Intel 335 review: Intel SSD 335 Series (240GB) review: Intel SSD 335 Series (240GB)

Intel 335 Series 180GB SSD Review

Intel has had a prominent role in the consumer solid-state drive (SSD) market since it launched its 80GB X25-M solid-state drive back in 2009. The chip giant has followed up with refreshed devices at regular intervals, most recently with the SSD 335 Series. The 180GB 335 Series drive we’re reviewing today is the second SKU to launch; Intel shipped a larger 240GB model last December. This new drive is a decent performer, but its reliance on older controller technology leave it wedged in the middle of the pack.

There’s not much difference between the new SSD 335 Series drives and the 330 Series, which launched a little over a year ago. Both the 330 and 335 families use the SandForce SF-2281 controller. Both offer SATA 6G support, a three-year warranty, and the same base performance specs (500MBps sequential read and 450MBps sequential write). The older drive uses 25nm MLC NAND, while the newer 335 Series is based on Intel’s 20nm NAND. SSDs aren’t known for drawing much power, but the 335 is specced as having a maximum power draw of 350mW, with idle power consumption of 275mW. That’s significantly less than the SSD 330 Series, which was specced for 850mW under load and 600mW in idle.

Save for the reduced power consumption, the shift to 20nm NAND is mostly an advantage for Intel, rather than a direct benefit to consumers. The 20nm NAND is significantly smaller than 25nm NAND, which means Intel can fit more memory chips on a given silicon wafer. The shift to smaller manufacturing geometries (also called nodes) is one reason why the price of SSDs has dropped precipitously in the past few years. The new 20nm NAND chips (shown to scale in the image above), are just 40% the size of the 34nm NAND Intel was using four years ago.

Intel drives tend to carry a fair amount of additional (overprovisioned) Flash. The 180GB SSD 335 actually contains 192GB of RAM; the additional 12GB is rotated into use as blocks of the original 180GB wear out and need to be retired. One of the downsides to using NAND built on a smaller process is that the memory can’t handle as many program/erase cycles. Despite this trend, Intel rates the SSD 335 is as robust as the previous SSD 330 family.

Similar Products

4.0

Excellent

Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB

Read Our Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB Review

3.5

Good

OCZ Vector Series VTR1-25SAT3-256G

4.0

Excellent

Samsung 840 Series 250GB

We compared the 180GB Intel SSD 335 against the Samsung 840 Pro Series 256GB and the OCZ Vector Series VTR1-25SAT3-256G($173.99 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window). Our review unit was tested using an Asus P877V-Deluxe motherboard with 8GB of DDR3-1600 and an Intel Core i7-3770K CPU. The P877-V Deluxe offers multiple SATA controllers from Intel and Marvell; all of the drives were connected to Intel’s 6G SATA port.

Of principle interest here is whether the 335’s older SandForce controller can keep up with newer options from OCZ and Samsung. The SF-2281 controller has mostly been popping up in budget drives of late, and SandForce is expected to launch a new SF-3000 controller series later this year.

The performance figures for AS-SSD and SiSoft Sandra tests reflect a drive’s performance in a particular type of data workload. Sequential read/write tests measure an SSD’s capabilities when reading or writing a large block of contiguous data. A single large movie or ISO image will test a drive’s sequential performance (assuming that the target drive isn’t badly fragmented). In AS-SSD, the Intel 335’s sequential read speeds weren’t far off the OCZ Vector and Samsung 840 Pro (465MBps compared to 509 MBps and 518 MBps, respectively), but sequential write performance was significantly lower. The Intel 335 managed 252MBps, while the OCZ Vector clocked in at 495MBps and the Samsung 840 Pro scored 481MBps.

The 4K read/write tests ascertain the performance of an SSD or HDD when reading and writing small chunks of data. These small read/writes are vital to the everyday performance of a storage solution. The «64 Threads» test in AS-SSD means that the benchmark program spins off 64 separate 4K read/write tasks. This stretches the controller’s ability to manage such workloads, but also provides a more realistic performance metric—an operating system is constantly reading and writing data to multiple services and programs simultaneously. The Intel 335 lagged behind the OCZ and Samsung drives at 203MBps read and 214MBps write. The OCZ Vector logged read/write speeds of 359MBps and 304MBps with the 840 Pro at 381MBps read, 299MBps write.

The random read/write performance data from SiSoft Sandra that we also quote is a measure of a drive’s sustained performance when reading and writing a contiguous block of information to a randomly chosen location. These metrics are important because they collectively measure the different types of storage tasks an SSD or HDD performs, even if they don’t represent user workloads.

SiSoft Sandra again shows the Intel 335 competing well in read performance (485MBps, while the OCZ Vector and Samsung 840 Pro both tie at 530MBps). Write performance is the drive’s weak spot — the Intel 335’s SF-2281 controller turns in 225MBps in random write performance. That’s less than half the OCZ Vector’s 509MBps random write or the Samsung 840 Pro’s 507MBps.

Finally, there’s PCMark 7, which is a different type of test. The benchmark uses real storage workloads created by recording traces of hard drive activity when playing games, loading music or video, or copying files. These traces are used to measure the performance of storage products in comprehensive real-world scenarios.

The difference between SSDs in PCMark 7 tends to be much smaller than what we see in other synthetic tests. The Intel 335 scored a 5214, compared to a 5419 for the OCZ Vector and a 5588 for the Samsung 840 Pro. The gap between the Intel SSD 335 and the other drives is roughly ~7%.

Right now, the Intel 335 Series 180GB is selling for about $175, or just under $1 per GB. That compares fairly well to the cost-per-GB of an OCZ Vector ($269 for 256GB at NewEgg) or the Samsung 840 Pro ($249 for 256GB at NewEgg). The OCZ and Samsung options, however, are significantly faster than the Intel 335 Series. The SF-2281 controller has migrated to budget SSDs for a reason; it was cutting edge when it debuted in 2011, but its performance has been surpassed by other products.

That doesn’t mean the Intel 335 is devoid of strong points. Intel has over-provisioned the drive by about 6.7%, which is fairly high for consumer hardware. The company has a reputation for high-quality NAND flash, and the included SSD toolbox software interfaces well with Windows and can auto-optimize an OS installation to run on solid state storage as well as manually triggering the TRIM command.

When push comes to shove, however, the Intel 335 Series 180GB SSD is in a bit of a no-man’s land. There are budget drives, like Samsung’s 840, that offer a lower cost per GB. There are higher-performing drives for the same cost per GB. If you can grab one of the 180GB or 240GB drives on sale, or if you’re fond of Intel-branded products, then the Series 335 180GB SSD is a good option. Other buyers will find newer hardware a better deal.

Intel 335 Series 180GB SSD

Pros

  • Decent price per GB.

  • Intel’s bundled toolbox is quite useful.

The Bottom Line

Intel builds a good product, but the Intel 335 Series solid-state drive doesn’t dominate the market.

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Intel’s 335 Series SSD reviewed

SSDs have come a long way since Intel released its first, the X25-M, a little more than four years ago. That drive was a revelation, but it wasn’t universally faster than the mechanical hard drives of the era. The X25-M was also horrendously expensive; it cost nearly $600 yet offered just 80GB of capacity, which works out to about $7.50 per gigabyte.

My, how things have changed.

Solid-state drives gotten a lot faster in the last few years. They’re already pushing up against the throughput ceiling of the 6Gbps Serial ATA interface, leaving mechanical hard drives in the dust. I can’t remember the last time we saw an HDD score better than an SSD in one of our performance tests.

More importantly, SSDs have become a lot more affordable. Today, you can get 80GB by spending $100. The sweet spot in the market is the 240-256GB range, where SSDs can be had for around $200—less than a dollar per gigabyte. Rabid competition between drive makers deserves some credit for falling prices, particularly in recent years. Moore’s Law is the real driving factor behind the trend, though. The X25-M’s NAND chips were built using a 50-nm process, while the new Intel 335 Series uses flash fabricated on a much smaller 20-nm process.

Designed for enthusiasts and DIY system builders, the 335 Series is aimed squarely at the sweet spot in the market with a 240GB model priced at $184. That’s just 77 cents per gig, a tenfold reduction in cost in just four years. The price is right, but what about the performance? We’ve run Intel’s latest through our usual gauntlet of tests to see how it stacks up against the most popular SSDs around.

Die shrinkin’

Intel and Micron have been jointly manufacturing flash memory since 2006 under the name IM Flash Technologies. The pair started with 72-nm NAND flash before moving on to the 50-nm chips used in the X25-M. The next fabrication node was 34 nm, which produced the chips used in the second-generation X25-M and the Intel 510 Series. 25-nm NAND found its way into the third-gen X25-M, otherwise known as the 320 Series, in addition to the 330 and 520 Series. Now, the Intel 335 Series has become the first SSD to use IMFT’s 20-nm MLC NAND.

