Intel X25-M SSD Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (30,916)

The new 80GB X25-M is the blazing fast SSD just released from Intel that has knocked our socks off in testing. Our first chance to take a look at this drive is inside the HP EliteBook 8530w where it screamed through every single test we threw at it. Not only did this drive increase performance substantially across the board, but we also saw a significant jump in battery life. In this review of the HP EliteBook 8530w we cover the changes before and after the SSD upgrade, and show you just what you’d be missing if you couldn’t scrap together the funds for this drive.

HP EliteBook 8530w Specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 Processor (2.53GHz, 6MB L2 cache, 1066MHz FSB)
  • Microsoft Genuine Windows Vista Business
  • 15.4-inch WUXGA+ anti-glare (1920 x 1200)
  • 512MB NVIDIA Quadro FX 770M Workstation GPU
  • 4GB DDR2 800MHz RAM (2 x 2GB Configuration)
  • 80GB Intel X25-M SSD (Up to 250MB/s Read, 70MB/s Write)
  • Blu-Ray and DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
  • WiFi, Ethernet, Modem, and Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 8-Cell 73WHr Battery
  • 3-Year on-site Warranty
  • Dimensions: 1.1″ x 14.0″ x 10.4″
  • Weight: 6.5lbs without power adapter, 8lbs with power adapter

Cost to upgrade

Everyone knows that you have to pay to play and with any upgrade to an SSD you need to pay quite a bit. At the time of this review the going street price of the 80GB Intel X25-M SSD is $660 online. On the HP website it will cost $524 to upgrade from a 160GB 7200RPM drive to the 80GB Intel SSD. You can also add a second hard drive or SSD in the EliteBook 8530w’s Upgrade Bay (replaces the optical drive) for additional storage. The Intel SSD will be available for sale on the HP wibsite with the 8530w on October 20th. While the price is steep by itself, it is only about thirty percent of the overall price of the above notebook configuration, and less still when compared to drives currently on the market. This upgrade isn’t for everyone, but I can say if you take a chance on this drive you won’t be disappointed.

Performance boost

Out of all the notebooks I have reviewed, and countless system components, no single item has ever given the overall speed bump that we witnessed from the Intel X25-M SSD. With just a swap of hard drive our HP EliteBook saw a huge bump in system speed from the first boot with a fast initial system load and Vista configuration, as well as a super snappy user interface. Little things such as clearing off system bloatware, which normally takes a bit of time as the system deletes files off the hard drive, happened almost instantly. As soon as we would select an application to uninstall and give the final confirmation the notebook would blip progress window and close it in a fraction of a second. Something was noticeably different with this system configuration, and from the first benchmark we ran we started to see why.

HDTune reported speeds as high as 192MB/s in some benchmark runs, with the average settling in at 182MB/s. Compared to most SSD’s in the 90MB/s range, or even our last SSD review with the 64GB Samsung model with 130MB/s average, this was a huge bump in speed. When you compare it to the fastest notebook drives that barely peak 80MB/s, or even the 10,000RPM Velociraptor desktop drive that peaks at 123MB/s you start to see just how fast this drive is. It should also be mentioned that while smoking other drives, it also runs perfectly silent and consumes less power than most notebook hard drives. Under full load being benchmarked the Intel X25-M SSD puts off barely a hint of heat, feeling cool to the touch at 83 degrees Fahrenheit recorded by our temperature gun.

HDTune for 7200.2 notebook hard drive:

HDTune for WD Velociraptor high performance desktop hard drive:

HDTune for Intel X25-M SSD:

The next benchmark in our list is PCMark05, which saw an astonishing jump in score from 6,287 in our original review to 9,452 with the Intel SSD. This is over a 3,000 point jump from a drive upgrade and nothing else. Both 3DMark06 and PCMark Vantage saw boosts in performance, but not as big of a jump as PCMark05. 3DMark06 went from 5,230 in the original review to 5,847 with the SSD. PCMark Vantage jumped from 3,944 to 5,516, over a 25% bump.

Battery life boost

To get almost three times speed from a drive, you would expect that system power usage would increase at least a little bit. In the Bizarro world with the Intel X25-M we saw the exact opposite, with power consumption levels dropping by more than 20%. In terms of real life performance under the same testing procedure using the balanced power profile, brightness set to 60%, and wireless enable battery life increased by 1 hour. In the original review we found battery life to top out at 3 hours and 38 minutes, and after the SSD upgrade the system managed 4 hours and 38 minutes before it went into sleep mode at 5% battery life remaining.

Conclusion

Intel really made a winning product with the X25-M 80GB SSD, blowing previous performance SSD models out of the water, while still being light on power consumption and heat output. While still pricy at $660 compared to standard hard drives, it isn’t nearly as bad as what SSDs used to cost even six months ago. For those looking to add this option to your notebook during customization, you are looking at $524 from HP at this time. In my eyes this is the best single upgrade for a notebook on the market, outside of going from an Intel Celeron to Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

Pros:

  • Super fast
  • Low heat
  • Improves battery life
  • Single best individual component upgrade!

Cons:

  • High price




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