First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
A killer SSD.
- Beats vast majority of desktop hard drive read/write speeds despite being notebook-capable, low heat levels, low energy consumption
- Very expensive, not much storage available
This speedy little device will fit and run snugly in any 2.5in laptop bay, providing excellent performance for a terrible price. If you've got the money to burn and want a device that is the best of its class, then Intel's X25-M is a device you must check out.
Buy now (Selling at 3 stores)
Solid-state drives have long been the ‘novelty’ cousin of conventional hard disks thanks to exorbitant prices and inadequate capacities. While Intel’s new X25-M is certainly a killer in terms of performance, the inherent economic issues remain and will hinder widespread consumer acceptance.
The 2.5in 80GB X25-M, with a formatted capacity of 74.5GB, uses a Serial ATA 3.0GB/s interface and is Intel’s first foray into the growing SSD market. The CPU market leader has brought a wealth of experience and technology to the endeavour. Thanks to its size and ability to run on 5V of electricity, this unit is designed to work in modern laptops, but has a performance that outstrips the vast majority of 3.5in PC hard drives.
A key advantage of SSD units is the complete lack of moving parts. Using a series of multi-level cell flash memory modules, solid-state drives do away with noisy platters that are sometimes loud and always susceptible to damage if moved around while operating. The nature of NAND flash memory also means that in cases of electrical failure data is retained, making it perfect for storing important working files.
Given Intel’s claims that this drive has a read speed of 250MB/s and a write speed of 70MB/s, we thought it only fitting that we use the fastest conventional hard drive available, the Western Digital VelociRaptor (WD3000GLFS), for our transfer tests.
In our real world file transfer tests we used a 19.8GB test folder containing thousands of files. The Intel managed a very impressive 89.3MB/s read speed. Copying data from one part of the SSD to another, which involves both reading and writing processes, provided an excellent result of 53.1MB/s. While the X25-M’s write speed came in at a more sedate 62.4MB/s, these rates are lightning fast when compared to every other 2.5in laptop drive on the market, such as the Western Digital Scorpio (WD3200BEVT).
Throughout all these operations, the SSD maintained its cool and had low power usage — very important points for laptop users.
The downside to all this high-level technology is a high price. Intel doesn’t supply an RRP directly, but its Australian distributors estimate the device will cost around $600 per unit, which means the X25-M is clearly aimed at the top end of the market. This equates to a cost per formatted gigabyte of $8 — five and a half times that of the high-performance VelociRaptor.
The inevitable increase in SSD usage will gradually reduce prices to more mainstream-friendly levels. Now that notebook-makers have spotted the trend and frequently offer SSDs built into their product, Intel’s challenge to the rest of the market should see a new wave of competitive solid-state drives hitting a store near you.
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