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Print 21 comment(s) - last by Reclaimer77.. on Oct 27 at 4:54 PM

160GB SSDs get faster, but only for 34nm drives

Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system launched to great fanfare last week, but one of the most important features for Solid State Drive owners has been commonly overlooked. That feature is the the Trim attribute of the ATA Data Set Management Command, commonly known simply as TRIM.

SSDs are like traditional magnetic storage based hard drives in that data still resides on the drive after it has been deleted by the OS. That data block is overwritten by new data when the amount of fresh unused storage is depleted. On most SSDs, data is erased in 512KB blocks even though data is written in 4KB pages. This means that if a single 4KB page needs to be updated, the whole block must be erased and rewritten, slowing down the drive significantly. This is particularly true for random write operations.

TRIM synchronizes the operating system's view of deleted files with those that are deleted, but not yet erased on the hard drive. SSD controllers are good at managing data, but they have no optimization for different file systems. TRIM lets the controller know that data has been deleted so that it can wipe the entire block when it is not busy with other operations. This significantly speeds up write operations, especially when the drive is nearly full.

Intel's second generation X25-M series SSDs have been selling very well, and the company has been promising TRIM support to its many customers. It is releasing new firmware to the public that will enable the use of TRIM, but only with its latest generation of mainstream SSDs using 34nm NAND flash.

"Fast and reliable access to data is critical for our SSD users," said Pete Hazen, Director of Marketing for Intel's NAND Solutions Group. "The latest firmware and toolbox upgrade for Intel 34nm SSD users provide a host of new management, information and diagnostic tools to help SSDs retain out-of-box performance. We are encouraging our 34nm customers to download the new firmware update today. Not only will Windows 7 users receive the performance enhancements of the Trim command, but so will our Windows XP and Vista
users."

Owners of second generation 160GB X25-M drives running Windows 7 will also see a 40 percent performance boost to sequential write speeds. The firmware update allows the drives to write data at up to 100MB per second.

Backing up data before the firmware update is highly recommended, but existing data on the SSD will not be erased. Intel also cautions against using the firmware utility over RAID, as each drive must be flashed individually. The firmware update is available here.

TRIM has been implemented in Linux 2.6.28 since December of last year. All older solid state drives will need firmware updates to enable TRIM support, otherwise the new command will be ignored by the controller.



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Available
By erikejw on 10/26/2009 12:36:32 PM , Rating: 2
This all sounds great.
I only wish I could buy it.

Anyone heard of when the situation might improve?




RE: Available
By therealnickdanger on 10/26/2009 12:55:31 PM , Rating: 2
Don't worry, soon enough (3mo-6mo) a new wave of TRIM-enabled/SATA-6Gbps/cache-enhanced SSDs will storm the market and drive down prices... but then you won't want the X-25M anymore because the new drives will be so much better!


RE: Available
By BZDTemp on 10/26/2009 1:00:24 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly - I can already see the day where my X-25M will go in my PS3. Still for now it has made my PC much snappier (And it replaced a 10.000 rpm WD drive).


RE: Available
By semo on 10/26/2009 1:37:21 PM , Rating: 5
i wouldn't do that:
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/the-es...
apparently the ps3 won't get any faster but i've seen other reviews which suggest otherwise. you can always make use of an ssd in a modern (many sata ports) computer: application/profile/pagefile or even a data drive.

if intel is struggling to keep the retail chain fed then this must be a seriously hot product. i wonder how it compares to lynfield in terms of units sold.


RE: Available
By therealnickdanger on 10/26/2009 3:53:56 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
apparently the ps3 won't get any faster but i've seen other reviews which suggest otherwise

The only review I've seen says it does in a big way:
http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2332522...

(I can't view the video you linked to here at work, but I assume it's not good)


RE: Available
By Reclaimer77 on 10/26/2009 4:34:49 PM , Rating: 2
I found a Generation 2 80gig on Amazon a few weeks ago, might wanna check there.

And I can tell all the naysayers with Raptors that they are living in denial. The overall system improvement gained by the Intel SSD's simply cannot be explained sufficiently with words. I'm living it, and I'm loving it.


RE: Available
By therealnickdanger on 10/26/2009 9:42:43 PM , Rating: 2
I finally got around to watching that video... they used the wrong kind of SSD in that review (slow Samsung), no wonder it didn't improve! I'm actually surprised that it wasn't slower...


RE: Available
By MindParadox on 10/26/2009 11:47:15 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The only review I've seen says it does in a big way: http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,2845,2332522...


only one problem, even in that article, it says that while there was SOME improvement, it didnt justify the 600 dollar or thereabouts cost!

specially for a maximum of 40% speed on installation/load on games that are ENTIRELY on the HDD (Demos and Indy developed games for example)

the problem with the PS3 is the abysmal read times from the Bluray drive, which is why the format hasnt gotten anymore popular for game creation companies(and why the Xbox360 doesnt require installations for multiplatform games, F.E.A.R.2 and Wolverine spring to mind as examples)


RE: Available
By Silver2k7 on 10/27/2009 4:06:32 AM , Rating: 2
"the problem with the PS3 is the abysmal read times from the Bluray drive"

Well now the first 12x blu-ray burners have arrived on the market. I guess you wont find them in a ps3.. maybe the new slim PS3 have a better reader ??

