The PCMark Vantage tests do a very good job showing the real world performance of solid state drives and in these we could really see just how much faster the new 120GB X25-M was compared to the 80GB model. For the most part Intel has caught up to the SandForce 120GB drives in the tasks we all use daily; the numbers are so close there are even some SandForce drives we've tested that are slower than the X25-M 120GB across the board. Daily tasks aside, the file transfer performance of the SandForce drives, something that we criticize them for at high capacities compared to the Crucial RealSSD C300, is actually faster with SandForce, so choosing where you would like the highest performance in all tests is something that buyers should consider.
The 120GB X25-M is still part of the G2 product revision and G3 is just around the corner. The last we heard G3 will be ready for retail in February, but a few were sold in China not that long ago in a gray market sale. Those drives were engineering samples and far from full retail units, but the news and published benchmarks shined some light on the status of G3. Unfortunately we still don't know with certainty what G3 prices will look like, an area Intel will more than likely improve upon.
At the time of writing the X25-M G2 80GB drive was listed at Newegg for 169.99 and the 120GB drive that we looked at today was 199.99. Given the performance increases we found today, anyone looking at the 80GB drive should spend just a little more to receive the faster model that also includes an extra 40GB of capacity. That's easily said in regards to the Intel / Intel battle, but there is still the SandForce SF-1200 competition where many manufacturers have competed to drop pricing by more than 50% off the launch prices.
When it comes to choosing an Intel or SandForce 120GB drive, it's a tough call. Both products have strong and not so strong areas. The perfect SSD has yet to hit retail. The good thing is that users now have another option when purchasing an SSD and can choose a drive based on what they would like higher performance in. When doing that you really can't call it a two drive race since SandForce has the Pro and non-Pro models (30K vs. 50K 4K IOPS) and Crucial's RealSSD C300 is also a strong contender and winner in some of the 'daily use' benchmarks as well.
When it really comes down to it, though, most users aren't going to notice a second here and a second there, especially when they are so happy just to see their PC load Windows in half the time they are used to. Users who are not looking to benchmark their computer once a week will actually be very happy with any of the top performing drives mentioned above. I could almost recommend just flipping a coin for casual users if the prices are identical, since the user experience is nearly the same when averaged together.
There is also the name factor. Intel has a very good consumer brand image and that didn't come from their bom-bom, bom-bom commercials. Intel's tech support team is likely larger than some SSD manufacturers entire staff roster and is very well trained. Casual users who may rely on tech support to get them through the drive installation will appreciate this, and if an issue arises casual users will not feel frustrated since Intel tech support works with casual users daily. The included accessory package is also the best we've seen so far and will make installation for casual users much simpler.
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