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Maximum PC Staff Oct 28, 2009

Intel X-25M 160GB MLC SSD

At A Glance

Ham

Blazing-fast reads and random writes; decent capacity. Cost per GB keeps falling.

Spam

Can't keep up in sustained writes.

Intel's killer solid state drive gets a capacity increase, but is it still the best?

Last fall, Intel slapped the solid state drive market on the back of the head with the release of the 80GB X25-M MLC drive. That drive absolutely trounced the competition with its 200MB/s read speeds, incredibly low random-access times, and best of all, no random-write stuttering or cache overflows. The first X25-M garnered a Kick Ass Award and defeated all comers in our last SSD roundup (November 2008), but the market has come a long way since then. With powerful competition from drives sporting Indilinx and Samsung controllers, can the 160GB X25-M maintain Intel’s crown?

The 160GB X25-M ships in a silvery chassis, unlike its predecessor’s black, and is 7mm tall—an included spacer accommodates 9.5mm drive bays. Intel’s kicked the flash manufacturing process down from 50nm to 34nm, and retained native SATA and Native Command Queuing from its previous iteration.


The new X25-M ships with a spacer so it can fit in 9.5mm as well as 7mm 2.5-inch drive bays.

First, the good news. The 160GB X25-M is even faster than the 80GB, offering 209MB/s sustained reads and 79.5MB/s sustained writes in our h2benchw benchmark, compared to the 80GB version’s 206MB/s and 64MB/s, respectively. Random-access reads and writes are within .01ms of the 80GB version, and Premiere Pro times are five percent faster. Oddly, though, its PCMark Vantage score is only 23,288—faster than nearly every drive but its predecessor, which amassed a cool 30K.

Unfortunately, the X25-M just isn’t the coolest kid on the block anymore. Not since we’ve seen other drives come along and smash the 100MB/s sustained-write barrier, or which feature either a Samsung or Indilinx drive controller with cache that eliminates the random-write stuttering that plagued early JM602-based drives. Both Samsung’s 256GB drive (reviewed August 2009, retailing as the Corsair P256) and Patriot’s Torqx (September 2009) nearly match X25-M’s read speeds and obliterate its sequential writes, with the Torqx and its fellow Indilinx Barefoot MLC drives (OCZ Vertex, G.Skill Falcon) offering write speeds close to 175MB/s.

The X25-M still reigns supreme in random-write times, though, with a latency of just .08ms compared to the Torqx’s .31ms. And it does so without the Indilinx controller’s 64MB of DRAM cache.

The X25-M remains a rock-solid choice for SSDs, and its read speeds and random-write response times are second to none. But in sustained-write speeds, it’s no match for the Patriot Torqx and its peers. But hey, the 160GB X25-M is $.10/GB cheaper than the Torqx, and 160GB is enough room for your OS and a dozen of your favorite games.

Benchmarks

Intel X25-M
Patriot Torqx 128GB
Intel X25-M (older one)
Capacity
160GB 128GB
80GB
Average Sustained Transfer Rate Read (MB/s) 209.1
205.4
206.6
Average Sustained Transfer Rate Write (MB/s) 79.5
175.1

64.3

Random Access Read (ms)
0.13
0.11 0.12
Random Access Write
0.08
0.31
0.09
Premiere Pro (sec) 969
674
732
PCMark Vantage Hard Drive
23,288
21,247
30,322
Best scores are bolded. All drives were tested on our standard test bed using a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, EVGA 680i SLI board. HDTach 3.0.1.0, h2benchw, and Premiere Pro CS3 scores were obtained in Windows XP; PCMark Vantage 2005 scores were obtained in Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit.
THE VERDICT

Intel X-25M 160GB MLC SSD

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