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App Drive: Intel X25-M 160GB SSD

Tom's Hardware's 2009 Gift Guide: Part 1, For System Builders
By: Ed Tittel

Everybody knows that solid state disks run blazing-fast, and that among the fastest in this crowd are the X25-M drives from Intel (see Patrick Schmid’s and Achim Roos’s in-depth review for all of the gory details). Suffice it to say here that Intel’s 10-channel drive controller provides outstanding access and load balancing for the device (limiting overuse of individual memory locations, and speeding up read/write access using an intelligent controller design) with some truly awe-inspiring sequential read/write and I/O numbers.

Average access time is a mind-boggling 0.1 ms, with a staggering 3,500 I/O operations per second for typical database workloads (IOMeter 2003.05.10 at shorter queue depths of up to 16 or so). The file server I/O operations per second stay consistently above 4,000 per second for the same version of IOMeter at all queue depths (normal drives clock under 200 by comparison). The X25-M also outperforms lots of other SSDs, most notably the Samsung SLC-based models. Read/write speeds are equally impressive: just under 200 MB/sec for average read, and about 74 MB/sec for average write speeds (here, the Intel unit more than doubles the Samsung’s read performance, but falls about 15 MB/sec below its write performance, as expected from MLC technology).

You’ll still pay about $600 for the 160GB X25-M drive (half that amount for an 80 GB model). That’s a lot of money for storage, and even an SSD , but what you get in return includes lots of tangible benefits for system users. On all PCs, of course, the X25-M delivers blazing read/write speeds, and outstanding I/O performance overall. That translates into faster boot-up and shutdown (under 30 seconds for either is typical on many XP, Vista, and Windows 7 installations), and also into faster drive operation overall. For real speed freaks, swapping a conventional hard disk, even a WD Raptor or VelociRaptor, will result in noticeably quicker operations, particularly for the system drive. On notebook PCs, users obtain the same speed benefits, but also gain a boost in battery life: average power requirements are anywhere from half to two-thirds that of conventional notebook hard disks while they’re working, and do even better at idle.

It’s hard to think of any single system component that can deliver a more substantial performance boost for an existing system. If you’ve got a speed demon in your household, or want to give your own PC a real leg up, you could do a lot worse than to acquire an Intel X25-M SSD. It’s a real winner.

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