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Intel 525 Series mSATA SSD Review: Five Capacities Tested

Intel 525 Series mSATA SSD Review: Five Capacities Tested
Chris takes five Intel mSATA SSDs from the 525 Series for a spin. The mSATA standard is all around you in new products and you might not even know your new notebook has an open mSATA slot.
| SSDs in Storage | Posted: Apr 3, 2013 11:01 pm
TweakTown Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction

 

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When we went notebook shopping for a model that accepted both SATA III and mSATA, we had a difficult time. Many of the major notebook manufacturers use mSATA in their popular models, but don't list the open slot as a feature or even its existence. We finally choose the Lenovo W530 for its ability to handle two SATA III 2.5" form factor drives and the presence of an onboard mSATA slot under the keyboard. I have a long time love affair with Lenovo notebooks as well, so that played a role as well.

 

The Lenovo W530 and its consumer counterpart T530 are not advertised with mSATA. The product specifications don't mention mSATA, the official videos don't comment on mSATA, but you can configure the unit with a cache drive and often times that is code for an mSATA slot.

 

That said, just mentioning a SSD/HDD cache arrangement doesn't always mean the presence of mSATA, as I found out two weeks ago. Now that I have a number of mSATA drives on hand and one of my daily use notebooks is getting up there in age, I went shopping at the local big box retailers for a new notebook. I actually went out to look at $500 - $700 models and came home with a Samsung 7-Series 17" ultrabook. As advertised in the store, the 7-Series comes with a 500GB HDD and an 8GB cache drive. The advertised specs worked out well because my plan was to replace the HDD with an Intel DC S3700 800GB SSD and replace the mSATA drive with the Mushkin 480GB mSATA. After returning home, I found the mSATA drive was actually an iSSD from SanDisk. A controller and NAND flash combined on a single chip and soldered to the motherboard. Lesson learned, just because a notebook says cache doesn't always mean mSATA.

 

Over time we'll see an increase in both of these solutions and the inclusion of another, m.2 also known as NGFF. Until Haswell hits the market, NGFF is on the back burner, but till then mSATA leads the performance category, and will expand into even more areas.

 

A number of desktop motherboards already have mSATA slots, with GIGABYTE leading the way with the most mSATA equipped models. Intel's new NUC platform uses mSATA as well. The mSATA drive in the NUC is the new 525 Series that we're looking at today.

 

Let's take a look at the specifications and the features of Intel's new 525 Series.

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