Introduction and Related Information
In all of our recent solid state disk (SSD) coverage that featured one of Intel's X25-M drives, a common, underlying performance trend consistently emerged. The Intel drives were always amongst the top performers in read performance, and were unquestionably the best with regard to random writes. However, in sequential write performance Intel X25-M SSDs always seemed to trail competing offerings.
While trying to gain some additional insight into the situation, we had a couple of off the record conversations with some folks at Intel , and asked if the company had any plans to optimize sequential writes on their SSDs, but we didn't get a specific answer other than the standard company line about possible optimization coming with future firmware updates. Based on some rumors we had heard, we also asked if Intel had been deliberately holding back the sequential write performance of their drives for one reason or another, to which we weren't dignified with a response. But today, we can't help but think there was something to those rumors.
Intel 34nm X25-M 160GB Solid State Drive
Intel has just released a firmware update for their 34nm Gen X25-M solid state drives that not only boosts sequential write performance, but adds support for the TRIM feature as well. A performance optimization tool is also being release today, for users of Windows Vista and XP, who won't be able to take advantage of TRIM. Here are a few snips from the official press release with some details:
"On the heels of the Microsoft Windows 7 introduction, Intel Corporation today announced the availability of the Intel Solid-State Drive (SSD) Toolbox, with Intel SSD Optimizer and firmware update, for its 34nm Intel X25-M Mainstream SATA SSDs. The latest tools are designed to help better manage and retain the out-of-box performance of Intel SSDs...
...The Intel SSD Toolbox allows users to more effectively monitor and manage the SSD’s health. The firmware upgrade and Intel SSD Optimizer use the Windows 7 ATA Data Set Management Command (known as Trim) to help keep the Intel SSD running at continued high performance. In addition, the SSD Toolbox and Optimizer also allow the respective enhancements to work with Windows XP and Vista operating systems...
...For 34nm X25-M 160GB owners, the firmware update also offers a performance boost to sequential write speeds by delivering up to 100MB per second, a 40 percent performance improvement over the existing firmware version."
We flashed one of our Intel 34nm Gen 2 X25-M 160GB SSDs with the new firmware and ran a handful of tests under Windows 7 to see what kind of affect it had on performance. Details of the update process and optimization tool are posted on the next page, followed by some before and after benchmarks.