Building NAND on finer fabrication nodes allows more transistors to be squeezed into the same unit area. In addition to accommodating more dies per wafer, this shrinkage can allow more capacity per die. The 34-nm NAND used in the Intel 510 Series offered 4GB per die, with each die measuring 172 mm². When IMFT moved to 25-nm production for the 320 Series, the per-die capacity doubled to 8GB, while the die size shrunk slightly to 167 mm².

Two 4GB 34-nm dies, one 8GB 25-nm die, and the new 8GB 20-nm die. Source: Intel

The Intel 335 Series’ 20-nm NAND crams 8GB onto a die measuring just 118 mm². That’s not the doubling of bit density we enjoyed in the last transition, but it still amounts to a 29% reduction in die size for the same capacity. Based on how those dies fit onto each wafer, Intel says 20-nm production increases the “gigabyte capacity” of its flash fabs by approximately 50%. IMFT has been mass-producing these chips since December of last year.

As NAND processes shrink, the individual cells holding 1s and 0s get closer together. Closer proximity can increase the interference between the cells, which can degrade both the performance and the endurance of the NAND. Intel’s solution to this problem is a planar cell structure with a floating, high-k/metal gate stack. This advanced cell design is purportedly the first of its kind in the flash industry, and Intel claims it delivers performance and reliability comparable to IMFT’s 25-nm NAND. Indeed, Intel’s performance and endurance specifications for the 335 Series 240GB exactly match those of its 25-nm sibling in the 330 Series.

Intel says the 335 Series 240GB can push sequential read and write speeds of 500 and 450MB/s, respectively. 4KB random read/write IOps are pegged at 42,000/52,000. Thanks to the lower power consumption of its 20-nm flash, the new drive should be able to hit those targets while consuming less power than its predecessor. The 335 Series is rated for power consumption of 275 mW at idle and 350 mW when active, less than half the 600/850 mW ratings of its 25-nm counterpart.

On the endurance front, Intel’s new hotness can supposedly withstand 20GB of writes per day for three years, just like the 330 Series. As one might expect, the drive is covered by a three-year warranty. Intel reserves its five-year SSD warranties for the 320 and 520 Series, whose high-endurance NAND is cherry-picked off the standard 25-nm production line. I suspect it will take Intel some time to bin enough higher-grade, 20-nm NAND to fuel upgrades to those other models.

Our performance results will illustrate how the 335 Series compares up to those other Intel SSDs. Expect the 320 Series to be much slower due to its 3Gbps Serial ATA interface. That drive’s Intel flash controller can trace its roots back to the original X25-M, so the design is a little long in the tooth. The 520 Series, however, has a 6Gbps interface and higher performance specifications than the 335 Series. The two are based on the same SandForce controller silicon, though.

A mostly refined package

Although Intel got its start in the SSD business using proprietary controller technology, third-party tech can be found in most of its SSDs today. The 330, 520, and now 335 Series all use the same SandForce SF-2281 flash controller. This chip was first unveiled in February of 2011, and it seems to have left behind the firmware-based BSOD issues that plagued its early life. Intel has only been selling SSDs based on the SF-2281 since February of this year, when the 520 Series made its debut.

If you’ve been following the SSD scene, you should be familiar with the SF-2281. The chip pairs a 6Gbps SATA interface with eight individual NAND channels. Unlike most SSD controllers, it doesn’t require separate cache memory. The chip’s internal buffers are large enough to take care of business without resorting to an external DRAM cache.

The defining characteristic of SandForce’s controller technology is DuraClass, a black box of technologies that includes a funky write-compression scheme dubbed DuraWrite. SandForce has kept the inner workings of DuraWrite close to its vest, but we know that it uses lossless, on-the-fly compression to reduce the flash footprint of incoming writes from the host. By writing less data to the flash, DuraWrite aims to increase the longevity of the NAND while also improving performance.

Flash memory, of course, can withstand only a limited number of write-erase cycles. The less data is written, the fewer of those cycles are consumed, and the longer the flash should last. Writing less data should also take less time, resulting in higher performance. DuraWrite’s potential benefits are bound by the compressibility of the data being written, though. Data that’s already been compressed or is highly random in nature has less to gain from SandForce’s bit-scrambling mojo than, say, a repeating pattern of bits and bytes.

DuraClass also includes a hardware encryption engine, but the Intel 335 Series’ product documentation makes no mention of encryption support. Encryption support is nowhere to be found in the supporting materials for the 330 Series, either, but it is a prominent feature of the 520 Series. Incidentally, Intel had a hand in uncovering a flaw in the SandForce controller’s 256-bit AES encryption. As a result, the 520 Series’ encryption support was downgraded from 256 to 128 bits.

RAISE is another component of SandForce’s DuraClass special sauce. This RAID-like redundancy scheme is designed to protect against physical flash failures; typically, it can keep the drive’s data intact after the demise of an entire flash die. RAISE is supported on higher-capacity models in the old 330 Series, and it appears to persist in the 335 Series.

The 335 Series actually lacks lower-capacity models entirely. In fact, the 240GB model is the only member of the line. Intel expects this to be the most popular capacity, and given current prices, it’s hard to argue with that sentiment. 240-256GB drives tend to offer the lowest cost per gigabyte right now. Intel plans to “evaluate demand” before committing to adding other capacities to the 335 Series. In the meantime, the 330 Series will continue to be sold.

As you can see in the picture above, our 335 Series sample looks a little bit rough. The top of the drive’s case is unblemished, but the bottom looks like it just got kicked out of Chris Brown’s Lamborghini. This isn’t a one-off offense, either; we’ve seem similarly beaten-up panels on Intel’s 320 and 520 Series SSDs. Intel says the cases meet its fit and finish requirements, which are apparently pretty lax on the finish front.

The case conforms to the 9.5-mm version of the 2.5″ form factor used by typical SSDs. Most notebooks can accommodate 9.5-mm drives, but it’s worth noting that the 320 and 520 Series use slimmer cases that can slip into 7-mm bays. Each of those drives comes with a screwed-on spacer that beefs up the thickness to 9.5 mm. Oddly, that spacer moves inside the case for the Intel 335 Series.

Popping open the case also reveals the circuit board, which is loaded with 16 NAND packages. There are eight packages per side, and each one has dual 8GB dies. Add ’em up, and the drive has 256GB of flash memory onboard. Some of the NAND is dedicated to spare area and RAISE, dropping the 335 Series’ advertised capacity to 240GB.

Our drive arrived in a retail kit that includes a 3.5″ mounting bracket, SATA data and power cables, and a handful of screws. Intel provides free cloning software for folks looking to migrate an existing OS install to the SSD. It also offers an excellent SSD Toolbox application that’s worth downloading regardless of whether you’re cloning a current drive or starting from scratch.

Among other things, this utility can be used to secure-erase the drive and to update its firmware. It can also be configured to TRIM unused flash pages on a schedule, if you don’t trust the drive and operating system to clean up after themselves. I particularly like the app’s estimated life display, which is based on a SMART attribute that tracks flash wear. The SSD Toolbox can be used to monitor that and other SMART attributes, including ones that keep tabs on the total volume of reads and writes. According to the app, our test suite has hammered the drive with 3.5TB of reads and 2.5TB of writes.

Our testing methods

We’ve freshened our suite of SSD results with a couple of additions from OCZ. The Vertex 4 256GB has been added to the mix, replacing the 512GB drive we tested initially. We’ve also added the Agility 4 256GB, a cheaper version of the Vertex that uses the same Marvell controller and Indilinx firmware but slower NAND. Both drives are running OCZ’s latest firmware.

Crucial updated the firmware for its m4 SSD not long ago, and we’re running the latest version on that drive. As far as we’re aware, though, none of the other drives we’ve tested have newer firmware revisions that promise substantially better performance.

We’ve included a Western Digital Caviar Black mechanical desktop drive for reference, which gives us more than enough fodder for overstuffed graphs. Our test methods and systems haven’t changed in probably a little too long, so the scores on the following pages can be compared to those in any of our storage reviews dating back to last September. We’re already contemplating tests for a new suite, but the week after Windows 8’s official launch wasn’t a good time to bust those out.

If you’re familiar with our test methods and hardware, the rest of this page is filled with nerdy details you already know; feel free to skip ahead to the benchmark results. For the rest of you, we’ve summarized the essential characteristics of all the drives we’ve tested in the table below. Our collection of SSDs includes representatives based on the most popular SSD configurations on the market right now. We’re working on getting Samsung’s new 840 Series SSDs in-house for testing, so stay tuned.

