Adding ram to your computer has always been an easy way to boost your system’s performance. Now with SSDs (solid state drives) becoming more affordable, upgrading your laptop (or desktop’s) hard drive to a SSD drive has become yet another easy way to maximize your computer’s performance. Intel’s X-25M in particular is a top of the line SSD in the mobility space. The Intel X25-M is hardly a first gen device, Intel has spent years perfecting and optimizing their SSDs and they are definitely one of the leaders in the SSD industry. This latest generation of Intel SSDs is built on the computer-quality 34nm NAND flash memory manufacturing processes and they feature the “the latest-generation native SATA interface with an advanced architecture employing 10 parallel NAND flash channels equipped with multi-level cell NAND flash memory.” On paper the Intel X-25M advertises read speeds of up to 250 MB/s and write speeds up to 70 MB/s.
Benefits of solid state drives
We’ll try and spare you all the technical details going further. What you probably want to know is why is there all this rage about SSDs? What makes them so great? There are several benefits to using a SSD (solid state drive), although increased performance for read access is what draws most people in. But there are several other major benefits too to using an SSD. For starters, unlike traditional hard drives, SSDs have no movable parts, so they’re better at handling drops and knocks. SSDs also tend to be more power efficient, and often they can increase the battery life in laptops and netbooks. SSDs also tend to be more lightweight than traditional hard drives which lends itself to lighter products, they also operate more quietly then traditional hard drives, and because they have no moving parts, they generate less heat and tend to have longer life spans.
We noticed a lot of people on the web testing the X-25M in their PC notebook system, but we opted to see how the X-25M would do in a brand new Core i5 Macbook Pro. Unfortunately, testing the X-25M a Macbook Pro means that we couldn’t take advantage of Intel’s SSD Toolbox and SSD optimizer software that offers Windows users a set of applications to help manage the health and performance of their Intel SSD, but it’s worth mentioning that Intel does offer this helpful suite of applications to optimize the performance of their SSD drive on PC systems.
When we opened the X-25M’s package we were greeted with a sticker that says “My SSD Rocks”. The sticker has a url pointing to intel.com/go/ssd which is a great resource for more on Intel’s selection of SSDs. Leave it to Intel to get us geeks pumped about installing a new hard drive!
An installation guide is also included with the drive, but it won’t tell you the exact steps involved in working with a Mac. I found this guide at the Digital Sanctuary very helpful. To summarize, first, using Time Capsule we made a backup of our entire hard drive’s contents. We then removed the old drive and replaced it with the Intel X-25M.
Where the Intel X-25M really shines in terms of performance is most observed when launching apps, booting up, and shutting down your computer. When performing these operations, your computer feels twice as fast, and overall a whole lot peppier. After installing the X-25M into a MacBook Pro (Early 2010), we almost fainted when the computer booted into Snow Leopard in 31 seconds, compared to the 55 seconds it took to boot with the original Hitachi 5400 RPM hard drive that was in it. Instead of waiting a painful 28 seconds to launch Microsoft Word, Word now pops up in as little as 9.5 seconds. Safari went from loading in 8 seconds to as little as 2.8 seconds, Photoshop CS4 went from loading in 21 to 6 seconds, and After Effects CS4 went from loading in 55 seconds to 21 seconds. Additionally, shutting down the computer dropped from 3.5 seconds to 1.5 seconds.
We also tried copying a test 1GB file, and the time it took to copy the file went from taking 58 seconds with the original Hitachi hard drive, to 11 seconds with the Intel X-25M. SSD drives are more famous for their great read speeds, but in this case, X-25M’s write speeds was a massive improvement over the stock hard drive that came with our MacBook Pro. Overall, the X-25M makes your computing experience a whole lot more enjoyable -especially if you’re one of those impatient types who find yourself tapping your finger every time the computer starts up or an app loads. That said, the X-25m won’t really make your programs run noticeably faster once they have been launched, so the speed increase is really only noticeable when launching apps.
Xbench isn’t always the most accurate when it comes to benchmarks, but it does give a good feeling for a hard drive’s performance. Below are the benchmark results for the original Hitachi drive we were using in comparison to the Intel X-25M’s benchmark results with Xbench.
SSD’s have been consistently dropping in price. Right now the 160GB Intel X-25M is going for as low as $419. The 80GB can be found for as little as $225 – and not too long ago this same drive cost $599. These prices might not be affordable enough to drive SSDs into all of the mainstream quite yet, but it’s getting there. At least for now, for anyone driven by the need for better performance, the Intel’s X-25M’s price tag is reasonable enough to make it a worthwhile purchase. And once you get used to having a system running on Intel’s X-25M, it’s really difficult to go back.
The Good: Super fast read speeds, recent price drop makes it a more feasible purchase
The Bad: Like with other SSDs, you get less capacity for the money