• Recommended by TR
Intel X25-M 80GB SSD


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Ever since we first heard the news, we've been giddy with anticipation at the prospect of Intel moving into the SSD market. With its expertise in all manner of integrated circuit design and its massive fabrication capability, if anyone could turn these much hailed mass storage devices from an expensive niche product into a truly mainstream commodity then Intel was it.

Now, finally, these drives are here. Well actually they're not quite available in the shops yet - for that we'll have to wait a few months still - but we do at least have one in our office for testing.

As Hugo reported on the day of their official launch, the eventual line-up will consist of two basic ranges dubbed E and M. The former will be the flagship, performance range and will come in 32GB and 64GB flavours and have sustained read and write speeds of 240MB/s and 170MB/s respectively. The (M)ainstream range, meanwhile, will be available in rather more attractive 80GB and 160GB capacities, with drive size of 1.8inch (X18) and 2.5inch (X25), but will only have read speeds of 250MB/s and write speeds of 70MB/s. Today we're looking at the 80GB X25-M.

To understand the differences between the two ranges we have to get a little technical. You see, all flash memory devices are based on the same basic building block, the floating-gate transistor.

Essentially, the floating gate stores electrons and it's the number of these electrons that determines the threshold voltage of the cell. It's this voltage that is then measured to determine the state of the cell. When the threshold voltage is above 5.0V, say, the cell is read as erased (yes, it's the opposite way round to how you'd expect). Below 5V, the cell is seen as being programmed.

This type of memory is called Single Level Cell, as the transistor has only one threshold voltage so can store only one bit - the cell is either charged or not.

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September 17, 2008, 9:14 am

Fairly badass then.. if only it were half the price and double the capacity. I guess we are going to have to wait another year or so. If I go for a SSD drive it'll have to be SLC. Just for the peace of mind.

Peter Morris

September 17, 2008, 12:20 pm

Thanks for the review, Ed. I work in professional audio and have ben testing fast USB drives as my audio disk for sometime with mixed results...

My need is for a drive that is always ready and has the fastest R/W possible so that multiple audio tracks can be read and written simultaneously. Simple enough and the fast HDDs do the job - up to a point. Typically a pro rig will have 1 disk for the system (including Logic, Pro Tools or other audio app), 1 disk for samples & virtual instruments, 1 disk for recording and playing back audio and 1 disk for video content (when scoring to film for example). A combination of internal disks and FW800 so as not to flood a single bus normally works well.

What concerns me is the inexplicable hits that SSDs sometimes take. I can understand it when an app has ben swapped out, when memory has ben paged out, when an HDD has spun down or encounters RPS latency. What causes the X25-M to take a bath on Windows shutdown? It's 60% slower than the Velociraptor. I've read other reviews that also have an inexplicable hit but in other areas. It's almost as if there is some kind of occasional initialisation issue or bottleneck.

It's hard to say to an artist: "Sorry - system fault. I lost that great take" so instabilities are far worse than predictable but inferior performance. There are strategies when the system behaves predictably but not when there are glitches.

Long preamble to a short question: are there glitches in SSD performance? Perhaps these are masked or averaged out in multiple tests but might manifest themselves according to Murphy's Law. What of the Windows Shutdown anomaly? Any ideas?

I'll still try it anyway, of course. When simultaneously reading and writing audio from the same disk (even with decent size buffers), the head movement is something I'd like to eliminate so that part of it is a no-brainer. As for capacity, the audio disk seldom needs to be bigger than 20GB for a recording session. I would archive after every session to RAID, whether using Velociraptor or SSD. 80GB is fine for work in progress.




September 17, 2008, 12:45 pm

agree - need to be way cheaper

but only use I can see over a mechanical drive is in laptops, silent media pc's or if you need the ultimate performance....

It would have been interesting to have compared it against a drive with high areal density of 300gb+ per platter and 32mb cache as well as the raptor.

capacity wise - no competition seeing as the Seagate 3.5" 1.5Tb drive will be available this month for way less that half the price of this SSD...

Simon J

September 17, 2008, 12:50 pm

Is there any reason why the Intel drive was not matched against the latest OCZ Core 2 SSD? I appreciate that the OCZ drive uses the faster SLC chips (and clearly demonstrates just how much performance Intel has gained from MLC chips) but this drive is an earlier generation example and it would have been nice to see how Intel's drive compares to it's direct rival.

Will we see such a comparison by using the Core v2 60 or 120gb drive? After all I don't think TR has yet reviewed this drive and it has been available for sale in the UK for a little while now?


September 17, 2008, 1:20 pm


It wasn't a conscious decision to not compare the OCZ core range, we just haven't received one yet. From what I gather, though, the core drives are nothing special.


The VelociRaptor is significantly faster than the high capacity drives that you're referring to. If you want some numbers then check out the VelociRaptor review:


Previous SSDs have exhibited anomalous performance, as referred to on page 2, but I didn't encounter any such problems with this drive.


November 17, 2010, 9:25 pm

Just bought one of these drives (the G2 of course) last week for use as a boot drive in my desktop. I appreciate that the G3 will be out soon (and even better) but my need was urgent following a HDD failure.

This drive is absolutely superb. The BIOS takes longer to load than Windows 7. Hibernation is even better as return to operation is near instant. Everything that runs from this drive loads extremely quickly and the general "feel" of Windows (albeit a fresh install) is extremely responsive.

I'm very happy with my purchase and look forward to the next generations that are much bigger, faster and even cheaper. I won't buy another PC (or laptop) without one.

Finally. The drive weighs virtually nothing and whilst I had it running outside the PC it didn't warm to the touch at all. And (ofc) it's completely silent.

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