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Intel X-25M solid-state drive

Stunningly Special SSD?

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

Intel X-25M

With Intel's initial SSD firmware...
Click for full-size image

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.

Intel X-25M

...and the second firmware release
Click for full-size image

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.

Verdict

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.

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80%

Intel X-25M solid-state drive

SSD hits the Mainstream with Intel’s new X25-M. It’s only 80GB and costs a fortune but we love it.
Price: £399 estimated street price. Official: $595 per drive in batches of 1000 official) RRP