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I had high expectations for the X25-E Extreme, but even those were exceeded by the drive's stunning performance. This is without a doubt the fastest solid-state drive we've ever tested, and based on just how much quicker it is than Samsung's FlashSSD, I wonder if it might be the fastest flash drive we see for a while. Intel's decades of chipset design experience likely deserve much of the credit here, as the X25-E's storage controller seems to do an excellent job of exploiting all the performance potential available in single-level cell flash memory.

Obviously, the Extreme is at its best when subjected to demanding workloads that combine a highly-randomized mix of read and write requests. The drive's jaw-dropping IOMeter performance is a testament to just how well it handles heavy multi-user loads, and that's precisely why the X25-E is perfect for the enterprise environments at which it's targeted. If all you're running is a web server that's going to be slammed with read requests all day, you might want to consider the X25-M. However, that drive is going to run out of write-erase cycles much quicker than the X25-E, which should last ten times longer thanks to the higher endurance of SLC memory.

Lest you think it's only appropriate for servers, the X25-E's dominating multitasking performance suggests that it's a good candidate for workstations, too. Based on the drive's crushing display in FC-Test, I'd say it's an attractive option for any system that needs to shuffle files around quickly and often. And let's not forget that the Extreme operates in absolute silence while barely sipping power.

Of course, the X25-E does have its limitations. For example, the drive won't dramatically speed up typical desktop applications that aren't terribly bound by storage subsystem performance. The X25-E's modest 32GB storage capacity may prove too small for some applications, as well, although Intel is slated to release a 64GB version of the drive next year.

Intel X25-E Extreme
November 2008
Perhaps the greatest stumbling block for the X25-E Extreme is one that affects all solid-state drives: price. The Extreme is currently available for as little as $719, which works out to a coronary-inducing $22 per gigabyte. But it would be unwise only to consider the drive in terms of cost per gigabyte. Given its target market, it's far more appropriate to examine cost as it relates to performance. If we look at the Extreme's cost per IOMeter transaction, for example, we find that it's a much better value than any other drive we tested today (with the partial exception of the X25-M, but then only with the web server test pattern).

For those who put a premium on storage subsystem performance, the X25-E actually represents rather good value. And as the fastest drive we've ever tested, solid-state or otherwise, bragging rights are guaranteed. Finally, a product deserving of not only its Extreme moniker, but Editor's Choice distinction, too. TR

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