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Reviewed: Intel X25-M 160GB solid state drive (SSD)

Just posted is my review of the 160GB Intel X25-M 2nd-generation solid state drive (SSD).

Update! I’ve revised my review after updating the Intel unit to the 11/30/2009 firmware. Write speed is much improved, rising 26% to 103MB/sec over the former 83MB/sec.

A solid state drive (SSD) uses memory chips instead of a spinning disk: no moving parts to fail, silent operation (more). It’s the right solution today for solving both performance and reliability issues in a laptop. Also, an SSD in a Mac Pro is the very best way to free up all four drive bays for data — use the SSD for a boot/applications drive.

Intel 160GB X25-M Solid State Drive reviewed

The Intel 160GB SSD uses only 10% of the power of today’s low power laptop drives! A laptop hard drive can use 1.5 watts or so and half a watt at idle. Since my 13" MacBook Pro server machine uses only ~9 watts at idle, that should be a 3-10% battery life gain, and the laptop stays cooler, too. And it’s silent, a nice plus in a quiet room.

I’m still using the original (generation 1) 80GB model as the boot drive in my Mac Pro, and it has been a great choice I enjoy every day: silent, low power, and very fast. See How to Make Your Mac feel Lightning Fast. The 2nd generation model is incrementally faster, according to Intel.

An SSD offers the fastest and most reliable storage possible in a laptop. Now that I’ve been running the Crucial 256GB SSD in my MacBook Pro for several months, I can report that it exerts a powerful influence on the overall responsiveness and usability of a laptop — I won’t ever again be stuck using a hard disk. You are definitely better off giving up a few megahertz (eg 2.93 vs 3.06) and using the money towards an SSD, if cost holds you back.

Traveling on a costly trip for photography? Skip the hard drive and go with an SSD, both internal to your laptop as well as a robust external backup, like this OWC 256GB AL-Pro mini. Should you drop your laptop onto a concrete floor, the internal SSD will likely be unharmed, even if the laptop itself is mostly in pieces (provided the SSD itself hasn't been crushed, etc). And the same is likely for an external unit; no moving parts make data loss an unlikely prospect.

More reliable, much faster, what’s not to like? I’s a price and capacity issue in late 2009, but that should steadily change in 2010.

Need help? I offer consulting for setting up a “killer” Mac Pro or MacBook Pro or any Mac.

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