Intel firmware addresses X25-M, X18-M SSD slowdowns

Good news, users of Intel X25-M and X18-M solid-state drives. Intel has released a firmware update that addresses (and apparently resolves) a performance problem caused by internal fragmentation. Here’s the skinny, in Intel’s words:

This update implements several continuous improvements and optimizations to the drive algorithms including a resolution for a performance issue first reported by the PC Perspective review website. Keep in mind that the risk of a typical PC user experiencing this issue is very low. We are offering this firmware download to our OEM customers and any consumers who have purchased the drives. Consumers with questions can contact their PC maker or visit Intel support at http://www.intel.com/support/9089.htm for more information.

Back in February, PC Perspective reported that the write combining feature in Intel SSDs caused internal fragmentation that could hurt performance significantly—dropping write speeds to 25-30MB/s in some cases. The article noted, “We found that a ‘used’ X25-M will always perform worse than a ‘new’ one, regardless of any adaptive algorithms that may be at play.”

Does the new firmware really work? PC Perspective published another article this afternoon with positive results. Reportedly, installing the firmware after two months of use more than doubled write speeds from 30MB/s to 76MB/s. The drive shrugged off repeated torture testing, as well.

Comments closed
    • Ushio01
    • 14 years ago

    It says in the PC Perspective article that intel never denied there was a problem it was other sites that made up nonsence about denials.

    • crose
    • 14 years ago

    You mean the M-series and the E-series? Aren’t they called X25-M and X25-E?

    • Windogg
    • 14 years ago

    The M-series mainstream drives are MLC and the X-series “Extreme”/enterprise drives are SLC.

    • stmok
    • 14 years ago

    Are these SSDs, MLC or SLC?

    • Hattig
    • 14 years ago

    Well kudos to Intel for providing a multi-OS firmware updater.

    Kudos to PC Perspective for discovering the problem, and having to ride the reports of denials from Intel and hence quite a lot of fanboys until they magically came up with a firmware fix.

    • jabro
    • 14 years ago

    Doh – you beat me by two minutes!

    • jabro
    • 14 years ago

    It’s a loooong read, but this article from Anandtech does a pretty good job of explaining the impact of fragmentation and erase/write performance.

    §[<http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3531<]§

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 14 years ago

    If you really want to know, see:
    §[<http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3531<]§

    • Usacomp2k3
    • 14 years ago

    Less than 1000? Haha. I’ve got probably a dozen folders on my home Outlook client with more than that. With the search, intricate folder hierarchy isn’t all the necessary.

    • 5150
    • 14 years ago

    Two reasons, I wanted to keep writes to a minimum on the SSD, two, I like keeping it on a seperate drive since it’s easier to backup and I really don’t care about it’s performance. If you want to speed up Outlook, I’d recommend removing all the add-ins from the Trust Manager you don’t need.

    • BRiT
    • 14 years ago

    OCZ offers a Vertex 250GB drive too.

    • indeego
    • 14 years ago

    X-25M in September 2008: $~600
    X-25M in April 2009: $393

    Incredibleg{<.<}g

    • indeego
    • 14 years ago

    Outlook does benefit from a fast SSD, but a far better method would be to keep the number of items in your folders low (less than 1000).

    §[<http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc535025.aspx<]§ Since space is a premium with SSD's, you really want to put frequently read/written/user accessed data into it. At least for me, I can deal with outlook being slower since it's a secondary activity most of the timeg{<.<}g

    • Neutronbeam
    • 14 years ago

    great, now to update my boot drive and pray!

    • bthylafh
    • 14 years ago

    I also hear that Apple is going to release a 7″ Macbook Air with a touchscreen and a secret new operating system.

    Has about as much credibility, huh?

    • cygnus1
    • 14 years ago

    That’s good to hear first hand. Why did you move your PST off the Vertex? Are you worried about write churn?

    I would think Outlook and a PST would be a perfect candidate for the speed benefits of an SSD.

    • 5150
    • 14 years ago

    Zero stuttering, I do a few basic tweaks and moved my Outlook file to a traditional HDD, but I seriously doubt that any of these are needed. Also, OCZ is in beta testing of supporting TRIM on these and they are supposed to have a defrag tool specifically for these drives coming out soon. $4$, I don’t think you can beat these things. Plus, they are constantly improving them with firmware updates and the OCZ forum has a huge following and tons of info.

    No, I am not a paid representative of OCZ. 😉

    • jpostel
    • 14 years ago

    TFA from PC Perspective also has some interesting speculation that the firmware limits the write speed on purpose, and that they will have much faster drives in the pipe.

    • cygnus1
    • 14 years ago

    I’m really tempted to get the 120GB Vertex. How well have they been working for you? Any stuttering or any other issues, or are the running smooth like butter?

    • Prion
    • 14 years ago

    Writes have to happen at a certain block size, so if no free blocks are available then the contents of a block have to be read out, the block has to go through an erase cycle, and then the combined contents have to be written back to the block. This happens because, due to performance reasons, pending writes will prioritize an empty block regardless of the size of the data being written, which leaves the disk full of partially filled blocks across the disk after a few months of normal use.

    • bthylafh
    • 14 years ago

    I’m mystified. Since it’s a random-access device, why does the internal fragmentation matter?

    • 5150
    • 14 years ago

    I’ll still stick with my OCZ Vertex’s.

    • 5150
    • 14 years ago

    Not supposed to be a reply.

    • indeego
    • 14 years ago

    Rock. win/win. Thanks Intelg{

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