G.Skill, Intel & Patriot SSD group test

Written by Harry Butler

December 3, 2008 // 8:25 a.m.

Tags: #128gb #25 #benchmark #boot-time #disk #hard-drive #mlc #review #solid-state #ssd #testing #x25-m

Companies: #bit-tech #gskill #intel #patriot

Results Overview

So what conclusions can we take from this battery of results? Well the most clear is that Intel has produced a phenomenally fast hard disk in the X25-M. The inhouse Intel disk controller is obviously doing its job exceedingly well, delivering write speeds comparable with the fastest high density drives while also able to chuck out frankly ludicrous read speeds capable of booting Vista in less than 34 seconds and Crysis in less than 30.

Perhaps the only slight hiccup is the drive's read/write performance when faced with many many small files, as we found in our MP3 copy test. While this is a common problem found in SSDs where the disk controller gets overwhelmed with read/write commands, the Intel X25-M manages to lessen the blow and is only a couple of seconds behind the fastest mechanical drive.

Sadly the same cannot be said for the G.Skill 128GB SSD and Patriot Warp v2, whose J-Micron disk controller sadly led to significant drive stuttering during the MP3 copy test, resulting is a copy time twice as long as the fastest mechanical drives. Standard write speeds were also very disappointing, with results close to double that of the 1TB mechanical hard disk in both write tests. For a real world comparison, imagine every single game you install taking twice as long - not a pretty thought especially with new games like Grand Theft Auto IV taking up a whopping 16GB of hard disk space.

However despite their poor write speeds, both the Patriot and G.Skill drives were able to demonstrate very real performance advantages during our Vista boot and Crysis load tests, more than halving the 1TB Seagate drive's boot time and chopping a good five seconds off Crysis load times in comparison to a Western Digital Raptor 10,000 RPM hard disk - very impressive but not enough to really rescue them from the poor write performance.

Value

Value was always going to be a sticking point for these drives, and especially in regards to the Intel X25-M. Despite impressing us enormously with with its phenomenal read and respectable write performance, at the end of of the day it's still an 80GB hard disk for the wrong side of £500. The thing is that, as we've seen from our testing, here is finally an SSD solution that can be used for everyday tasks and even, dare we say it, a boot partition. The performance improvements in read intensive solutions like booting the operating system or loading games really are huge and yet it really doesn't compromise on write speed at all.

Sadly the same can't be said for the Patriot or G.Skill drives. Inherently the same bit of kit when you get down the bare PCB, write performance of both was very disappointing and effectively writes them off for use as boot partitions for all but the most specialist set-ups. Despite this, our testing proves the real world read performance improvements are there to be taken advantage of (albeit a little less than those provided by the Intel X25-M) and either would still make a decent game install drive with the benefit of significantly improved load times. However, given that the Patriot is currently priced at well over $150 more than the G.Skill, which also benefits from the inclusion of the mini-USB port, it's a no-brainer choice here - the G.Skill drive represents significantly better value for money.

However, it's important to keep some perspective - the Seagate 1TB we've been testing here is available for just £94 and the cheapest 1TB drives can be picked up for even less. While the O/S boot and game load times using such a drive will be significantly slower than if you were using one of the SSDs we've looked at today, you'll need to ask yourself whether that improvement in load times at the cost of such huge amounts of storage is worth it. For the majority of you, we'd imagine it isn't, and even then there's still the option of RAID 0 to improve performance while still working out cheaper than even the most inexpensive SSD we've tested here.

Final Thoughts

And that, in essence, is where the SSD rests today - as an expensive extravagance limited only to the most ludicrously high end PCs. While the Intel X25-M breaks the mould and proves SSDs can deliver not only phenomenally fast read, but also decent write performance, its price tag is sure to put all but the most opulent hardware enthusiast off.

Sadly the same can't be said for J-Micron based drives like the Patriot Warp v2 and G.Skill 128GB. While they deliver on the promise of significantly increased read speeds, the compromise on write speed makes them useless for all but the most specialist setups. While the price is a whole lot cheaper than the Intel, if you're looking to switch your boot drive over to an SSD you might as well not bother - the issues around drive stuttering and read/write performance in Vista 64-bit just make them more of a headache than a help, although they remain an option if you're considering a dedicated game install drive.

So where does this leave the SSD as a storage option? A long way from replacing mechanical drives is where. While Intel has unequivocally proven that the technology has legs and can perform, the price of such delights still sits far from the hands of mere mortals. While we've no doubt that SSD drive speeds will improve, capacities will increase and prices will drop in time, right now the SSD remains a desirable but expensive option that only the most wealthy should consider.

Patriot Warp v2 128GB SSD

  • Performance
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 7/10
  • Value
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 4/10
  • Overall
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 5/10

G.Skill 128GB SSD

  • Performance
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 7/10
  • Value
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 6/10
  • Overall
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 6/10

Intel X25-M 80GB SSD

  • Performance
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • 9/10
  • Value
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 5/10
  • Overall
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • x
  • -
  • -
  • -
  • 7/10

Score Guide

**ADDENDUM** 12/03/2009

It's come to our attention following investigation by ARS Technica that following prolonged heavy use the Intel X25-M's read and write speeds can both become notably degraded. Having confirmed this issue on numerous X25-Ms of our own we would warn any potential buyer of this problem and advise extreme caution. This issue has not effected either the Patriot Warp or G.Skill drive though, nor has it been displayed by any other SSD we have since changed.
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