  Interface Cache Flash controller NAND
Corsair Force Series 3 240GB 6Gbps NA SandForce SF-2281 25-nm Micron async MLC
Corsair Force Series GT 240GB 6GBps NA SandForce SF-2281 25-nm Intel sync MLC
Corsair Neutron 240GB 6GBps 256MB LAMD LM87800 25-nm Micron sync MLC
Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB 6GBps 256MB LAMD LM87800 26-nm Toshiba Toggle DDR
Crucial m4 256GB 6Gbps 256MB Marvell 88SS9174 25-nm Micron sync MLC
Intel 320 Series 300GB 3Gbps 64MB Intel PC29AS21BA0 25-nm Intel MLC
Intel 335 Series 240GB 6Gbps NA SandForce SF-2281 20-nm Intel sync MLC
Intel 520 Series 240GB 6Gbps NA SandForce SF-2281 25-nm Intel sync MLC
OCZ Agility 4 256GB 6Gbps 512MB Indilinx Everest 2 25-nm Micron async MLC
OCZ Vertex 4 256GB 6Gbps 1GB Indilinx Everest 2 25-nm Intel sync MLC
Samsung 830 Series 256GB 6Gbps 256MB Samsung S4LJ204X01 2x-nm Samsung Toggle DDR
WD Caviar Black 1TB 6Gbps 64MB NA NA

We used the following system configuration for testing:

Processor Intel Core i5-2500K 3. 3GHz
Motherboard Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Bios revision 1850
Platform hub Intel P67 Express
Platform drivers INF update 9.2.0.1030

RST 10.6.0.1022

Memory size 8GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24-1T
Audio Realtek ALC892 with 2.62 drivers
Graphics Asus EAH6670/DIS/1GD5 1GB with Catalyst 11.7 drivers
Hard drives Corsair Force 3 Series 240GB with 1. 3.2 firmware

Corsair Force Series GT 240GB with 1.3.2 firmware

Crucial m4 256GB with 010G firmware

Intel 320 Series 300GB with 4PC10362 firmware

WD Caviar Black 1TB with 05.01D05 firmware

OCZ Agility 4 256GB with 1.5.2 firmware

Samsung 830 Series 256GB with CXM03B1Q firmware

Intel 520 Series 240GB with 400i firmware

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB with 1.5 firmware

Corsair Neutron 240GB with M206 firmware

Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB with M206 firmware

Intel 335 Series 240GB with 335s firmware

Power supply Corsair Professional Series Gold AX650W
OS Windows 7 Ultimate x64

Thanks to Asus for providing the systems’ motherboards and graphics cards, Intel for the CPUs, Corsair for the memory and PSUs, Thermaltake for the CPU coolers, and Western Digital for the Caviar Black 1TB system drives.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

  • Intel IOMeter 1.1.0 RC1
  • HD Tune 4.61
  • TR DriveBench 1.0
  • TR DriveBench 2.0
  • TR FileBench 0.2
  • Qt SDK 2010.05
  • MiniGW GCC 4.4.0
  • Duke Nukem Forever
  • Portal 2

Some further notes on our test methods:

  • To ensure consistent and repeatable results, the SSDs were secure-erased before almost every component of our test suite. Some of our tests then put the SSDs into a used state before the workload begins, which better exposes each drive’s long-term performance characteristics. In other tests, like DriveBench and FileBench, we induce a used state before testing. In all cases, the SSDs were in the same state before each test, ensuring an even playing field. The performance of mechanical hard drives is much more consistent between factory fresh and used states, so we skipped wiping the HDDs before each test—mechanical drives take forever to secure erase.
  • We run all our tests at least three times and report the median of the results. We’ve found IOMeter performance can fall off with SSDs after the first couple of runs, so we use five runs for solid-state drives and throw out the first two.
  • Steps have been taken to ensure that Sandy Bridge’s power-saving features don’t taint any of our results. All of the CPU’s low-power states have been disabled, effectively pegging the 2500K at 3.3GHz. Transitioning in and out of different power states can affect the performance of storage benchmarks, especially when dealing with short burst transfers.

The test systems’ Windows desktop was set at 1280×1024 in 32-bit color at a 75Hz screen refresh rate. Most of the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

HD Tune — Transfer rates

HD Tune lets us present transfer rates in a couple of different ways. Using the benchmark’s “full test” setting gives us a good look at performance across the entire drive rather than extrapolating based on a handful of sample points. The data created by the full test also gives us fodder for line graphs, which we’ve split up by drive maker. You can click the buttons below each line graph to see how the Intel 335 Series and our mechanical hard drive compare to different SSDs.

To make the graphs easier to interpret, we’ve greyed out the mechanical drive. The SSD results have been colored by drive maker, with the 335 Series set apart from Intel’s other, er, series in a darker shade of blue.

The Intel 335 Series gets off to a good start, just edging out the 520 Series in HD Tune’s sequential read speed test. That performance isn’t good enough to put the 335 Series on the podium, but it does place the drive ahead of all the other SandForce-based SSDs we’ve tested.

Admittedly, the line graphs for the read speed test provide little drama. It’s worth noting that the SSDs maintain their transfer rates across the full extent of the drives, unlike the HDD, but that’s about it. Things get more interesting when we look at write performance:

SSDs based on SandForce controllers have long exhibited a series of regularly-spaced performance spikes in this test. The Intel 335 Series fits this pattern exactly. Interestingly, Corsair’s Neutron SSDs behave similarly but have much lower write speeds between their peaks. The Neutrons are based on a new controller from Link_A_Media Devices, otherwise known as LAMD.

If you look at the averages, the Intel 335 Series pulls up just short of the 520 Series and the Corsair Force Series GT, drives that combine the same SandForce controller with 25-nm synchronous NAND. There’s quite a gap between those three SSDs and our two leaders, the OCZ Vertex 4 and the Samsung 830 Series, which turn in write speeds about 100MB/s higher than anything else.

HD Tune runs on unpartitioned drives, a setup that isn’t always ideal for SSDs. For another perspective, we ran CrystalDiskMark’s sequential transfer rate tests, which call for partitioned drives. We used the app’s default settings: a 1GB transfer size with randomized data.

The Intel 335 Series pulls up just shy of 500MB/s in the read speed test, barely behind the 520 Series but a good 40MB/s off the pace set by the Samsung SSD. The field is a little more spread out in the write speed test. There, CrystalDiskMark’s use of randomized data is less than ideal for the SandForce-based drives. The 335 Series is the fastest among them, but that’s only good for sixth place overall.

HD Tune — Random access times

In addition to letting us test transfer rates, HD Tune can measure random access times. We’ve tested with four transfer sizes and presented all the results in a couple of line graphs. We’ve also busted out the 4KB and 1MB transfers sizes into bar graphs that should be easier to read without the presence of the mechanical drive.

The line graph is there to illustrate the massive gap in random access times between solid-state and mechanical storage. You’re looking at a difference of more than an order of magnitude for the smaller transfer sizes. The SSDs start to slow down appreciably when we hit the largest transfer size, though.

With 1MB random reads, the Intel 335 Series’ access time is just 0.01 milliseconds lower than the leader of the bunch. In the 4KB test, the 335 Series is just 0.001 milliseconds out of first place. Intel’s latest SSD pretty much ties the other SandForce-based drives in these tests.

Switching to random writes doesn’t change the picture appreciably. Our traditional hard drive is still woefully uncompetitive, as our line graph plainly illustrates. Near-instantaneous access times are what make SSDs feel so much faster than mechanical drives.

If we concentrate on the SSDs in the 4KB and 1MB tests, the Intel 335 Series looks very competitive. It has the quickest access time in the 1MB test and is within striking distance of the lead in the 4KB one. Again, the 335 Series’ performance matches what we see from other the SandForce-based SSDs.

TR FileBench — Real-world copy speeds

Concocted by resident developer Bruno “morphine” Ferreira, FileBench runs through a series of file copy operations using Windows 7’s xcopy command. Using xcopy produces nearly identical copy speeds to dragging and dropping files using the Windows GUI, so our results should be representative of typical real-world performance. We tested using the following five file sets—note the differences in average file sizes and their compressibility. We evaluated the compressibility of each file set by comparing its size before and after being run through 7-Zip’s “ultra” compression scheme.

  Number of files Average file size Total size Compressibility
Movie 6 701MB 4. 1GB 0.5%
RAW 101 23.6MB 2.32GB 3.2%
MP3 549 6.48MB 3.47GB 0.5%
TR 26,767 64.6KB 1.7GB 53%
Mozilla 22,696 39.4KB 923MB 91%

The names of most of the file sets are self-explanatory. The Mozilla set is made up of all the files necessary to compile the browser, while the TR set includes years worth of the images, HTML files, and spreadsheets behind my reviews. Those two sets contain much larger numbers of smaller files than the other three. They’re also the most amenable to compression.

