Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Conclusion

Intel has really gone the extra mile with their X25-M G2.  It was only a few months ago when many of us saw Intel moving away from the flash fab business, and now we’re seeing 34 nm parts from them.  This smaller process has enabled them to produce a 160GB model with flash on only one side of the PCB.  This means Intel can move to 320GB the instant their management decides to pull the trigger.

In our testing, we saw clear improvements in random file access, especially in the area of random writes.  It appears Intel has combined the advances from the 8820 G1 firmware with a bit more of a push towards write combining.  That push resulted in the greater random write IOPS, but it did introduce some minor fragmentation effects seen in my worst case scenario testing.

TRIM

While the minor slowdowns we saw only occurred with heavy testing, Intel is justified in optimizing the G2 more towards write combining.  When Windows 7 is released into the wild, Intel plans to release an updated firmware to include native TRIM support.  TRIM commands sent to a patched X25-M G2 will likely purge the LBA remap table of entries, meaning the drive would no longer have to track each and every LBA.  The ‘virtual fragmentation’ (i.e. entries in the table) will simply not exist for unused portions of the drive, which should result in consistent 80MB/sec writes to any empty portions of the drive.

There has been some buzz / rumors about the older X25’s not receiving a TRIM-enabled firmware.  With the 8820 firmware performing so consistently even after being heavily fragmented, there is not as much of a need for TRIM support.  The G1 drives will only benefit slightly in cases where the drive had been completely written (i.e. full) in the past and was then dropped back to a relatively small amount of content.  In that case, the difference seen would only be in random write IOPS.  Keep in mind that a G1 X25-M in this worst case condition still dominates the competition in random write IOPS.

Intel X25-M 'G2' 34nm 160GB SSD Review - Storage  1

Pros:
  • Best in class IOPS performance
  • Best in class sequential read throughput
  • Low cost (provided the distributor markup is low enough)
Cons:
  • Write speed, while a bit higher, remains limited to 80 MB/sec
  • Minor fragmentation-over-time effects
Final Thoughts

While the real-world improvements appear only marginal over its predecessor they *are* improvements.  When combined with the drastic reductions in cost, Intel will be giving the competition a real run for their money.  If the distributors can keep their margins on the slim side, more and more SSD buying decisions will be leaning towards the X25-M G2.  Lets hope Intel can keep supply high enough to make sure the prices start low and stay low.

With the high costs (hopefully) no longer an issue, the X25-M G2 will be the drive I recommend to anyone purchasing an SSD.


Intel X25-M 'G2' 34nm 160GB SSD Review - Storage  2


*note* at the time of this writing, I found the SSDSA2MH160G2 (160GB) online at a single distributor for $490.  That is just over $50 above the channel cost, and $100 below the going rate of the G1 model.  That is definitely a good sign.

**edit** 23Jul 0605: I’ve spotted both 80 and 160 GB models over at ZipZoomfly for $230 and $434, respectively.  This is excellent pricing!  The catch is they have none in stock, so that appears to be pre-stock pricing and is subject to change upon volume shipment.

Be sure to use our pricing engine to find the best prices on hard drives and anything else you might need!

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