Intel X-25M

By Koushik Saha on 18.11.08

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How big a deal is Intel’s entry into the solid-state-drive game? The announcement of the company’s new X-25M SSD, and a faster version for enthusiasts, all but overshadowed details of the company’s next-generation CPU at its fall developer conference.

After testing Intel’s entry-level SSD, we can understand why. The X-25M offers the fastest read speeds we’ve ever seen from a single SSD or hard drive.

How fast? The 10,000rpm Western Digital Velociraptor (reviewed September 2008) offered sustained transfer speeds of 98MB/s. The $1,500 MemoRight MR25.2-32/64S GT from our SSD roundup (November 2008) turned in read speeds of 112MB/s. The Intel X-25M hits 206MB/s read speeds.Not all is roses though. The X-25M SSD is based on the more-affordable multilevel chip (MLC) technology. The Achilles’ heel of MLC drives is subpar write performance. For example, the RiData and Super Talent MLC-based drives in our seven-drive SSD roundup averaged write speeds of about 23MB/s. The X25-M is almost three times faster than the other MLCs, but it can’t touch the write speed of drives that are based on single-level chip (SLC) memory. The slowest SLC drives hover in the 80MB/s range, with the faster drives pushing 100MB/s.

The X-25M SSD took a hit in our Premiere Pro benchmark, in which we write an uncompressed Microsoft AVI to the drive. The Velociraptor hard drive continues to be the best performer in our Premiere Pro benchmark, with the Memoright SSD coming in a close second.

That’s probably the only thing that dampens our enthusiasm for this drive. The X-25M’s read speeds are simply to die for—you’d have to run lesser SSDs or hard drives in RAID 0 to even come close. Just think about what you’d get from two X-25Ms in RAID 0.

This is just one of many SSDs you can expect from Intel. The company plans to release a 160GB SSD next year. For enthusiasts, Intel will soon introduce the X-25E, with 250MB/s reads and 170MB/s writes. Because it will use SLC technology, though, it’ll be far pricier.

As for the X-25M, we’re unimpressed by its write performance, but since its read speeds are twice as fast as those of the other SSDs we’ve tested, and it costs about a third of what the fastest SLC drive on the market runs, we have no choice but to pronounce it Kick Ass worthy.

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