Intel 525 120GB mSATA SSD preview: made for Ultrabooks

The Intel 525 series are the mSATA SSDs aimed at Ultrabooks, and we tested the 120GB model. An mSATA SSD is a great way of improving performance of modern laptops still equipped with a conventional hard disk.

Many laptops newer than 18 months old have an mSATA slot in addition to the standard 2.5in disk. If you add an SSD, you can use the hard disk as data disk. This combination of a fast SSD for Windows and software and conventional hard disk for data storage is perfect for laptops.

The new Intel 525 SSDs use the familiar LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller that's been used in dozens of SSDs including Intel's own 520, 320 and 330 series.

On the 525 the SandForce chips do have newer firmware that Intel hasn't made available yet for other series. The newest mSATA SSDs feature Intel-branded 25nm flashchips from Micron. That's striking considering most SSD manufacturers have transitioned to chips with smaller transistors. It's unclear why Intel still uses 25nm, perhaps that 19nm flashchips are not yet deemed reliable enough, but the reason could just as much be financial ones.

The 525 SSDs are available in 30GB, 60GB, 90GB, 120GB, 180GB and 240GB. There is no 480GB model for the simple reason that enough flash chips don't fit on an mSATA SSD. SSDs bigger than 60GB have a maximum read speed of 550 MB/s according to Intel. The maximum write speed of the 180 GB and 240 GB models is 520 MB/s, and the 120 GB model has a maximum write speed of 500 MB/s. The 60 GB model has a max write speed of 475 MB/s, and the 30 GB only 275 MB/s.

Prices for these SSDs range from €54 for the 30 GB model to €267 for the 240GB one. The 120GB model we tested costs an average of £130 or €142. It's more expensive that we'd expect, but mSATA SSDs still tend to be more expensive than their 2.5in counterparts. Less demand is one reason for this.

Read the rest of the review of the Intel 525 120GB mSATA SSD on Hardware.info.