Until Marvell and SandForce released their first solid state drives Intel had a performance lead on all of their competitors. Unfortunately in our testing we found the 80GB Postville SSD lacked capacity and at the time the 160GB version cost substantially more than most consumers were willing to spend. Intel's ten channel controller was revolutionary, but forced Intel to release drives in odd capacity sizes.
A lot has changed since we last looked at the X25-M Series products. SandForce has released odd capacity sizes, 80GB being one of them. In order to do this each channel uses less flash and it has an effect on performance. Other manufacturers have also gone as far as reducing the number of active channels to achieve smaller drives, Intel being one of them. When this happens performance is lost due to the number of parallel reads and writes being reduced. At first we thought Intel had used this method to deliver a 120GB SSD, making it from a reduced channel 160GB drive, but that was not the case.
The Intel X25-M 120GB drive uses a new method to deliver different capacities, one that keeps the controller at its full channel capacity and keeps the performance very high. The new 120GB model uses five flash modules from the 160GB drive and five from the 80GB drive. In this review we will see what effect this has on performance while at the same time comparing Intel's latest SSD market entry to drives using SandForce, Marvell and Indilinx controllers.