Review: Intel delivers good performance and value with its 525 Series mSATA drives
Intel is looking to capture and more of the SSD market with the release of its 525 Series mSATA drives. These tiny storage devices deliver respectable performance at good prices. The new 525 Series is based on Intel's 25nm NAND memory and LSI Logic’s SandForce SF-2281 controller. They measure approximately 3.7mm thick by 51mm long by 30mm wide (full-size mSATA) and come in 30GB, 60GB, 90GB, 120GB, 180GB, and 240GB capacities.
If you're not familiar with this standard, mSATA is an acronym for Mini-Serial Advanced Technology Attachment. Its edge connector is similar in appearance to that of a PCIe Mini Card and is electrically compatible, but its data signals are sent to the computer's SATA controller instead of its PCIe controller. The standard is designed for small SSDs that fit in tight spaces where their 2.5-inch and even 1.8-inch siblings can’t.
Retail pricing for the Intel 525 series is $54 for the 30GB ($1.80 per GB), $104 for the 60GB ($1.73 per GB), $129 for the 90GB ($1.43 per GB), $149 for the 120GB ($1.24 per GB), $214 for the 180GB (1.18 per GB), and $279 for the 240GB model ($1.16 per GB). That's more expensive per GB than larger drives, but it's very competitive with other mSATA products.
Each model in the 525 Series is a SATA 6-GBps drive, but real-world speed scales with size. This is true of most SSDs: More memory means more pathways across which to distribute read/write operations. Our testing with the 120GB, 180GB, and 240GB flavors bore this out. While read speeds increased only mildly, write speeds rose significantly with each jump in capacity. See the numbers in the table below:
|Write 10GB of files & folders||230.3||295.5||324.1|
|Read 10GB of files & folders||382.5||380.6||397.5|
|Write a single 10GB file||271.4||368.6||425.7|
|Read a single 10GB file||435.9||439.0||462.5|
CrystalDiskMark revealed largely the same story.
While the 120GB, 180GB, and 240GB drives have roughly the same price per gigabyte, you get significantly better write performance with each step up the capacity ladder. Note: Our test-bed image will not fit on the 30GB or 60GB models, but the drop in performance should be relatively even. Intel provides ratings for each drive online.
Intel's 525 Series mSATA drives deliver very good performers and solid value.