When we last left off Intel’s X25-M continued to prove its worth as the best desktop SSD on the market today. But there was new hope in a small controller company based in Korea called Indilinx. Thanks to some quick acting, Indilinx and OCZ were able to put forth the first true value alternative to the X25-M: the Vertex SSD.


In Indilinx we Hope

Now other manufacturers are beginning to ship Indilinx Barefoot based SSDs and the latest updates to the controller’s firmware make the SSD even faster than what I tested just a week ago.

Although I thought I’d be done with SSDs last week, the saga continues with a few minor updates important to anyone looking to buy an SSD today.

The Intel Update

I met with Intel this week to talk about its SSD roadmap as well as where the X25-M is today. Unfortunately I can’t talk about most of the details yet, but more information is coming.

The performance issue PC Perspective uncovered is indeed a real issue, although not something that I’ve been able to run into outside of running specific benchmark patterns. I mentioned it was a non-issue in my last article and now, armed with even more information, I’m even more confident in that. I can’t say much now, but it won’t be too much longer before I can.

A few readers wrote me and asked why the X25-M doesn’t work under Bootcamp on NVIDIA based Apple systems (e.g. the new MacBook/MacBook Pro). I didn’t have an answer at the time but I looked into it. It turns out that there is a compatibility issue with some of the 80GB X25-Ms and those platforms, but Intel does have a fix.

For starters, if you have a 160GB X25-M or X18-M, you aren’t affected by this issue; bootcamp will just work. The latest production of the 80GB X25-Ms are also not affected by this issue, but not the original drives. If you have an earlier X25-M and one of these Apple machines and are experiencing Bootcamp compatibility problems Intel wants you to contact its support staff for a fix: http://www.intel.com/support/

Remember what I wrote in my last SSD piece: “I’d venture a guess that Intel would not leave its most loyal customers out in the cold after spending $400 - $800 on a SSD. I can’t speak for Intel but like I said, stay tuned.”

I’ll have more updates on the Intel drive in the coming weeks.

The Vertex Update
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  • Patanjali - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    If Indilinx made the decision to do it off their own bat, OR it is not subject to a subcontracting agreement (that is, doing the firmware exclusively for OCZ), then they are free to offer it to all and sundry.

    In some industries, even though specific customers pay for changes, they are made available to all customers after a delay period.

    It really depends upon who has who over a barrel.
    Reply
  • siliq - Wednesday, April 01, 2009 - link

    With Anand's huge article and other articles, it's clear that the sequential read/write thoroughput doesn't matter so much - all SSDs, even the notorious JMicron series, can do a good job on that metric. What is relevant to our daily use is the random write rate. Latencies and IOs/second are the most important metric in the realm of SSD.

    Based on that, I would suggest Anand (and other Tech reporters) to include a real world test of evaluating the Random Write performance for SSD. Because current real-world tests: booting windows, loading games, rendering 3D, etc. they focus on the random read. However, measuring how long it takes to install Windows, Microsoft Visual Studio, or a 4-GB PC Game would thoroughly test the Random Write / Latency performance. I think this is a good complementary of our current testing methodology
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    They did test that, see the FarCry 2 installation directory at the end of page 6. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Thursday, April 02, 2009 - link

    Page 5, page 5, edit, edit, edit... Reply
  • Patanjali - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    I don't know if I missed it in the article, but I didn't notice the reason for the degradation.

    Is it:

    a. Faults in the firmware

    b. Faults in the controller

    c. Faults in the flash devices themselves, or

    d. Progressive increase in the proportion of the SSD blocks that need erasing before rewrite?

    To me, it seems that it might be d, especially when using sectors that are small compared to the SSD native block size.

    I would be interested to see results for the same tests using 64kB sectors on all drives. For normal files (OS, apps and data), that would increase the space wastage by 8%, but is negligible for multimedia (where the file size is very large compared to the sector size).

    I would expect such a change may well produce better overall performance as it would reduce the multiple full block rewrites that result from changes to multiple small files in the same block.

    Some rough benchmarking I have done showed a 50% better real world copying of 1GB of files of various sizes between HDD drives compared to using default Vista sector sizes.

    If the random write performance is better with larger block sizes, some wastage might be a small price to pay. We have been used to the compromises in using HDDs for so long that compensating for some SSDs downsides should be allowed.


    My main interest in using SSDs is for a quiet and cooler Digial Audio Workstation (DAW). I currently have four 150GB WD Raptors making noise and over 40W of heat (requiring more noisy fans). A lot of planning and effort goes into optimising the HDD usage and partitioning.

    And now some modern software sampled instruments are hundreds of GB that need fast, responsive storage media. Streaming hundreds of sample streams at once, I would expect HDDs to be spending most of their time seeking. SSDs would seem to be the solution for this, in that they have very short access times, allowing many more accesses per second, coupled with fast read times (to allow getting to the next stream faster). Reading does not seem to have any of the issues giving SSDs bad press.

    However, having fast, silent drives for OSs (need multi-boot with one tweaked for audio performance) and projects (which have multiple read streams and simultaneous writes when recording) would complete the quiet profile.
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    Not to put OCZ down as I wish for them to continue to be a contender and to bring on competition (it's good economics), but...

    for some reason it just seems like there is a little too much butt-kissing ever since the first article. Granted final points are made, but the first article was so objective and true. If you put out a crap product, then sales should drop. Anand, despite your relations with the manufacturers, if they want to stop sending you products, it's on them.

    You can just wait til retail versions to review them, but the truth is the readers are going to side with you and not buy a product they don't know much about.
    Reply
  • Tuvok86 - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    yeah I noticed a little butt-kissing going on, but I understand it, since OCZ was totally trashed by Anand regarding the whole Jmicron story so this kind of makes up for it, don't you think?
    It's good that OCZ recognised its errors and listened to customers and reviewers, and this has to be acknowledged to them
    Reply
  • LinkerX - Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - link

    I think OCZ does a good job with customer service and PR, which means a lot coming from a small firm. I decided to buy a vertex drive after reading these reviews because it beat up on the raptor.

    I do not mind firmware upgrades etc... as long as the performance keeps improving.
    Reply
  • 7amood - Monday, March 30, 2009 - link

    I am still amazed by your reviews... I just can't ask for more.
    Keep it from your heart.
    Reply
  • araczynski - Monday, March 30, 2009 - link

    very nice, good to see someone slapping intel around a bit, again. intel may be the cream of the crop right now, but at their prices, that cream can just sit out in the sun for all i care.

    looking forward to see how things change/improve when the real sized drives (500+GB) come out.
    Reply

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