To get a sense of how aggressively each SSD reclaims flash pages tagged by the TRIM command, we run FileBench with the solid-state drives in two states. We first test the SSDs in a fresh state after a secure erase. They’re then subjected to a 30-minute IOMeter workload, generating a tortured used state ahead of another batch of copy tests. We haven’t found a substantial difference in the performance of mechanical drives between these two states. Let’s start with the fresh-state results.

Like the other SandForce-based SSDs, the Intel 335 Series is particularly adept at copying the smaller, easily compressed files in our TR and Mozilla sets. It boasts the fastest copy speeds in those tests, although it does have to share the limelight with other drives based on the same controller.

Clearly, SandForce’s DuraWrite voodoo isn’t as effective when dealing with the heavily compressed files in the movie, MP3, and RAW sets. In those tests, the 335 Series is a middle-of-the-pack performer and notably slower than a number of its peers. The other SandForce SSDs don’t fare much better.

The overall dynamic doesn’t change dramatically when we move to our used-state file copy tests. All of the SandForce-based drives, including the Intel 335 Series, fare better when copying the Mozilla and TR sets than they do with the movie, MP3, and RAW sets.

SandForce-based SSDs tend to be less aggressive than the competition when it comes to reclaiming unused flash pages, causing used-state copy speeds to be slower than when the drives are fresh from a secure erase. The 335 Series is no exception, with used-state copy speeds down as much as 17% compared to what the drive can do in a fresh state. That drop-off is comparable to the slowdowns exhibited by the other SandForce drives, although the numbers are a little different from one file set to the next. Apart from the SandForce drives, none of the other SSDs suffer consistently slower used-state copy speeds.

TR DriveBench 1.0 — Disk-intensive multitasking

TR DriveBench allows us to record the individual IO requests associated with a Windows session and then play those results back as fast as possible on different drives. We’ve used this app to create a set of multitasking workloads that combine common desktop tasks with disk-intensive background operations like compiling code, copying files, downloading via BitTorrent, transcoding video, and scanning for viruses. The individual workloads are explained in more detail here.

Below, you’ll find an overall average followed by scores for each of our individual workloads. The overall score is an average of the mean performance score for each multitasking workload.

SandForce-based SSDs take the top three spots in DriveBench, and the Intel 335 Series is right up there with the leaders. It’s barely slower than the 520 Series and the Force Series GT but more comfortably ahead of Corsair’s Neutron GTX. Wanna bet on whether the SandForce drives are clustered together in the individual test results?

Yeah, that’s easy money. Although the Intel 335 Series slips out of the top three when our multitasking workload includes copying files, it’s never far from the 520 Series and the Force Series GT. I suspect the SandForce controller’s sensitivity to compressed data is what holds back its performance in the file copy component of DriveBench 1.0.

TR DriveBench 2.0 — More disk-intensive multitasking

As much as we like DriveBench 1.0’s individual workloads, the traces cover only slices of disk activity. Because we fire the recorded I/Os at the disks as fast as possible, solid-state drives also have no downtime during which to engage background garbage collection or other optimization algorithms. DriveBench 2.0 addresses both of those issues with a much larger trace that spans two weeks of typical desktop activity peppered with multitasking loads similar to those in DriveBench 1. 0. We’ve also adjusted our testing methods to give solid-state drives enough idle time to tidy up after themselves. More details on DriveBench 2.0 are available on this page of our last major SSD round-up.

Instead of looking at a raw IOps rate, we’re going to switch gears and explore service times—the amount of time it takes drives to complete an I/O request. We’ll start with an overall mean service time before slicing and dicing the results.

The Intel 335 Series comes ever so close to taking the top spot in DriveBench 2.0. Its mean service time is just 0.01 milliseconds off the pace set by the Samsung 830 Series and the Corsair Neutron GTX. Surprise, surprise, the other synchronous SandForce configs turn in similar performances. Let’s slice and dice the results to see if we can find any intrigue.

Well, here’s some. The SandForce controller, and by extension the Intel 335 Series, is particularly adept at serving read requests. It’s not as competitive with writes, causing the 335 Series to fall into fifth place. The Samsung 830 Series, Corsair’s Neutrons, and the OCZ Vertex 4 all have quicker mean write service times than the SandForce posse in DriveBench 2.0.

There are millions of I/O requests in this trace, so we can’t easily graph service times to look at the variance. However, our analysis tools do report the standard deviation, which can give us a sense of how much service times vary from the mean.

The read results show the top six drives very closely matched. That’s good for the Intel 335 Series, which sits comfortably in the middle of that lead group. The 335 Series exhibits less variability in its write service times than the other SandForce drives, but it’s not quite as consistent as the Neutrons or the Samsung 830 Series.

Another way to characterize service times is to sort them. We’re going to close out our DriveBench analysis with a final set of graphs showing the percentage of service times longer than 100 ms. These extremely long service times have the potential to cause the sort of hitching that a user might notice.

The Intel 335 Series barely has any 100+ ms service times, regardless of whether we consider reads or writes. Not all the SSDs are so lucky. The Agility 4, Vertex 4, and m4 all have notably higher percentages of extremely long service times for both reads and writes. The actual percentages are still under 0.3% for those SSDs, though.

IOMeter

Our IOMeter workloads feature a ramping number of concurrent I/O requests. Most desktop systems will only have a few requests in flight at any given time (87% of DriveBench 2.0 requests have a queue depth of four or less). We’ve extended our scaling up to 32 concurrent requests to reach the depth of the Native Command Queuing pipeline associated with the Serial ATA specification. Ramping up the number of requests also gives us a sense of how the drives might perform in more demanding enterprise environments.

We run our IOMeter tests using the fully randomized data pattern, which presents a particular challenge for SandForce’s write compression scheme. We’d rather measure SSD performance in this worst-case scenario than using easily compressible data.

Well, that’s a surprise. The Intel 335 Series crunches more IOps than the 520 Series in three of four tests, particularly under heavier loads. The 520 Series only comes out ahead in the web server test, which is made up exclusively of read requests.

That said, none of the SandForce-based drives contends for top honors here. Our use of randomized data likely handicaps the performance of those drives in the file server, database, and workstation tests, which mix read and write requests. However, the read-only web server test shouldn’t be affected by DuraWrite at all. There, the SandForce SSDs have lower IOps rates than a number of their rivals, including the Samsung 830 Series, Corsair’s Neutrons, and the OCZ Vertex 4. The Neutrons and the Vertex 4 have higher transaction rates than the Intel 335 Series regardless of the workload or the number of concurrent I/O requests.

Boot duration

Before timing a couple of real-world applications, we first have to load the OS. We can measure how long that takes by checking the Windows 7 boot duration using the operating system’s performance-monitoring tools. This is actually the first test in which we’re booting Windows 7 off each drive; up until this point, our testing has been hosted by an OS housed on a separate system drive.

Level load times

Modern games lack built-in timing tests to measure level loads, so we busted out a stopwatch with a couple of reasonably recent titles.

Our load time results make one thing pretty clear: any of these SSDs has substantially faster load times than a mechanical hard drive. The gaps between the individual SSDs are relatively small, with the Intel 335 Series sitting comfortably in the top half of the pack.

Power consumption

We tested power consumption under load with IOMeter’s workstation access pattern chewing through 32 concurrent I/O requests. Idle power consumption was probed one minute after processing Windows 7’s idle tasks on an empty desktop.

We have a new low-power leader, at least at idle. Intel’s latest draws just half a watt when sitting at the Windows desktop, which is a little bit less than the Force Series GT and the Crucial m4.

Under a strenuous IOMeter load, the Intel 335 Series’ power consumption increases sixfold, putting the drive in the middle of the pack. The leaders in that test, Intel’s own 320 Series and the Crucial m4, consume about half as much power or less.

The value perspective

Welcome to another one of our famous value analyses, which adds capacity and pricing to the performance data we’ve explored over the preceding pages. We used Newegg prices to even the playing field, and we didn’t take mail-in rebates into account when performing our calculations. Since the Intel 335 Series isn’t selling online as I write this, we’ve had to use the drive’s $184 suggested retail price.

First, we’ll look at the all-important cost per gigabyte, which we’ve obtained using the amount of storage capacity accessible to users in Windows.

Traditionally, Intel SSDs have had higher prices than the competition. That doesn’t appear to be the case with the 335 Series, whose MSRP yields a cost per gigabyte of just 77 cents. Based on this metric alone, the only better deal is the Samsung 830 Series, a drive that appears to be heavily discounted to make room for the new 840 family.

Of course, our lone mechanical hard drive costs less per gig than any of the SSDs. It’s not in the same league in terms of performance, which we’ll now take into account.

