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Intel X25-M 80GB SSD - Intel X25-M 80GB SSD

By Edward Chester


  • Recommended by TR
Intel X25-M 80GB SSD


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However, there is an alternative type of flash memory, called Multiple Level Cell (MLC), that uses the same basic transistor but the number of electrons on the floating gate, and thus the threshold voltage, can be controlled more accurately. By cutting up the voltage range into more slices, more bits can be stored in each cell. In some cases this can be as many as 3 bits (8 voltage levels) but the most common is the 2 bit (four level) cell.

Thus, MLC technology is able to store more information per cell than SLC, resulting in a lower cost per megabyte and generally happy faces all round.

Unfortunately, there are a number of drawbacks to MLC memory.

First, the floating gate's ability to store electrons deteriorates each time the transistor is charged and discharged. Eventually this will lead to the threshold voltage no longer reaching its trigger point so the cell will never register as being charged and the cell will not store data properly.

For SLCs it takes around 100,000 charge/discharge cycles before errors can occur but because the gap in threshold voltages between each state in an MLC is much smaller, they have considerably less tolerance to deterioration. The result is MLCs can only last around 10,000 charge/discharge cycles before data corrupts.

Also, because of the more delicate way in which charging must be controlled, it takes longer to program an MLC, resulting in slow write speeds for MLC memory devices. It's worth noting, then, that Intel's E drives will use SLC memory and its M drives, MLC memory, which explains the performance figures stated on the previous page.

Having seen that each cell can potentially last only 10,000 cycles, I'm sure alarm bells are ringing for a few of you. However, you shouldn't be worried because by using some sophisticated data distribution and error checking algorithms, Intel ensures its drives can write 100GB of data everyday for five years before errors will occur, though they only warrant the drives for three years.

So, that's the basic SSD theory and it's largely the same for any of the SSDs out there but what's really interesting is what extra expertise Intel has brought to the party. Whereas most SSD manufacturers just make the memory and buy in a controller chip (or in the case of companies like OCZ, they buy in the whole lot, give it a tweak, and rebrand it), Intel has the expertise to design and make every aspect of its SSDs from the ground up.

The result is the near elimination of one of the most common problems with existing SSD solutions - the controller just can't keep up with the read and write commands it is dealing with. This scenario manifests itself as random pauses when doing seemingly innocuous tasks, which can make the experience of using an SSD little better than a conventional hard drive.

By using its own super-fast controller, Intel ensures that its SSDs will always exhibit that snappiness that is the biggest boon of SSDs in the first place.

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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: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...


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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