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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?

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.