Our remaining value calculation uses a single performance score that we’ve derived by comparing how each drive stacks up against a common baseline provided by the Momentus 5400. 4, a 2.5″ notebook drive with a painfully slow 5,400-RPM spindle speed. This index uses a subset of our performance data described on this page of our last SSD round-up.

The 335 Series is fast enough for second place overall, wedged between the Samsung 830 Series and Intel’s own 520 Series. The top five drives are clustered within 19 percentage points of each other, and the next two are no more than 20 points behind. However, the gaps get substantially wider after that.

Now for the real magic. We can plot this overall score on one axis and each drive’s cost per gigabyte on the other to create a scatter plot of performance per dollar per gigabyte. The best place on the plot is the upper-left corner, which combines high performance with a low price.

We’ve had to really shorten the drive names because so many of the SSDs are clustered in the same performance band. Differences in pricing help to spread things out a little, and that’s what really separates the top contenders.

With the lowest cost per gigabyte and the highest performance score overall, Samsung’s 830 Series is closest to the upper-left corner on our plot. The Intel 335 Series occupies the second-most-attractive spot, though. It costs less than all the other SSDs short of the 830 Series, yet it boasts one of the highest performance ratings of the bunch.

Conclusions

Intel is arguably better at mass-producing semiconductors than anyone else in the business. That prowess has served its microprocessor division well, and it’s definitely paying dividends on SSD front. Of the ever-growing number of companies churning out solid-state drives, Intel is one of very few with its own NAND production capacity. That capacity is shared with Micron through IM Flash Technologies, a joint venture responsible for the flash chips in most of the SSDs to pass through our labs over the past few years, regardless of the name on the case.

You see, in addition to producing chips for its own SSDs, Intel sells flash to its competitors. Intel makes money on both fronts, and its SSDs have first dibs on NAND rolling off the production line. Right now, the latest and greatest is an 8GB NAND die built using 20-nm fabrication technology. Thanks to its smaller die area, the new NAND should be cheaper to produce than the old 25-nm stuff. And, thanks to a new high-k/metal gate cell structure, it should be just as fast and reliable.

We’ve had our 335 Series drive for less than a week, so we can’t speak to the drive’s reliability. However, we can tell you that it’s every bit as fast as comparable offerings based on 25-nm NAND. The 335 Series is still subject to the quirks of its SandForce controller, specifically lower write performance with compressed data, but it’s wicked-fast overall. Of the SSDs we’ve tested, only the Samsung 830 Series scores higher in our overall performance index, and then only by a slim margin.

Intel SSDs have always had competitive performance, but they’ve typically been saddled with higher price tags than their peers. Even today, the 320 and 520 Series command a hefty premium over drives that offer equivalent or faster performance. The 335 Series is different, though. With a $184 suggested retail price, the 240GB drive costs less than most of its direct rivals. You don’t get a five-year warranty like with the 320 and 520 Series, but for most folks, three-year coverage will be more than sufficient.

Intel 335 Series 240GB

October 2012

Right now, the only thing that spoils the debut of the Intel 335 Series 240GB is the fact that Samsung’s 830 Series 256GB costs a little bit less and offers slightly more storage. The Samsung drive is on its way out, though, and the most desirable variant is already out of stock at Newegg (although still available at Amazon). The 335 Series looks like a better bet going forward, providing street prices come close Intel’s target. At $184, the Intel 335 Series 240GB definitely hits the sweet spot—and is good enough for our coveted Editor’s Choice award.

Intel 335 Series 240GB SATA III SSD Review

Intel 335 Series 240GB SATA III SSD Review

















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  • Intel 335 Series 240GB SATA III SSD Review

  • Specifications And Features

  • Packaging And Contents

  • The 335 Series 240GB

  • Intel Solid State Drive Toolbox

  • Test Bed — Testing Methodology

  • Test Results — AIDA64 / ATTO

  • Test Results — HD Tune Pro / HD Tach RW

  • Test Results — Sisoftware Sandra Pro / Crystal Disk Mark

  • Test Results — AS SSD / IOMETER

  • Conclusion

  • All Pages

Page 1 of 11

INTRODUCTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Ever since Solid State Drives (SSDs) were first introduced to the general public roughly 5 years ago they have been amongst my favorite hardware components and in a way monopolized my reviews up until a year ago. The reason behind that last part is that although up until a year ago there were large performance jumps with each new model released (making it more than worth testing to see the exact difference in speed with previous models) that no longer was the case and so inside 2012 the only thing that really changed was the price of such devices. Still many of you have asked several SSD reviews during the past 2 months and as always we obliged by starting to gather several samples from the leading manufacturers. This time over however in order to be more «time effective» we will not wait until we have 10-20 all together for a large comparison like the old days (more impressive but takes too much time to complete) and so on our test bench today lays the latest Intel 335 Series 240GB SATA III model.

 

   Intel pushes the boundaries of innovation so our work can make people’s lives more exciting, fulfilling, and manageable. And our work never stops. We never stop looking for the next leap ahead—in technology, education, culture, manufacturing, and social responsibility. And we never stop striving to deliver solutions with greater benefits for everyone. It began with the Intel® microprocessor, the invention that sparked a revolution. Intel’s history of developing groundbreaking technology continues today. We attract the most brilliant minds in science to push the boundaries of innovation and further our position as the world’s leader in semiconductor technology. Our passion is to create technology that changes the world.

 

   Roughly 6 months ago Intel released their 330 series of SSDs based on the SandForce SF-2281 controller and 25nm Intel/Micron MLC NAND. However although even as we speak the 330 Series is still quite new and popular in the market the 335 Series released just a couple of months back is actually its successor featuring 20nm Intel/Micron MLC NAND and thus lower production cost in time. Of course that also means that there can’t be any serious performance differences (if at all) between these two models (330/335) but it’s never a bad thing to purchase a newer model at the same price as the older one since naturally the new model will also have better support from the manufacturer (firmware updates). Unfortunately since we’ve been away from SSD testing for quite a few months we haven’t really gotten our hands on the 330 series but thanks to our previous comparison there are plenty of SSDs based on the SandForce SF-228x controller in our charts so let’s see just how good the latest 335 series 240GB SATA III SSD is compared to those.

 






Intel SSD 530 180 GB SSD Review

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Putting Intel’s 180 GB SSD 530 To The Test

Intel’s decision to move away from its own proprietary SSD controller on the desktop was met with simultaneous excitement and trepidation from enthusiasts. After all, the company’s reputation in the storage space was earned with products like the X25-M and X25-E (historically awesome drives, if ever there were any). As the era of 6 Gb/s SATA storage was ushered in by SSDs like Crucial’s C300, and hit full stride with controllers from SandForce, it became clear that Intel didn’t plan to drop an updated processor to enable the faster interface’s peak potential, as it had for SATA 3Gb/s.

After a short-lived stint with Marvell’s sweet 88SS9174 controller in its SSD 510 series, Intel flipped the script and ran into SandForce’s waiting arms. The first fruit of that admittedly unexpected union, code-named Cherryville, became the SSD 520. And that’s pretty much where the story ends.

With Cherryville anchoring the Non Volatile Memory group’s desktop-oriented offerings, the next few product introductions were hardly unexpected. After the SSD 520, Intel released its SSD 330, which employed the same basic formula with lower-binned flash and a correspondingly more affordable price tag. Then, the company took its SSD 330, swapped in 20 nm flash in place of its 25 nm NAND, and launched the SSD 335. Throughout, Intel’s SSD 520 remained a premium product, priced to reflect that fact. Its SSD 330 and 335 were comparable performers, but with three-year warranties instead of five-year coverage.

Surprisingly, the SSD 525 wasn’t the revamped 520 we might have expected. Rather, it was an SSD 520 shrunk to fit the mSATA form factor, armed with new capacity points, and flashed to the latest firmware.

The real SSD 520 successor recently became available in the SSD 530. And unlike the previous generation, Intel’s new model number includes 2.5″, mSATA, and the M.2 form factor. All told, there are 14 new products sporting SSD 530 naming.

