The SSD Improv: Intel & Indilinx get TRIM, Kingston Brings Intel Down to $115by Anand Lal Shimpi on November 17, 2009 7:00 PM EST
- Posted in
TRIM is a huge step forward in SSD maturity and readiness for the masses. There are only so many people who have the patience to listen to a NAND flash explanation to understand why their luxury storage device gets slower the more you use it. TRIM not only simplifies the problem but it makes SSDs work the way they should. When you delete a file TRIM ensures that the file is no longer tracked by the SSD. And it just works.
The driver limitations are a bit annoying, especially given Intel knew this was coming. Difficulty in coordinating schedules is one of the downsides of having such a huge organization.
It's also ridiculous that Intel has done nothing to take care of it's original X25-M G1 customers. Those who spent over $600 on Intel's first SSD deserve to be taken care of but instead they get no TRIM support and no SSD Optimizer. Both of these are things that Indilinx has offered it's customers before Intel. Vertex owners have had a wiper tool since before Intel ever announced intentions to enable TRIM on the G2.
The write speed improvement that the Intel firmware brings to 160GB drives is nice but ultimately highlights a bigger issue: Intel's write speed is unacceptable in today's market. Back when Indilinx first arrived there was no real threat, but today Intel is facing a much more mature group of competitors. Our heavy trace benchmark is a prime example of why this is an issue. I fully expect Intel to address it with the third gen drive next year but it makes buying a drive today unnecessarily complicated.
From a compatibility standpoint, Intel has the advantage. It's just a much larger company than Indilinx and has the ability to do more compatibility/reliability testing.
The performance side is a bit more difficult to break down. The more sequential writing you do to your drive the more you'll stand to benefit from Indilinx's higher write speeds. In nearly all other situations the two controllers perform similarly or Intel is in the lead. The fact that both controllers support TRIM makes it even more difficult.
The easiest way to decide continues to be to buy the largest drive you can afford. 64GB? Indilinx. 80GB? Intel? 128GB? Indilinx and 160GB Intel. If you're buying an Indilinx drive the rate of firmware releases pretty much dictates that you'll want to buy from OCZ or SuperTalent. None of the other Indilinx manufacturers have Windows 7 TRIM support yet (Crucial has now posted a firmware update with TRIM support). The additional testing and exclusive agreements that OCZ/ST have with Indilinx provide their customers a tangible advantage in this case.
Kingston's 40GB option is super interesting. Anyone who's sold on SSDs will probably opt for a bigger drive but if you're on the fence, the Kingston solution might be for you. The write speed is disappointing but for application launches and boot time it's got the speed. If Newegg can keep these things in stock at $85 after rebate it's a gold deal. I'd prefer the price without the rebate but these things are still selling at a premium unfortunately.
Next year SSDs will get even more interesting. I attended a couple of Intel's SSD tracks at IDF this year and got a glimpse into what Intel is working on. Through TRIM and other architectural enhancements Intel is expecting to deliver much higher consistent performance on its future SSDs, regardless of how full they are. We can also expect to see a decoupling of capacity from the number of channels the controller supports; right now Intel has a couple of oddball sizes compared to the competition, but future designs will allow Intel to more closely mimic HDD capacities regardless of controller configuration.
I still firmly believe that an SSD is the single best performance improvement you can buy for your system today. Would I recommend waiting until next year to buy? This is one of the rare cases where I'd have to answer no. I made the switch last year and I wouldn't go back, it really does change the way your PC behaves.