REPORT ANALYSIS AND FINAL THOUGHTS
It was only a few years back that we did our part in introducing the world to solid state drives and I still remember the initial reaction as being, ” No way! They will never cut it and you’ve lost your marbles if you think they will!” That was quite common back then, and should have been because the SSD revolution was tarred with a number of issues, these of course being lack of capacity, unbelievable pricing that averaged around $2500, and lack of stability with the JMicron 602 stutter almost dismantling consumer SSD sales all together.
Prices dropped, capacities grew and with any technology, there were a few speed bumps along the way that, for the most part, served the purpose of improving product validation and keeping the news about SSDs out there. SandForce wasn’t immune to these issues with earlier versions of their flash storage processor resulting in a very small amount of solid state drives failing and the vocal minority making these issues very clear although the millions of happy SandForce customers worldwide continued to grow. Eventually, a company as prominent and respected as LSI saw the value in SandForce as did Intel.
Today, Intel introduces the 525 mSATA SSD family and has, not only tackled the issues of prices and capacity but also, their extensive validation has resulted in a proprietary firmware that they believe provides an even higher level of stability. Simply, Intel tests their SSDs like no other can and, if even a hint of abnormality is found, they work on this with LSI SandForce and the new proprietary firmware named ‘LLKi’ results. It might sound like it but perhaps it’s not just luck. (Get it? LLKi?)
Performance of the 525 is outstanding and, depending on capacity and the type of data being tested, the specifications of 550MB/s read and 520MB/s write with 80,000 IOPS were reached and, in many cases, surpassed. This could only be expected though as, in considering PCMark Vantage testing, six of the seven top SSDs are ‘LSI SandForce Driven’ SSDs. Outside of this, the Intel 525 was the yet another mSATA product (Mushkin Atlas/AData SX300) to reach 100MB/s in low 4k random write transfer speeds which, although very uncommon with typical form factor SSDs, seems to be a common thread with the top mSATAs.
Intel has also been smart to market a number of different capacities, however, the two setbacks we see right now are limited availability and pricing. Intel is going to have to bring their prices down to match those that are below the $1/GB or even to get into the same ballpark as the Crucial M4 which can right now be found under $200 for the 256GB model. Alas, Intel reputation and loyal customers will always guarantee sales regardless.
Where the Intel 525 gains in validation, capacities being marketed, warranty and performance, it presently loses in pricing. We will definitely revisit the allocation of an Award once Intel pricing has settled just a bit.!