Intel SSD 530
Capacity Form Factor Sequential Read/Write Random 4 KB Read/Write
80 GB 2.5″, 7 mm 540 MB/s / 480 MB/s 24,000 / 80,000 IOPS
120 GB 2. 5″, 7 mm 540 MB/s / 480 MB/s 24,000 / 80,000 IOPS
180 GB 2.5″, 7 mm 540 MB/s / 490 MB/s 41,000 / 80,000 IOPS
240 GB 2.5″, 7 mm 540 MB/s / 490 MB/s 41,000 / 80,000 IOPS
360 GB 2.5″, 7 mm 540 MB/s / 490 MB/s 45,000 / 80,000 IOPS
480 GB 2.5″, 7 mm 540 MB/s / 490 MB/s 48,000 / 80,000 IOPS
80 GB mSATA 540 MB/s / 480 MB/s 24,000 / 80,000 IOPS
120 GB mSATA 540 MB/s / 480 MB/s 24,000 / 80,000 IOPS
180 GB mSATA 540 MB/s / 490 MB/s 41,000 / 80,000 IOPS
240 GB mSATA 540 MB/s / 490 MB/s 41,000 / 80,000 IOPS
80 GB M.2 2280 540 MB/s / 480 MB/s 24,000 / 80,000 IOPS
120 GB M. 2 2280 540 MB/s / 480 MB/s 24,000 / 80,000 IOPS
180 GB M.2 2280 540 MB/s / 490 MB/s 41,000 / 80,000 IOPS
360 GB M.2 2280 540 MB/s / 490 MB/s 41,000 / 80,000 IOPS

That’s a lot of new storage hardware, right? There are six SATA drives, four mSATA models, and four M.2-based offerings. It’s unclear whether the forthcoming mSATA-based drives will supplant the SSD 525 series altogether, but that mSATA-only family is made up of six products. The 30 and 60 GB SSD 525s don’t have an SSD 530 equivalent, so their futures could be tenuous.

By the end of today, we want to know whether the SSD 530 is an SSD 520 with 20 nm flash or something more. The answer isn’t as simple as our question though, so let’s dig in.

Intel SSD 530: Under The Hood

Getting to the SSD 530’s insides isn’t particularly difficult. Disappointingly, it does require marring the super-fresh sticker, which hides the last screw. Consider it the most attractive warranty seal we’ve ever seen. With security trappings out of the way, the 180 GB model’s PCB is held in place by hope and the drive controller’s thermal pad.

Given 180 GB of capacity, we were already expecting six or 12 NAND emplacements, which is exactly how Intel configures this drive. We find 12 packages labeled 29F16B08CCMF2, each packing two 64 Gb dies manufactured at 20 nm. The C (fifth character from the end of the part code) represents dual die packages, whilst the F (next from last alphanumeric) translates to 20 nm. Simple, right?

When I first learned that Intel was designing its mSATA-based SSD 525, I was sure that it would use the revised B02 SandForce controller. It didn’t, though. And yet Intel still managed to deliver good power consumption figures. I was even more confident that the SSD 530s would employ the updated processor, and this time I was right (in a manner of speaking).

At least technically, this isn’t a SandForce-branded processor. Neither Intel nor LSI would comment on the record, but officially, this is an Intel BF29A41BB0 controller. Underneath all of that fancy cladding is mostly a SandForce 2281 B02-stepping storage processor. The LSI branding underneath Intel’s part number indicates that this really is LSI technology, fabbed by TSMC in Taiwan. As for unique tweaks that may exist, nobody is talking. So, I’m not going to call it an Intel BF29AS41BB0 when it’s most easily recognizable as a SandForce controller.

There are some new features, though performance falls in line with what you’d expect (assuming you were expecting numbers similar to every other drive with a SandForce controller). The new stepping really emphasizes power consumption, adding not only support for the DevSleep initiative on supported platforms, but incorporating lower active idle power use, too. Otherwise, the most influential capabilities are reserved for SandForce’s next-gen controller.

That’s the long and short of it. Intel’s SSD 530 is predominantly a 520 with updated bits and pieces, and therefore two other drives spring to mind as we look around the lab for hardware to test against: the original SSD 520 and the mSATA-based SSD 525, both also at 180 GB.

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Putting Intel’s 180 GB SSD 530 To The Test

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Intel 600p NVMe SSD Review — Tom’s Hardware

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Early Verdict

The Intel 600p isn’t the low-cost SSD for everyone. This NVMe-based product brings the technology down to the mainstream, but users should be aware of the low endurance rating and what happens when you cross the endurance line. 72TB may or may not sound like a lot of data, every user is different, but there is no negotiation at the end. Intel is just the first company to release an entry-level NVMe product, but more are coming.

Pros
  • +

    Low cost NVMe

  • +

    Better than SATA performance

  • +

    High application performance

  • +

    1TB (in November) capacity

  • +

    Elegant M.2 form factor

  • +

    Excellent software package (Due in November)

Cons
  • Low native TLC write performance

  • Lacks direct-to-die writes when the SLC buffer is full

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Specifications And Pricing

Update, 10/7/16, 2:30PT —Intel changed the endurance rating for three of the four 600p SSDs, and we have the new endurance threshold listed below. We have further detail in the Intel Quietly Increases The 600p Series Endurance Ratings article.

600p 128GB 600p 256GB 600p 512GB 600p 1TB
Old Endurance (TBW) 72 TB 72 TB 72 TB 72 TB
New Endurance (TBW) 72 TB 144 TB 288 TB 576 TB

We talked about the emerging entry-level NVMe SSD category in the Patriot Hellfire review and Samsung 960 EVO Preview (with the OEM PM961). Today we go straight to ground zero with the Intel 600p that puts entry-level NVMe at our fingertips.

The Intel 600p’s low price made immediate waves when online retailers first posted the new SSDs. The 900p retails for significantly less than other shipping NVMe SSDs, and at the time of writing, there have been several glowing reviews of the entry-level NVMe SSD that fanned the flames. It appears the 600p is steadily moving to cult-like status in some circles, but this is not a resurrection of the Celeron 300A.

There are always trade-offs with any entry-level product, and it’s important to find which corners the manufacturer cut. The Intel 600p and the 6000p (it’s professional cousin with vPro and full disk encryption) both have significantly lower performance than other NVMe SSDs. Lower performance is the kind of attribute that many will point to as the reason why the drive is so cheap. Sadly, performance wasn’t the only sacrifice Intel made to deliver the low price point. We dove a little deeper into the details, especially the endurance restrictions, and came away feeling like Intel cut the 600p in half. Before we get to that, let’s look at how the 600p came to be.

Intel and Micron, who jointly produce NAND in the IMFT partnership, established a relationship with Silicon Motion, Inc., a third-party SSD controller vendor. SMI secured design wins with its low-cost, low-power 4-channel SSD controllers. The SM2260 is SMI’s first high-performance 8-channel controller, and it is only the second controller designed specifically for IMFT’s 1st generation 3D NAND.

Micron has a close working relationship with Marvell, and the company uses its Dean 4-channel controller for the Crucial MX300 mainstream class SSD. The two companies continue to collaborate, but SMI’s low-cost controllers power many of Crucial’s entry-level SSDs.

Intel’s predicament is a little more complicated. For several years, we all thought of Intel as an SSD controller company, which is a perception that dates back to the company’s first SSD products. What we didn’t know was that LSI Corporation, a fabless semiconductor vendor, handled the hardware design (later SandForce, too) while Intel contributed the firmware. Intel and LSI mingled together publicly with SandForce products until LSI CEO Abhi Talwalkar sold the company to Avago, and Intel’s controller design house went with it.

In recent years, Avago acquired several companies and radically increased the price of existing products — some have increased by as much as four times. Avago continues to design SSD controllers, but Intel transitioned to SMI for its latest SSDs.

The 600p uses the SMI SM2260 controller in tandem with Intel firmware. By no means did either company plan to make the 600p the first entry-level NVMe SSD. The 600p was designed to be a premium product to take on Samsung’s ever-increasing line of high-performance M.2 NVMe SSDs. Micron canceled the TX3 (with 3D MLC) when the combination of the SMI controller and IMFT flash failed to deliver high performance, but Intel forged ahead with its first entry-level NVMe SSD.

Warranty And Endurance

All four Intel 600p SSDs ship with a five-year warranty and have the same 72-terabyte TBW endurance rating. The TBW rating means the drive can only absorb up to 72TB of data during its lifetime. This is only the second time we’ve encountered an entire product series that employs a blanket TBW rating. To put this into perspective, the 128GB OCZ VX500 from a recent review also features a 72 TBW rating, but the 1TB VX500 offers up to 592 TBW. 72TB of data writes may or may not sound like a lot to you, but this is a very low endurance rating compared to other 1TB SSDs.

How Intel’s consumer SSDs expire once you surpass the endurance threshold is troubling. In an almost over-zealous move to protect user data, Intel instituted a feature on many of its existing SSDs that automatically switches it to a read-only mode once you surpass the endurance threshold. Surprisingly, the read-only state only lasts for a single boot cycle. After reboot, the SSD «locks» itself (which means you cannot access the data) to protect the user from any data loss due to the weakened flash. The operating system typically generates error notifications when an SSD switches into a read-only mode, so most users will restart without being aware that the SSD will be inaccessible upon the next reboot. The process to recover the data is unclear. We reached out to Intel to verify if the 600p also has this feature, but have yet to receive a response.

