Ordinarily, that would be the end of the review - we love the X25-M and can't wait for the 160GB version – however, there’s a wrinkle to the tale.
On the day the X25-M arrived Intel emailed to advise us that it had a firmware update that we had to apply. The file was corrupted so we cracked on and tested the drive with the supplied firmware, version 8510
When Intel supplied a replacement copy of the new firmware, we flashed the drive to firmware 8610, which is a similar process to updating a motherboard Bios only rather more painful. In theory, you boot off a USB key into DOS, run the flashing Utility and load the firmware. However, any decent motherboard will protect the boot sector of your hard drive from malware so we were faced with an error message ‘ATA Security Feature Set is prohibited by the system BIOS chip’.
There was an irony to the situation: our Intel Skulltrail was protecting our Intel SSD from the Intel firmware. But it wasn’t particularly funny so we unplugged the X25-M and booted off the USB key then once DOS had loaded we connected the X25-M. This meant the Bios hadn’t detected the drive so the protection didn’t take effect and we were able to update the firmware. When the job was done we had to run HDDErase to nuke the drive and then we were able to format the SDD and re-install Windows.
The revised firmware had no apparent effect and didn’t alter performance so we have to hope that this was a one-off process for our engineering sample as the idea of firmware updates for retail drives sounds like a terrible idea.
Intel’s new mainstream SSD offers stunning performance at a horribly steep price. We’re looking forward to the 160GB version, but we can't wait for the price to drop.
Intel X-25M solid-state drive
You missed the interesting part...
Supposedly the interesting thing with intels SSD is their controllers.
There is a pretty insightful article at anandtech:
where they discuss the difference in wear-levelling and block management between Intels latest and the ubiquitous JMicron controllers used by everyone else. (Admittedly it reads like PR from Intel, but it still contains some interesting comparisons.)
The problem with Flash is that you need to erase a whole block in order to write a small amount of data. Typically the blocks are large (128 - 512kb) and erasing is slow. (On the order of several ms, up to hundreds of ms depending on power supply, memory contents and the phase of the moon.)
(Also noted at arstechnica: http://arstechnica.com/reviews/hardware/macbook-air-ssd-review.ars/1
and even by the reg: http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/07/22/sandisk_ssd_vista_beef/ )
It would have been interesting to see how Intes new controller handles all these aspects. (According to Anandtech pretty well, but I'd love to have it corroborated by you.)
Hmm... Tom's piece notwithstanding, I'd be interested to see how it speeds up my VMs. I have a number of (yes, defragmented) VMware VMs running demos and trials, and I can often sit waiting for several minutes while they sort themselves out - particularly the busier ones, and especially if I have too much running in the host and they start swapping. If an SSD knocked that down by even half, it'd be worth the money...
more on Tom's
Tom's followed up the SSD piece with this:
would have been nice to see a comparisson with the OCZ core V2..
ah well ho hum..