Intel X25-E 32GB SSD

Written by Harry Butler

December 17, 2008 // 8:26 a.m.

Tags: #benchmark #hard-drive #intel #intel-x25-e #performance #review #slc #solid-state #ssd #testing #use #x25 #x25e

Performance Analysis

“Wow” about sums up our reaction to the X25-E’s write performance; it really is blisteringly fast when writing either small or large files, or when simultaneously reading and writing thanks to the use of SLC NAND flash memory.

Read performance was also enormously impressive, and while a little slower than the X25-M when reading the MP3 file pattern; ISO read, Vista boot and Crysis load times were all comparable to the already enormously fast Intel X25-M SSD, and certainly puts any other SSD or mechanical drive to shame.

The Intel X25-E is unquestionably the fastest hard drive we’ve ever seen here at bit-tech and manages to combine not only speedy read, but ludicrously quick write speed as well. However, it’s not all sunshine and fast write times though because due to the nature of both the SLC memory and how Vista operates a hard drive, you’ll only get those fast write times the first time that memory is used after a full format.

Unlike with mechanical or MLC drives where data can be stored in multiple states, the SLC memory only modulates between written and unwritten. This means that once the drive has written to each cell, rewriting to them means the drive must first set the cell from written, to unwritten and then back to written in accordance with the new data, doubling the write times the second time the drive needs to write to that particular cell.

While fully formatting the drive resets all the cells to unwritten and brings back that awesome write performance evident in our graphs, it’s hardly reasonable for end users to have to format their drive every time it fills up and although we realise this is a very specialised enterprise level drive, it’s still a disappointing flaw that’s unfortunately part of using SLC memory in the first place.

Value and Final Thoughts

While still very quick even with the write speeds halved, this certainly takes a lot away from the X25-E, especially in regards to the possibility of using it as a boot partition. While the first run through writing to the disk would be very quick indeed, reusing hard drive space nullifies the huge write speed performance advantage, making the X25-E somewhat of a disappointment, especially considering its £505 price tag.

The capacity itself is also a real sticking point – these days 32GB is nothing in terms of storage, and was barely enough space to install Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit and Crysis. While we love the idea of a fast writing, fast reading drive for use as a boot drive, it needs to actually be able to fit more than the operating system onto it to make it a realistic option.

In comparison, the MLC based Intel X25-M doesn’t suffer from the same re-write speed problems thanks to MLC using storing data using multiple states per cell, is more than twice the size at 80GB, costs £50 less, and has near identical read performance.

If you’re in the market for a high end SSD we’d certainly still point you in the direction of the X25-M rather than the X25-E, although for the majority of you, a high speed 1TB drive will likely meet all your storage needs and will also be much more wallet friendly – the excellent Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB can be had for as little as £73.

Although we love the idea of a fast writing, fast reading, all round speedy hard drive, the X25-E isn’t quite there yet. While write speed post-format is impressive, re-write speeds are doubled and read speed is no better than the cheaper, larger mainstream version of the drive. While we’re sure fast writing SSDs like the X25-E will find a place in highly specialised business setups, there’s just no way such a small and ludicrously expensive drive should find a space in your home system, even if your budget can stretch to it.

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