Intel: More Than CPUs
When you think of Intel, the first thing that will probably come to your mind is their processors. CPUs have been the mainstay of Intel since the company was founded, and Intel has had great success in that field. Time and time again, they have given consumers cutting-edge products at decent prices. But while CPUs are the main focus of Intel’s business, they are not the only product that Intel has been making investments in.
Solid State Disks are one of those "other" products. On the surface, it may seem difficult to understand why a company that makes computer processors would want to start making long-term storage. But solid state disks are a new kind of product, completely unlike mechanical drives, and Intel’s previous experience as a hardware manufacturer and as a designer of processor architecture gives them a favorable position. Specifically, Intel’s need to design better cache management and increase memory bandwidth on its processors translates directly into the solid-state drive market.
And now Intel’s experience has come to bear fruit. The result is a product that provides a glimpse of what we can expect from long-term storage in the next few years.
The X25-E Extreme: The Basics
Copying its processor line, Intel has given its fastest and most expensive solid state hard drive the "extreme" label. And as is the case with Intel’s extreme processors, the X25-E Extreme is not meant to be a good value. Providing only 32GB of long-term storage at the cost $719.99 means that each gigabyte costs over 22 dollars. This is an extremely high price, and obviously it isn’t something the average home user will want to buy. But unlike the Intel’s extreme series processors, the X25-E Extreme isn’t just a faster version of technology that is often found on lower performance models. It is, instead, a drive that makes every other form of long-term storage on the planet appear prehistoric.
Intel’s X25-E is an SLC based solid state drive which uses single-level memory. This means that only one bit is stored per memory cell. This reduces storage capacity, which in turns raises the price of the drive, but it also increases write speeds; the handicap that plagues every other solid-state drive on the market. As a result, Intel claims that the X-25E will read at 250mb/sec and write at 170mb/sec. Those are astounding figures. The X25-E’s single-cell architecture also increases the lifespan of the drive.
A Beast Of A Drive
While the read/write stats Intel claims the X-25E is capable of are incredible, the performance those speeds actually result in is even better than one might expect. In every-day applications, the X-25E posts some substantial improvements over mechanical drives. Level loading times in games tend to be 20% faster than can be provided even by the best 10,000RPM mechanical hard drives. Boot times are also generally lower than with mechanical drives, as well. File copy tests are where the X-25E really shines, however, with the X-25E routinely performing 25%-50% better than any other drive available. That is a remarkable increase, one which clearly shows that although mechanical drives remain more practical in terms of value, solid state drives are unquestionably the future of long-term storage, even for home users.
As if that weren’t enough, Intel’s X-25E becomes even more formidable when put into file-serving applications. In these applications, the X-25E can be up to ten times more potent than any other form of long-term storage on the market. Amazingly, this means that while the X-25E is not a good value in terms of storage per dollar, it is actually not a bad value in terms of performance per dollar.
The bottom line is this: The X-25E changes everything. Up until now, solid state hard disks were simply theorized to be the future of storage, but actual performance was often only somewhat better than what could be found with mechanical drives. The X-25E, however, proves that solid-state is absolutely the future. Not only for enterprise or server applications, where the X-25E absolutely dominates, but also in the average home PC, where the X-25E’s superior read and write speeds provide benefits any user can enjoy.
The Future Is Today
The X-25E is obviously impractical for many home applications in its current form, and despite its amazing performance, I can’t recommend that anyone go and buy one for their personal computer. People who run databases and file-servers for large companies, however, will be salivating over the performance of this drive. The trickle-down will be slow, as solid-state storage is still in its infancy.
But that is what makes the X-25E a success. It proves that even at this early stage, with solid-state only beginning to emerge as a sincere competitor to mechanical drives, solid-state drives can outperform mechanical drives in both read and write speeds. Today, the X-25E may be reserved for companies which can justify spending over 700 dollars for the fastest drive available. But five years from now, this is the kind of drive that will be in your computer, without a doubt.