Intel SSD 525 Review: Five mSATA Drives, From 30 To 240 GB

Test Setup And Benchmarks

Testing mSATA drives alongside 2.5" models poses a few issues. There are plenty of desktop motherboards with mSATA slots, but for continuity of testing, we have to use the platform you've seen in our stories for months. To that end, Intel smartly armed us with its Dale Crest mSATA Adapter to facilitate our benchmarking endeavors.

mSATA-based drives are powered using 3.3 V DC. SATA drives are predominantly powered via 5 V DC (and sometimes 12 V). The adapter allows our samples to connect like any other SATA drive, but could result in slightly skewed power numbers in the conversion process. Intel's mSATA adapters aren't publicly available, though a cursory search turns up several Asian-sourced units of varying quality and price. If nothing else, Intel's Dale Crest mSATA adapter is a fetching shade of blue.

Test Hardware
ProcessorIntel Core i5-2400 (Sandy Bridge), 32 nm, 3.1 GHz, LGA 1155, 6 MB Shared L3,
Turbo Boost Enabled
MotherboardGigabyte G1.Sniper M3
MemoryG.Skill Ripjaws 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1866 @ DDR3-1333, 1.5 V
System Drive Kingston HyperX 3K 240 GB, Firmware 5.02
Tested DrivesIntel SSD 525 30 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi

Intel SSD 525 60 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi

Intel SSD 525 120 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi

Intel SSD 525 180 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi

Intel SSD 525 240 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi

Intel SSD 320 300 GB SATA 3Gb/s, Firmware: 1.92

Intel SSD 320 80 GB SATA 3Gb/s, Firmware: 1.92

Intel SSD 330 180 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 300i

Intel SSD 330 120 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 300i

Samsung 830 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: CXMO

Samsung 830 64 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: CXMO

Crucial m4 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s Firmware: 0309

Crucial m4 64 GB SATA 6Gb/s Firmware: 0009

OCZ Vertex 3 240 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 2.15

OCZ Vertex 3 120 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 2.22

OCZ Vertex 3 60 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 2.15

OCZ Agility 3 240 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 2.22

OCZ Agility 3 120 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 2.22

OCZ Agility 3 60 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 2.22

OCZ Vertex 4 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 1.5

OCZ Agility 4 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 1.5

OCZ Agility 4 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 1.5

OCZ Vertex 4 64 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 1.5

Samsung 840 Pro 512 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: DMX02B0Q

Corsair Neutron GTX 240 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: M206
Graphics
MSI Cyclone GTX 460 1024 MB
Power Supply
Seasonic X-650, 650 W 80 PLUS Gold
System Software and Drivers
Operating
System
Windows 7 x64 Ultimate
DirectX
DirectX 11
Drivers
Graphics: Nvidia 314.07
RST: 10.6.1002
IMEI: 7.1.21.1124
Benchmarks
Tom's Hardware Storage
Bench v1.0
Trace-Based 
IOmeter 1.1.0# Workers = 1, 4 KB Random: LBA=8 GB, varying QDs, 128 KB Sequential, 8 GB LBA Precondition, Exponential QD Scaling
PCMark 7
Secondary Storage Suite
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14 comments
    Your comment
  • hero1
    Nice article. I would like to see more motherboard makers finding a way to include the mSATA slots right on the board like Gigabyte does. I think the ability to have your OS and programs on mSATA and leave the other SSD for games and storage is very welcome. This will be my next hunt, too bad I got rid of my UD5H because it had mSATA slot. I would like to see such feature in the X99/X89 platform.
    0
  • abbadon_34
    Interesting, if it wasn't a single brand.
    0
  • slomo4sho
    The 250 GB Samsung 840 still seems to be the best buy when evaluating price per performance as it is frequently offered at around $.60 or less per GB.
    1
  • abbadon_34
    damn site changes, no edit.

    Interesting, if some benches weren't Intel only, but all included the relavent competitors.
    0
  • sanilmahambre
    Impressive! but don't think i am wealthy enough to buy those
    3
  • damianrobertjones
    It is REALLY unfair to reduce the performance of smaller GB drives!
    1
  • dthx
    damianrobertjonesIt is REALLY unfair to reduce the performance of smaller GB drives!

    This is not something manufacturers do to just to p*ss off users who buy the smaller capacities.
    A small drive has fewer memory chips than a large drive. The controller has then fewer chips to efficiently spread the data to... and this leads to decreased performances. There's nothing immoral to that.
    It's not the same story like for example, a couple of years ago, Yamaha selling a 2x CD writer and a 4x CD writer at double the price ... and by removing one resistance, your 2x writer became a 4x model ;-)
    4
  • mapesdhs
    slomo4shoThe 250 GB Samsung 840 still seems to be the best buy when
    evaluating price per performance as it is frequently offered at around $.60 or less per GB.


