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2/19/2009
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Intel Solid-State Drive Found To Slow Under Heavy Use

The problems appear to be in the sector remapping and wear-leveling algorithms that are suppose to improve performance.




Intel's X25-M, priced at around $500, is one of the fastest consumer SSDs available.
(click for image gallery)

Intel's X25-M solid-state drive, which has been marketed as a faster, more energy-efficient alternative for laptops than hard disk drives, degrades in performance with extensive use, a review site found.

PC Perspective said the problems appear to be in the sector remapping and wear-leveling algorithms that are suppose to improve performance. Instead, they do the opposite as the drive becomes increasingly fragmented under heavy use. The site also found that conventional defragmentation programs tend to make the problem worse.

People who do not place high demands on the SSD are unlikely to take a performance hit, PC Perspective said.

"A laptop user placing light workloads on their X25-M may never see the worst of these issues, but many users are going solid state for their desktop OS partitions, and a typical power user workload can fragment these drives in short order," the site said in its lengthy review.

Intel on Thursday said its labs had been unable to duplicate PC Perspective's test results.

"We are in contact with the reviewers at PC Perspective to find out more about the methodology so we can duplicate and examine the data," an Intel spokesman said in an e-mail. "In our estimation, the synthetic workloads they use to stress the drive are not reflective of real-world use."

Intel cautioned that any storage device can fail under extreme conditions that go beyond normal use. "Keep in mind that it is always possible to contrive conditions or set up a testing environment that can 'break' any storage device -- SSD, HDD, or memory," Intel's spokesman said.

In PC Perspective's opinion, a permanent fix to the performance problem would require a firmware update from Intel.

Intel released the X25-M and several other SSDs in December. The chipmaker this month lowered the prices of the drives. The cost of the X25-M dropped to $390 and $765 for the 80-GB model and the 160-GB version, respectively. Pricing had been $595 and $945.

Intel's latest laptop SSDs, including the X25-M, have read speeds up to 250 MBps and write speeds up to 70 MBps, according to Intel. The life expectancy is 1.2 million hours of mean time before failure, and power consumption is 150 milliwatts during a typical PC workload and 0.06 of a watt at idle.

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