At long last my Intel X-25 M 160gb Solid State Disk (SSD) drive arrived in the mail and I joyfully ripped open the packaging like a kid on Christmas morning to see what had arrived (like I didn’t already know). To my absolute delight it was a brand new box with what I hoped contained the saviour of my now aging (slow) Dell Dimension 9150 with a 2.8ghz Dual Core CPU which was in desperate need of an upgrade.
As you can see below the drive is 2.5” so it will fit into most laptops but it also comes with a 3.5” caddy for installing into desktop computer. While I did not take the smaller size into account when I bought the drive i realise this is a real bonus as I can easily use it in a laptop in the future if I ever decide to get something more portable to replace my current desktop at home.
I also decided to the get the 160gb model because it now has a faster write speed than the 80gb version with the release of the its latest firmware from Intel.
It also comes with a very important “my SSD Rocks!” sticker to show as a badge of honour (or to tell someone that your computer it worth stealing for the parts).
As I was un-boxing the drive I kept think to myself that “gee I hope this drive was worth it” and “I hope it will make a difference with my computer”. My initial worry was that the drive was not going to be able to run at 3gb/sec to take advantage of the full throughput of the drive. But I was relieved to see that the drive and motherboard were 3gb/sec capable and so it negotiated its link speed at full speed. nice… so I continued my tests…
OS Load Time (12m:09sec)
So I found my USB stick of Windows 7 64bit, plugged it in an turned it on…
12min 9sec (see timer below) after I pressed the power button I was at a default desktop…. Nice… This was good and I was starting to feel a little confident that the drive was going to make the system faster. Note that this also included all the time it took me to click the buttons using the OS install Wizard. I would estimate that this would have added at least an extra minute to this overall time.
Windows Experience Index (7.8)
The Windows Experience Index is a bench mark that was introduced with Windows Vista that allows people to assess the performance of the individual pieces of hardware in a computer. This benchmark helps people determine what part of their computer is slowest and can help guide people to what upgrade they perform next to get some more speed out of their system. In Windows 7 the rating numbers go from a minimum of 1 to a maximum value of 7.9 (which is up from 5.9 in Windows Vista).
As you can see the drive rated very well with a 7.8 although I was hoping for a 7.9 because I have to wounder what drive on the market could possibly be better that this drive (maybe 2x Intel X-25 M in a stripe).
OS Boot Time (20.1sec)
The other really important stat about the drive is how quick it takes to boot up and shutdown. Now Google claims that it can get 8 seconds boot from with it uses a SSD drive so I was really keen to see how fast it compares with Windows 7. Now the total overall boot time from power on to desktop was 32.8 seconds however this included the 12 seconds BIOS post tests. Now bear in mind that my system is almost 5 years old and BIOS start up time for computer now are a lot quicker.
If you take a look at the lap time (top right) the whole OS boot only took 20.1 seconds.
OS Shutdown Time (3sec)
Now this I have not measured exactly yet however this is now a near instantaneous from fully loaded desktop to powered off takes no longer that 3 seconds.
Windows Media Center (much better)
Now my desktop computer also acts as a server for Windows Media Center on my two Xbox 360 which was always bit sluggish to navigate through the menus which I put this down to the lag from the IR remote to the Xbox 360 via the Ethernet to the Computer back via the Ethernet to the Xbox and onto the screen. However even though my media files are stored on a 1tb 1.5gb/sec SATA WD Green plater based drive the over all navigation and load time has much improved.
Better with Windows 7
Its also one of the first SSD drives to offer native support for the Trim SATA command with Windows 7 which all but eliminates any performances degradation over time with SSD drives.
Windows 7 also recognises SSD based drives and disabled the defragmentation option as this offers no benefit due the drives low random seek speed and can even cause premature wear out of drives if performed to often.
Overall (5 Stars)
Needless to say I am very, very, very impressed with the performance of the drive and this upgrade has now turned me into an absolute speed demon. It definitely seems that drive I/O is now the most constraining factor with computer as ever relatively slow CPU’s on a modern Operating System such as Windows 7 seem to be more than capable.
I also find that doing multiple tasks at one is much smoother and seems to have almost no performance impact at all. This is obviously due to the less than 1ms random seek time of the drive and the native command queuing that allows the drive to handle a massive amount of simultaneously commands.
Another advantage of the drive is that is has no moving parts which should mean that the reliability of the drive is (hopefully) going to be more reliable with a predicted 1.2 million hours Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) which is nearly double that of 750,000 hours MTBF that most other spinning platter based drives have.
This is a drive that I will probably using in my next 3 computers so I really see it as a long term investment even though it cost a
little (ok a lot) extra. If you are looking for an upgrade to your system that will really give it a killer punch in performance then this is it even thought its a bit pricey still it is totally worth the cost.
But for I can truly say I no longer wait for my computer to load program anymore…
Rating 5 out of 5 stars.
For a more in-depth review of the drive including some of it’s issues (which have been fixed via the latest firmware) see the following PC Perspective Articles:
- Intel X25-M 80GB Solid State Hard Drive Review
- Long-term performance analysis of Intel Mainstream SSDs
- Intel Responds to Fragmentation with New X25-M Firmware
- Intel X25-M G2 TRIM firmware is out, really, we mean it this time, honest!
Intel’s specification sheet on the drive can be found Here
Link to an eBay store stocking the drive can be found Here