EDIT: 9/23/2016 Intel clarified the nature of the read-only feature, which is not based upon the endurance limit. All SSDs have spare area that is dedicated to replacing failed cells. The Intel 600p only switches into a read-only mode when the spare area is exhausted. Intel also noted users can copy the data from a read-only SSD by installing it as a secondary drive in another computer. Intel provided an official response outlining the recovery procedure, and we include a more detailed explanation in the link.

Higher-capacity SSDs provide more endurance than smaller models. It is a well-documented fact that most flash can easily outlast the endurance ratings, and Intel is probably erring on the side of caution with the low endurance ratings on its 1TB SSDs. In either case, the 600p’s blanket endurance rating may impose a somewhat unneeded restriction on the potentially more-endurant high capacity 1TB SSDs. The Intel 335 Series famously used this technique, but in contrast, the 240GB 335 model delivered 10x the endurance of the new 600p NVMe SSD before retiring itself.

The 600p doesn’t utilize a direct-to-die write scheme, so the first write goes to the SLC buffer before the controller flushes it to the TLC area for «long term» storage. This process doubles write amplification, thus magnifying the discouraging endurance situation.

Technical Specifications

Intel SSD 600p (128GB)

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Intel plans to bring the 600p to market in four capacities. The 128GB, 256GB and 512GB products are shipping now, but the 1TB model will enter the market later in 2016. Intel wrote the firmware for the SM2260 controller and paired it with 384Gbit 3D NAND flash running in 3-bit per cell (TLC) mode. Intel was only able to fit three NAND flash packages on the 600p due to the size constraints of the M. 2 2280 single-sided form factor. As a result, the 8-channel controller only operates in 6-channel mode.

The odd 384Gbit (48GB) NAND die leads to somewhat exotic capacity points. We’ve already explored those with the MX300 that ships in 275GB, 525GB, 1050GB and 2TB capacities. Instead of choosing the same path, Intel adhered to standard sizes and rolled the extra capacity into a dedicated SLC cache area. The larger-than-normal SLC buffers should deliver exemplary performance, but that isn’t always the case. 

The 600p supports an internal AES 256-bit hardware encryption engine but does not support accelerated eDrive or other encryption services in Windows. For those features, you need the up-scale Pro 6000p model that also uses vPro encryption technology. In the SanDisk X400 review, we stated that companies should stop producing separate models for encrypted disks, and we still stand by that line of thought. At least Intel has a separate product line name to specify the encrypted models, unlike the X400.  

Performance

The Intel 600p delivers better-than-SATA performance, which is a new marketing tagline for the next progression beyond hard-disk-replacement. Performance scales as the capacity increases, but the numbers are so far apart that we need to pick them apart by capacity rather than make blanket statements.

The 600p series uses a fixed-capacity SLC buffer that increases in size with each leap in capacity. The SSD writes incoming data to the SLC-programmed buffer to decrease media wear and increase performance. The 600p does not use a direct-to-die algorithm, which bypasses the SLC cache when the buffer is full like most other SSDs. As a result, when the buffer is full the incoming data must wait while the SSD expunges existing cached data. The «up to» performance is a measurement of the SLC buffer speed, and if you need to write data that exceeds the size of the buffer the performance will fluctuate. We’ll explore that characteristic in our tests.

The 600p 128GB tackles sequential reads at 770 MB/s, but the sequential write performance is only 450 MB/s (less than most mainstream SATA 6Gb/s products). Intel spec’d the random performance at up to 35,000/91,000 read/write IOPS, and it has a 4GB SLC buffer.

The 600p 512GB increases sequential read performance up to 1,775 MB/s. The sequential write performance also increases to a peak of 560 MB/s, which is the same rating we often see attached to premium SATA 6Gb/s SSDs. The random performance is 128,000 IOPS for both reads and writes, and the 512GB has a spacious 17GB SLC buffer. 

Pricing And Accessories

The 600p is cheap compared to other NVMe SSDs on the market. The series debuted with low MSRPs, but if you shop around, it’s possible to find even lower prices. Newegg has the 128GB in stock at $66. The 256GB model shows up at $110 and the 512GB at $199. Amazon has the 512GB at $166.

The Intel 600p works with Intel’s SSD Toolbox software, but the Toolbox doesn’t support all of the features yet. The media wear-out indicator doesn’t work, nor does the Optimize feature. Intel updated the software on 6/21/2016. The 600p also doesn’t have an Intel NVMe driver. We suspect the performance will increase slightly with a custom NVMe driver for Windows. The embedded Windows NVMe driver works with the 600p, and that is what we used for testing.

Intel SSD owners also gain access to the company’s data migration software that will clone the data from an existing drive to a new SSD. At the time of writing, the supported hardware list does not list the 600p as a compatible product, but we expect that to update in November 2016 (per the fine print at the bottom of the product brief). 

Packaging

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Intel assumes retail shoppers will know what the «SSD6» branding means on the front of the retail package. The back of the box features more information, but there are very few details about the 600p series (the one you are buying). The description reads:

«6 Series Added Boost For Better Responsiveness»

Given our findings, maybe Intel doesn’t want you to know too much about this product other than the fact it is cheap. This is where things get really sticky. The Intel SSD 600p product page doesn’t list any endurance ratings and neither does the official product brief. As a computer hardware journalist, I learned the thing to look for is what the company doesn’t tell you. If you want to find the full specifications list for the 600p, you need to look at the ARK pages, which reveal the low endurance rating.

A paper manual ships with the drive and outlines the installation procedure and the warranty terms.

A Closer Look

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The drive is a simple design with a controller, DRAM and NAND packages. The 256GB and 512GB drive look identical and are the two we have in-house for testing. Both models use three NAND flash packages on one side. Samsung, and other M.2 2280 products from other companies, use two NAND packages on one side, but Intel managed to fit more in the same footprint. The three NAND packages allow the SMI controller to run in 6-channel mode while most other M.2 controllers run in 4-channel mode.

Digging Deeper

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The shiny color for the controller is the result of a copper-based plate over the chip. The metal is coated to prevent oxidation. I don’t think there is enough material to act as a heatsink, but it does give Intel a place to etch some information on the controller. We peeled the label back on one of the drives to see if it is the same SMI controller that Crucial used on its canceled TX3. Unfortunately, the controller doesn’t have a label under the metal cover.

MORE: Best SSDs
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Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom’s Hardware US. He tests and reviews consumer storage.

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Intel SER 335 240GB SSD 2.5″ SATA MLC DRIVE SSDSC2CT240A4K5 B&H

BH #INSSDSC2CT24 • MFR #SSDSC2CT240A4K5

Key Features

  • SATA 6 Gb/s, Compatible with SATA 3 Gb/s
  • 500 MB/s Read and 450 MB/s Write Speeds
  • Random Read: 42,000 IOPS
  • Random Write: 52,000 IOPS

The 240GB SSD 335 Series 2.5″ (6.35cm) SATA MLC Internal Drive from Intel delivers leading performance for SATA and a large capacity Solid-State Drive with speed and reliability on its side. It also features a slim-fit form factor for notebook hard drive replacement.
It does not contain any moving parts and has a faster access speed than traditional spindle-type hard drives. You can boot your operating system in less than ten seconds, as opposed to a much slower hard drive, which could extend boot times to twenty or thirty seconds. Additionally, in a notebook, the lack of moving parts reduces the system’s heat output, allowing for a cooler and more stable performance.
The 335 Series SSD uses SATA III interface to deliver transfer speeds of up to 6 Gb/s. It is also compatible with SATA II speeds of 3 Gb/s. It provides sequential read speeds of 500 MB/s and sequential write speeds of 450 MB/s. The 2.5″ (6.35cm) internal form factor makes it an ideal replacement for a laptop drive.

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Intel SSDSC2CT240A4K5 Overview

  • 1Description
  • 2Incredible Value
  • 3Leading-Edge Technology and Performance at Lower Power
  • 420 nm Multi-Level Cell (MLC) Intel NAND Flash Memory
  • 5SSD Management Tools
  • 6Intel Data Migration Software

The 240GB SSD 335 Series 2. 5″ (6.35cm) SATA MLC Internal Drive from Intel delivers leading performance for SATA and a large capacity Solid-State Drive with speed and reliability on its side. It also features a slim-fit form factor for notebook hard drive replacement.
It does not contain any moving parts and has a faster access speed than traditional spindle-type hard drives. You can boot your operating system in less than ten seconds, as opposed to a much slower hard drive, which could extend boot times to twenty or thirty seconds. Additionally, in a notebook, the lack of moving parts reduces the system’s heat output, allowing for a cooler and more stable performance.
The 335 Series SSD uses SATA III interface to deliver transfer speeds of up to 6 Gb/s. It is also compatible with SATA II speeds of 3 Gb/s. It provides sequential read speeds of 500 MB/s and sequential write speeds of 450 MB/s. The 2.5″ (6.35cm) internal form factor makes it an ideal replacement for a laptop drive.