When the prices go down we might start to see an adoption
of the bluray standard on the PC.


RE: Available
By someguy123 on 10/27/2009 4:58:31 AM , Rating: 2
the read difference is negligible. the 360's DVDs read faster than the ps3 on their outer edges, but slower than the ps3 as you move in, while the ps3's bluray maintains speed across the entire disc. with dual layer DVDs the read speed is actually a little slower than the ps3's bluray. the reason why games on the 360 don't have forced installations is because microsoft does not allow developers to force installations, something that Carmack complained about when making their latest Rage engine.

http://forum.beyond3d.com/showthread.php?t=42157

not sure what you mean by the "format hasn't gotten anymore popular", since you basically have to put your game on bluray if you make a ps3 game. i'm assuming you mean it hasn't gotten popular on PC....but the reason for that should be obvious.


RE: Available
By CommodoreVic20 on 10/27/2009 8:30:35 AM , Rating: 2
I just purchased my first SSD, a corsair 128GB from NewEgg. Man is it FAST. I mean people who haven't experienced an SSD have no idea. When I say FAST I mean its incredible! I would say its like going from dial-up to a cable modem difference.


Awesome
By fiskov on 10/26/2009 12:59:27 PM , Rating: 2
Awesome, hopefully my two 80gb drives arrive tomorrow.. Thanks to RoyalMail they've been at "Arrived at depo" status since thursday.

Was in the same boat as most people from the UK, waiting for them to come into stock. I gave up in the end and bought them from eBay.com
inc. shipping they where £176 each.
(Over here there listed for £190+)
Haha UK etailer's you lose my business again.

Anyway, good news and can't wait.




RE: Awesome
By HotFoot on 10/26/2009 1:19:45 PM , Rating: 2
Note the 80 GB drives aren't getting a boost to their sequential write speeds. The firmware update is taking advantage of the double number of chips in the 160 GB drive compared to the 80 GB drive to boost sequential speeds. I doubt you'll be disappointed though if you're putting those two 80 GB drives in RAID0. I have just one and compared to the Raptor it replaced, my system got so much snappier.

Off-topic but I also wanted to say that Vista users need not despair. TRIM functionality is available in the form of a software tool from Intel that you can schedule to run automatically to clean up the drive.


RE: Awesome
By jimhsu on 10/26/2009 1:48:25 PM , Rating: 2
Doesn't change the fact that for most users, the firmware update will actually boost realized write speeds even on the 80GB. Here's a test done with a reasonably fragmented drive (3.59 TB of writes according to Intel's tool):

Before:
http://img263.imageshack.us/i/25b1cea8082f1a3a4872...

After FW Update and one Wiper run:
http://img263.imageshack.us/i/09945d9f128a4cc5ee0d...


RE: Awesome
By Reclaimer77 on 10/26/2009 4:39:15 PM , Rating: 2
Random reads and writes are FAR more important than sequential write speed anyway. Trust me, the 80gig screams !


Early adopters are out of luck
By taniniver on 10/27/2009 6:10:13 AM , Rating: 4
I own one of the original generation of Intel X25-M SSDs on the 50 nm process, not the 34 nm versions.

Thank you very much Intel for punishing your early adopters by not giving them the latest firmware - I'll be sure NOT to buy Intel when I decide to replace it.




By Shining Arcanine on 10/27/2009 9:35:59 AM , Rating: 2
I doubt you will be replacing it any time soon. That drive is much faster than anything available from Intel's competitors now and in the foreseeable future.


Does anyone know?
By Drag0nFire on 10/26/2009 2:14:33 PM , Rating: 2
The new tool from Intel allows the user to manually schedule TRIM and SSD optimization. Does Win7 also do this automatically on a regular basis? This would seem preferable...




RE: Does anyone know?
By semo on 10/26/2009 2:24:56 PM , Rating: 3
7 does it on delete and format only if you have the windows storage drives. any other 3rd party driver wouldn't send the trim command to the drive's controller.

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=36...


Why?
By wutang146 on 10/27/2009 2:49:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
On most SSDs, data is erased in 512KB blocks even though data is written in 4KB pages.


Anyone know the motive behind this design decision? I would imagine erasing and writing data could be the same granularity to avoid the necessity of this TRIM mechanism in the first place..




Warning
By Reclaimer77 on 10/27/2009 4:54:35 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know if anyone will see this, but I would hold off on flashing your SSD to this firmware. After flashing my X25-M Generation 2 80gig, it booted normally. Then Windows said it had applied an update ( it didn't say, I assume it had something to do with the SSD firmware change ) and had to be rebooted. After rebooting I got the "drive cannot be read, hit ctrl+alt+del to reboot " error and ended up having to reformat and reinstall.

So I would hold off unless you are DYING for TRIM, because to get it prepare for a pain in the ass.




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