|Intel X25-M SATA 80GB MLC SSD|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Miles Cheatham|
|Monday, 19 January 2009|
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Intel X25-M First Look
There is little doubt that at some time in the not to distant future storage devices based on solid state design will literally dominate most venues of the computer market. This bold statement has recently been further validated by Intel entering the SSD market. As we alluded to in the introduction, Intel initially brought two drives to market, the X18-M and the X25-M built respectively on the 1.8" and 2.5" form factors. The initial capacity of these drives was 80 GB and recently a 160 GB version was released. Intel also released an extreme version of the of the their SSD in the 2.5" form factor which is currently only available in 32 GB and 64 GB capacities. The primary difference between the Mainstream and Extreme series of drives is the Mainstream version utilizes Multi-level Cell (MLC) NAND flash memory as opposed to the faster Single-level Cell (SLC) NAND flash memory exhibited in the Extreme edition. When doing a heads up comparison between the SLC and MLC the primary differences lie in the superior write speeds of SLC flash memory with read speeds and access time being approximately the same.
A question that has been raised is how did Intel produce an 80 GB and 160GB SSD when current flash memory is primarily available in 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB lots? After doing a bit of research we found that Intel uses 50nm NAND chips which currently store 32 GB or 4GB per chip. By using 20 flash memory chips (2 for each of the 10 channels) you do the math and I believe you'll come up with 80 GB of storage for the X25-M. As you can see in the image below there are ten flash memory modules on front side of the drive along with a 16MB DRAM chip from Samsung to provide the cache.
On the rear of the drive you also find ten flash memory modules making a total of the 20 modules we referred to. We also learned that Intel uses its own proprietary designed SATA controller which uses 16 MB of cache and addresses 10 different MLC channels at one time. This is in no small part responsible for the incredible read speeds the X25-M is capable of providing.
From a durability standpoint, the Intel X25-M is quite rugged with a solid metal casing. The drive is designed to endure an operating shock of up to 1,000 g over a 5 ms time frame. The one element that sets solid state drives apart from all others is that there are no moving parts and the response time is almost instantaneous.
Power consumption is also very low with the drive only demanding 150 mW while in full operation. Intel has provided mounting holes for adapters that accomodate either a horizontal or vertical mounting scheme.