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Intel X25-M 80GB Solid State Hard Drive Review

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Manufacturer: Intel
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Intel Makes the SSD Play

Intel's Solid State Drive Plans

We have known that Intel intended to enter the solid state hard drive market for nearly a year and finally got confirmation at Computex in June when Intel had their SSDs at work with the first Nehalem demo systems.  We didn't know much about how Intel planned on releasing these products, what sizes, what prices, etc - but now we have all of those answers.

At IDF last month Intel finally let all the details spill out about their SSD plans.  For the mobile and desktop applications, and the drives you will most likely be buying, Intel has two form factors: one 2.5" and the other 1.8" both with standard SATA data and power connectors.  Each is used in different mobile configurations while desktop users will likely find only 2.5" to 3.5" adaptors for their chassis.  These models will be known as the Intel X25-M and the Intel X18-M, respectively.

At launch, both the X25-M and X18-M will come in 80GB capacities only.  A 160GB model will also be available as well, but won't likely be seen until the beginning of 2009 due mostly to pricing and drive production capacity issues.  Both the X25-M and X18-M series drives are of a multi-level cell design - MLC NAND can store 2 bits of data per cell and thus allows companies like Intel to sell larger capacities for less money but at the cost of performance due to much more complicated error detection.

Intel will have an SLC NAND solid state drive under the X25-E series that will arrive in a 32GB capacity today and a 64GB capacity early next year.  The 'E' in this case stands for 'enterprise' as that is the target audience for these products.  The X25-E drives will have much faster write speeds than the desktop-based X25-M - a difference of 70 MB/s versus 170 MB/s.  Where write speeds are most important is where you'll find these much more expensive hard drives. 

All of these drives, enterprise and desktop models, will use a SATA 3.0 Gb/s controller that incorporates an improved controller for better performance than other SSDs (according to Intel), advanced dynamic wear leveling technology and support for Native Command Queues.  The only pricing number we have so far is for the Intel X25-M 80GB model we are reviewing here today: $595.  No, definitely not cheap but let's wait until the end to see how our performance matches up.

Let's take a look at the X25-M 80GB model that Intel sent us for review and how it stacks in price, performance and features.

Intel X25-M 80GB Solid State Drive

From a physical stand point the Intel X25-M solid state drive is really nothing different - the form factor is your typical 2.5" hard drive.
Again, nothing really to see here.  The exterior is a matte black with a simple white label giving the drive a very unsuspecting appearance.   

Compared to full size hard drive, like the Western Digital VelociRaptor with attached heatsink, the 2.5" SSD is significantly smaller and will likely require an adapter to be installed in a standard chassis.

The bottom of the drive is also barren with the exception of the four mounting locations. 

The connections on the drive are standard SATA data and power ones; no need for special adapters or anything like that. 
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