The 335 Series SSD provides SATA 6 Gbps transfer rates. It is a blend of performance and quality that provides an excellent value upgrade for your PC.

The Intel SSD 335 Series combines the latest SATA 6.0 Gb/s technology with industry-leading 20 nm Intel NAND Flash to offer a blazing fast solid-state drive with speeds up to 500 MB/s while using less power. The end result is that you get a vastly responsive PC to handle your most demanding applications and improved battery life.

The 335 Series SSD is based on the highly reliable 20 nm Multi-Level Cell (MLC) Intel NAND Flash Memory.

The Intel SSD Toolbox with Intel SSD Optimizer provides a set of management, information and diagnostic tools to maintain the health of your solid-state drive and optimize performance. The free Toolbox also includes the System Configuration Tuner that configures your system to take full advantage of your SSD performance.

Intel Data Migration Software makes it easy to upgrade your PC with an Intel SSD. With just a few steps, this tool clones the entire operating system and user files from an existing drive to any Intel SSD. The free Intel Data Migration Software supports Microsoft Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP.

In the Box
  • Intel SER 335 240GB SSD 2.5″ SATA MLC DRIVE
  • 2.5″ (6.35cm) to 3.5″ (8.89cm) Drive Adapter
  • SATA Signal Cable
  • SATA Power Cable
  • Limited 3-Year Warranty
    • Description
    • Incredible Value
    • Leading-Edge Technology and Performance at Lower Power
    • 20 nm Multi-Level Cell (MLC) Intel NAND Flash Memory
    • SSD Management Tools
    • Intel Data Migration Software

    Intel SSDSC2CT240A4K5 Specs

    Capacity 240GB
    Form Factor 2. 5″ (6.35 cm) SATA
    Interface SATA 6 Gb/s, compatible with SATA 3 Gb/s
    Sequential Read 500 MB/s
    Sequential Write 450 MB/s
    Random Read 42,000 IOPS
    Random Write 52,000 IOPS
    Lithography 20 nm
    Components Intel NAND Flash Memory Multi-Level Cell (MLC) technology
    Life Expectancy 1. 2 million hours mean time between failures (MTBF)
    Power Consumption Active: 350 mW typical
    Idle: 275 mW typical
    Operating Temperature 0 to 70°C (32 to 158°F)
    RoHS compliance Meets the requirements of European Union (EU) RoHS compliance directives
    Tools Software Tools:
    Intel Solid-State Drive Toolbox with Intel SSD optimizer
    Intel data migration software

    Packaging Info

    Box Dimensions (LxWxH) 6 x 5 x 2″

    Intel SSDSC2CT240A4K5 Reviews

    See any errors on this page? Let us know

    YOUR RECENTLY VIEWED ITEMS

    Intel Celeron D 325, 330 and 335 processors overclocked

    If you want to know something about new processors, then I’ll say right away that it’s pointless to contact the manufacturer’s website for the time being — the processors have not yet been officially announced and all information is classified. However, they have already appeared in the Moscow retail network and I am glad that I can be the first to introduce you to them.

    Our regular readers already know a lot about the new processors because they regularly read the news column. If you’re not one of our regular visitors, the best way to find out more about new processors is to run a search in our site’s news column, using Celeron D as your criteria. While those interested are leafing through the archive of news, I will try to briefly summarize the information known to us.

    Let’s start with the name. Where did the mysterious Celeron D suddenly come from, if Celeron A, B or C never existed? Why did they need an extra letter at all, why don’t they just continue to be Celeron? The answer lies in the new Intel processor naming convention. Junior processors belong to the «300» series and will carry numbers like 3xx . However, this group includes processors of completely different types with the same numbers, some are mobile, while others are desktop. To distinguish them, an additional letter was introduced in the name, Celeron M m abundant, Celeron D d ectopic.

    I already briefly spoke about the advantages of mobile processors based on Banias and Dothan cores in the infamous note «Subjective opinion about modern processors», where at the same time I «walked» through the new processors on the Prescott core. I must say that I am delighted with the efficiency of Intel’s work — less than two weeks have passed since the publication of my modest note, when the entire Internet was agitated by information about the company’s refusal to further develop processor lines with NetBurst architecture. This is what I understand — a somewhat belated, but long-awaited reaction to the dissatisfaction of users! However, later it turned out that the exit from the scene of processors based on P4 will not be so swift, and the appearance of Celeron D is another evidence of this.

    The Celeron D processors are the first Celeron processors to officially operate at 133 (533) MHz bus speeds. They are based on the Prescott core, which means they inherit all of its negative qualities: an extended pipeline, increased latency, and noticeably increased heat dissipation. These shortcomings will be combated by increased bus frequency, support for new instructions and the long-awaited increase in cache memory to 256 KB. Do not forget about the main advantage — the possibility in the future to significantly increase the frequency of processors.

    So, let’s start considering the first of the heroes of our today’s review, before you is the new processor Intel Celeron D 325 :

    Right on the front of the box, next to the new processor designation, there is a footnote stating that the new processor numbering system only delimits the capabilities of the lines and is not a measure of performance. In addition, you can find out that the real frequency of the processor is 2.53 GHz , maximum voltage 1.4 V, marking SL7C5 , and it was assembled in Malaysia, like the other two of today’s test subjects.


    Tests I conducted on a system of the following composition:

    recommendations

    • Mother — Asus P4P800, rev. 1.02, BIOS 1015
    • Memory — 2×256 MB PC3500 Kingston HyperX
    • Video — ATI Radeon 9700Pro
    • Hard — IBM DTLA 305020
    • Cooler — Zalman CNPS7000A-Cu
    • Thermal grease — KPT-8
    • Operating system — Windows XP SP1

    I had some concerns that a motherboard BIOS update would be required for a successful start, but they turned out to be groundless, the processor started without problems:


    Some details have come to light. The processor is based on the C0 stepping core, which no one doubted. The minimum voltage that the motherboard allowed to set is 1.375 V, which means that this is its nominal voltage. By the way, it turned out to be the same for all three processors. The CPU-Z utility already knows this processor, according to its data, the voltage ranged from 1. 328 to 1.344 V, or from 1.344 to 1.360 V.

    The memory can be set synchronously as DDR266 or as DDR333, however, in the latter case, the wrong 3:4 divider was set instead of the desired 4:5, and the memory worked at a frequency of 177 MHz.


    I had high hopes that the processor could be set to a bus frequency of 200 MHz, in which case the resulting frequency would be high, but 3.8 GHz is real. However, my hopes turned out to be far from reality, the processor was able to boot at a bus frequency of 180 MHz, but could not show stable operation even when the voltage was increased to 1.5 V.


    Then I began to «dig» in another direction and it turned out that without any increase in voltage, the processor works stably at a bus frequency of 170 MHz.


    Well, 3.2 GHz is also not bad and I started testing the Intel Celeron D 330 processor, its nominal frequency is 2.66 GHz , marking SL7C6 . It turned out to be a real monster — without raising the voltage, it started at 180 MHz FSB, with an increase in voltage even by 190 MHz, although the frequency of 200 MHz remained unconquered and there was no stability in such conditions:


    But at a bus frequency of 180 MHz with a voltage increased to 1.4 V, it successfully worked in Prime95 for half an hour. Of course, such a check does not give a 100% guarantee, but there is already some confidence in the reliability of the work.


    This was the best of all three processors, because Intel Celeron D 335 with a nominal frequency of 2.8 GHz and marked SL7C7 turned out to be noticeably weaker. It was able to provide stable operation only at a bus frequency of 160 MHz, but without increasing Vcore:


    A couple more important parameters should be mentioned. The temperature of the processors under load, according to MBM, fluctuated around 50 degrees, dropping to 47-49 or rising to 52-53, depending on the frequency and voltage. At rest, it was 43-45 degrees, but keep in mind that these are data obtained on an open stand, and the temperature in the case will be higher.

    The second significant value is the cost of processors. It is far from prohibitive: Intel Celeron D 325 costs $85, Intel Celeron D 330 costs $95, and only the price of Intel Celeron D 335 noticeably exceeds one hundred and is $125. Considering that preliminary tests of Intel Celeron D processors show some superiority over their counterparts of the same frequency on the Northwood core, they can be recommended for purchase, if, of course, we forget about the existence of processors from a competing company. However, I hope that by next week we will have time to prepare a full-fledged review and comparison of new processors.

    We’ve tested three new Intel Celeron D processors, but that’s not all the news. We got the processors in a boxed version and they were all equipped with new boxed coolers.

    I have already seen the photo, but I held such coolers in my hands for the first time:

    Judging by their appearance, they should be quite effective, however, verification and comparison with analogues is certainly required:

    Don’t miss new articles on Overclockers. ru!