    It's a surprisingly good drive, and performs very well on boards that only have SATA2.
    I recently upgraded my brother's P55 system with an 840 250GB; the main game he
    plays atm now loads in just a few seconds, instead of the more than 3 minutes it took
    with the old mechanical disk (and that wasn't exactly a low-end drive either - a WD VR
    150GB 10K SATA). He is, as one might expect, very happy indeed.

    In addition, I bought him an internal Startech storage unit that holds 4 x 2.5" devices
    (it takes up one 5.25" bay) and a couple of 2.5" drives (1TB for general data, 2nd-hand
    250GB for backup of the 840). He bought another 1TB for backup, so the Startech now
    holds the 840, two 1TB and the 250GB. The end results looks rather good, and the
    performance with the 840 is excellent (I bought one for my 3930K setup).

    I have a lot of OCZ drives (more than 40, various models); what impresses me the most
    about the 840 is the way it maintains top performance even after being hammered with
    an 80GB full clone from an old disk, lots of Windows and driver updates, game installs, etc.
    Testing with HDTach, AS-SSD, etc. show performance almost identical to an original clean
    state. None of my OCZ drives behave this way - the HDTach graph shows significant
    variance, while the 840 graph is smooth across the range. Beats me how Samsung has
    achieved this, but I like it.

    Modern SSDs may be saturating the SATA3 interface, but they bring an amazing new lease
    of life to older SATA2 systems.

    Ian.
    0
  • ddpruitt
    The vast majority of mSATA systems use the SSD as a cache, and then it's only Intel systems. I would like to see the mSATA ports be more flexible and offered on a larger variety of systems. I'd love to upgrade the mSATA on my laptop but there's no point, I already use an SSD for the main drive. Turning an mSATA into a usable drive on the system is a PITA and just not worth it.
    -2
  • Onus
    I have an Asus Maximus Gene V which has a mSATA slot on a little riser card. I am using a 238GB-usable Crucial M4 there as my system drive. It's been working well, so I have no complaints.
    I have an ASRock Z77E-ITX back from RMA that I haven't yet put back into service that has a mSATA slot on its underside. It can be used to build a very small system. That these slots are only 3Gb/s hardly matters when comparing them to the speed of a mechanical HDD.
    0
  • dalethepcman
    ddpruittThe vast majority of mSATA systems use the SSD as a cache, and then it's only Intel systems. I would like to see the mSATA ports be more flexible and offered on a larger variety of systems. I'd love to upgrade the mSATA on my laptop but there's no point, I already use an SSD for the main drive. Turning an mSATA into a usable drive on the system is a PITA and just not worth it.


    You are confusing msata with mini pcie. A drive is a drive is a drive, sata is sata is sata. Connect any msata drive to an actual msata port (not mini pcie which has the same connector) and it can become your C drive. No one is forcing you to use Intel SRT\RST to use an msata drive as cache.

    If you purchased a 2.5" ssd and now feel your msata port is useless thats on you. If you had purchased an msata drive you could have used a 1tb in that 2.5" bay instead.
    1
  • Hanin33
    dalethepcmanYou are confusing msata with mini pcie. A drive is a drive is a drive, sata is sata is sata. Connect any msata drive to an actual msata port (not mini pcie which has the same connector) and it can become your C drive. No one is forcing you to use Intel SRT\RST to use an msata drive as cache. If you purchased a 2.5" ssd and now feel your msata port is useless thats on you. If you had purchased an msata drive you could have used a 1tb in that 2.5" bay instead.


    to add some clarification: the confusion stems from some laptops using a mPCI-Express as a multipurpose slot allowing either mPCI-Express or mSATA cards. while i have not seen this on desktop motherboards, maybe ddpruitt's experience comes from spotty documentation from laptop makers on whether their combo port supports mSATA? otherwise, you are very correct that the mSATA should appear to the system as any other SATA drive and be usable as such.
    1
  • K2N hater
    It's expensive if you compare it to slow SATA drives that fail even on light usage. I've replaced a RAID-0 array of 15K drives to a single SSD 520 240GB and I must tell destiny is unfair to the state of the art motors that rest silently in a wardrobe now.
    -1
  • ipwn3r456
    This is a pretty great solutions for laptops that only have the space for 1 hard drives, and a mSATA slot. mSATA SSD for OS and applications, and the HDD for the laptop for storage. For desktops, this is perfect for cache solutions.
    0