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

SSD 525 Is Pretty Pricey, But Also Powerful

Even at small capacities, the SSD 525 is fast. That much isn't in question. When you tack on extras like Intel's superb SSD Toolbox software and IMFT NAND rated at 5,000 P/E cycles, it's clear that the mSATA market is now being serviced by another higher-end option sure to attract fans of Intel's storage solutions.

Indeed, there are a lot of positives favoring the SSD 525. But prospective purchasers may very well be put off by comparatively higher pricing. Just how much is Intel asking for its Lincoln Crest family?

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ModelMSRPStreetApproximate Usable GBStreet Price / Usable GB
SSD 525 30 GB$54$6028 GB$2.14
SSD 525 60 GB$104$11056 GB$1.96
SSD 525 120 GB$149$170111 GB$1.53
SSD 525 180 GB$214$230167 GB$1.37
SSD 525 240 GB$279$290223 GB$1.30

Once you get up into higher capacities, the premium isn't huge. But the 30 GB model exceeds $2/GB, which seems a bit expensive. Perhaps if you plan to use it for a caching drive, $53 isn't so bad. If Intel was really worried about pricing, it might have launched an SSD 330-esque mSATA-based drive for its first foray into 6 Gb/s territory. The company seems to be quite content charging more for its 500-series performance-oriented client drives, and the SSD 525 keeps that trend going.

Just remember that this time last year, a 240 GB SSD 520 was pushing $600. Of course, Crucial's 256 GB mSATA-based m4 has been spotted around $.80/GB, which is why we've been so bullish on it. Deals like that make it hard to argue for spending more on the SSD 525. At least you still get the benefit of a five-year warranty for every model except the 30 GB version (it gets stuck with the highest price/GB and a two-year shorter warranty; not very attractive caveats).

The SSD 525 family does enjoy 128-bit AES encryption, though, along with enterprise-class 1016 uncorrectable bit error rates, end-to-end data protection, and revised LLKi firmware. Also featured on the drives is thermal monitoring and protection, set to trip at 70 degrees Celsius if things get too warm. Moreover, Intel forgoes SandForce's RAISE cross-die redundancy feature, preferring instead to rely on binned flash and extra over-provisioning for longevity. Rather than devoting an extra die worth of NAND to parity, that space is used for OP. The 30 GB model has 11% OP; the other models run closer to 14%.

All told, Lincoln Crest doesn't offer anything new in terms of innovation or performance. But the mSATA form factor has been an afterthought for most manufacturers, and until recently there were many who hadn't yet introduced compatible products. Any maybe for good reason. Looming over the discussion of shrinking form factors is Intel's Next Generation Form Factor (NGFF) standard, which promises to roll back the 6 Gb/s ceiling currently dogging newer drives. It's hard to say where things are heading, but mSATA will almost certainly continue to flourish in the near term.

Intel deserves much of the credit for getting solid-state storage into desktops and laptops. Without the company's push into storage five years ago, it's hard to say where things would stand. In hindsight, Intel probably did everyone a favor by establishing itself as a purveyor of fast, dependable SSDs, simultaneously driving prices down and increasing acceptance of what was considered a new technology. Before then, SSDs were not particularly awesome. In many cases, they were even inferior to conventional storage. But Intel did its part to push the industry past those early beginnings. With Lincoln Crest, Intel breaks new ground...just not much of it.

  • 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.
  • abbadon_34
    Interesting, if it wasn't a single brand.
  • 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.
  • abbadon_34
    damn site changes, no edit.

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


  • 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.
  • 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.