Intel's X25-M 80GB solid-state drive (SSD), launched in August, is just the type of handy-sized device to replace those low-tech hard disks in laptops aimed at mobile professionals.
The device uses Intel Nand Flash memory Multi-Level Cell components, and comes in 2.5in and 1.8in form factors. We looked at the larger device, checking read data transfer speeds primarily.
The X25-M easily plugged into our test system through standard power and serial ATA connections, and we used SiSoftware's System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant 2009 software to benchmark the SSD.
Read speeds averaged around 135MB/s, with the big difference between SSDs and hard disks being that the maximum read rate in SSDs was seen from all storage locations, rather than just the outside tracks of hard disks.
For comparison a similar form factor Toshiba SATA laptop drive like the 80GB MK8051GSY has a much worse read performance of between three and four times less that Intel's X25-M SSD, but a much more comparable write performance of only 15 per cent less.
The access time for the X25-M SSD was well under one millisecond, and CPU utilisation rates were around two to three per cent.
The main benefit of SSDs are that they are more reliable, offer faster performance while using less power and should survive a drop better than a hard disk since there are no moving parts.
The main reason why consumer and enterprise deployments are not rapidly accelerating is the price. SSDs are still much more expensive, but there will be a price crossover point when the SSD price drops below that for hard disks. Predicting exactly when that will be, especially with the current financial turbulence, is difficult.
Fears about SSD failures have been touted by hard drive manufacturers which claim that SSDs have a limited read/write lifetime.
However, unless you're thinking about a large-scale enterprise deployment whereby the SSD is going to be hammered 24x7 with read and write rates being continually at maximum, the chances are that you'll never reach that limit.
Intel quotes a price of around £340 for the Intel X25-M 80GB SSD when bought in bulk, while Toshiba's 80GB SATA laptop drive can be bought online for a tenth of the price.
Intel will also be releasing a 160GB version of its SSD before the end of the year.