Intel's X25-M Solid State Drive Examined

Speed Freaks

Speed Freaks

You've probably heard the news by now about Intel entry into the Solid State Drive (SSD) market (if you haven't, we suggest taking a quick trip via a time warp to last month's coverage of IDF ), and the two new SSDs that they will be launching, the Intel X18-M and the X25-M. The 1.8-inch and 2.5-inch models are a logical step for Intel to take, seeing as how it is a semi-conductor company after all. Also, consumers can look to SSD prices falling as the giant enters the fray, which of course, leaves us rubbing our hands in anticipatory glee.

Of course, like with most "new" technology, there are both pros and cons to the whole SSD thing going around right now (we'll start with the cons), the first and foremost concern to most consumers, will be the cost, as mentioned earlier. SSDs don't come cheap, and this is due to the prices of the flash memory used, and as such, will be a drawback to some adopters until the prices start falling.

Another cost issue for SSDs to take note of is the small storage capacity of the drives compared to the similar form factor hard disk drives which are able to store more for much less. As the technology matures though, we hope to see SSDs reach parity in terms of pricing (or at least turn out to be a much cheaper alternative). SSD lifespan too has traditionally not been a selling point, as there's a limit to how many write/erase cycles that the type of flash used on the SSD drive can support, though this is more often than not, a moot point as normal consumer level usage doesn't usually reach the breaking point even after a few years of use.

If you're willing to pay the price for a SSD though, you will find that quite possibly, that the drive does offer advantages in both performance and power savings compared to normal hard disk drives. Unlike traditional hard disk drives, SSDs aren't prone to shock and have no moving parts, so coupled with the abovementioned advantages, the SSD does make an ideal argument for use in today's mobile computing needs and is suited for very rugged applications.

Intel's offerings, the X18-M and the X25-M claim to stand out from the other offerings in the market, as Intel has its own proprietary controller that gives its own SSDs a higher data throughput and lifespan. While we didn't manage to gather other SSDs at the point of testing in such short notice, nevertheless we went ahead to take a stab at the X-25M that Intel has so kindly loaned us. To see how it holds up, we've also asked the nice folks at HP for a loan of their pretty and shiny HP Pavilion dv5 (which uses the latest Intel's Centrino 2 platform) to see just how much the very latest SSDs offer over their magnetic platter brethren.

The Intel SSD X25-M 80GB.

Our test unit, the HP Pavilion dv5 which features an Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 (2.8GHz) processor, 4GB DDR2 RAM, 15.4-inch screen, NVIDIA 9600M GT graphics chipset and a Blu-ray optical drive. As a bonus, the dv5 has a very easily removable HDD compartment at the back which holds a 2.5-inch Western Digital Scorpio Blue 320GB.

The Internals

Inside the X-25M you will find instead of your standard magnetic disks, an array of flash memory neatly arranged on the board. There aren't any moving mechanical parts to worry about, just one circuit board in between a metal casing. Of interest is the Samsung K4S281632I-UC60 memory chip, which is kind of ironic to find given that Intel is competing against Samsung in this arena. Layered on both the top and bottom of the PCB are the flash memory chips with 10 on each side, and these are the chips that hold your precious data.

That's all there is folks.

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