This does not occur on the Intel drive in my testing. Apparently, it is no longer a problem on the OCZ Vertex or Summit drives. Except for my example above, I would certainly use the Titan drive over my Raptor any day of the week. Reply
  • druc0017 - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    great article, keep up the good work, cant wait to see more updates, thx Reply
  • mikeblas - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    Is the Velociraptor really "World's fastest hard drive", as this article states? Faster than the Hitachi SAS drives? Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, March 18, 2009 - link

    We have changed those statements to "...fastest consumer desktop hard drive...", that was the original intent of the statement, just clarified now. :) Reply

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