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Meet Intel's SSD 320, The Postville Refresh

Crucial m4 And Intel SSD 320: The Other SSD Competitors
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Intel's SSD 320 Series: Something Old, Something New

Intel claims it continues to be satisfied with its current generation of NAND controllers. That's why it was a surprise to see Intel select a third-party solution to drive its 6 Gb/s drives. But while that covers the high-end space, there isn't as much changing in the mainstream lineup.

Intel's SSD 320 uses the same architectural design as the preceding second-gen X25-M (Intel’s X25-M Solid State Drive Reviewed). Both employ a ten-channel architecture based on Intel's PC29AS21BA0 controller, along with the same write algorithms. This is also the same controller seen on the "Soda Creek" SSD 310. So, what's different?

There are four major changes with the SSD 320 Series.

  1. 25 nm NAND
  2. Larger and faster cache
  3. Improved data parity
  4. Power protection

Larger and Faster Cache, 64 MB of 166 MHz DRAM on our 300 GB driveLarger and Faster Cache, 64 MB of 166 MHz DRAM on our 300 GB drive

Beyond the move to 25 nm NAND, the SSD 320 features a larger cache that runs 33 MHz faster than the X25-M (G2). In combination with ONFI 2.2 NAND, the SSD 320 claims a sequential write performance of 220 MB/s and 4 KB random write performance of 23 000 IOPS. While not nearly as impressive, sequential read performance sees a slight bump to 270 MB/s (about as much as you can hope for over a 3 Gb/s connection). In comparison, random read performance has increased to 39 500 IOPS.

-Intel X25-M (G2)Intel SSD 320 (G3)
CodenamePostvillePostville Refresh
Capacities80/160 GB40/80/120/160/300/600 GB
NANDIMFT 34 nm MLC, ONFI 2.1
IMFT 25 nm MLC, ONFI 2.2
Cache
32 MB DRAM 133 MHz
40/80 GB: 32 MB DRAM 166 MHz
120/160/300/600 GB: 64 MB DRAM 166 MHz
Sequential Read250 MB/s270 MB/s
Sequential Write100 MB/s220 MB/s
4 KB Random Read35 000 IOPS39 500 IOPS
4 KB Random Write8 600 IOPS23 000 IOPS
Active Power Consumption (max.)3 W6 W
Idle Power Consumption (max.)0.06 W0.075 W
Form Factors2.5" & 1.8"2.5" & 1.8"
SecurityATA PasswordATA Password + AES-128


The two other features Intel is focusing on are really the result of influence from the enterprise space. For many smaller or less mission-critical applications, enterprise customers are turning to MLC as a cost-effective way to get the exceptional performance of an SSD without the price tag associated with SLC-based drives. That's why the X25-M ended up selling so well in the enterprise space, and found itself the centerpiece of caching solutions and tiered storage systems. As a result, Intel is now adding features that enterprise customers find important: data parity and power protection.

Intel also introduces a new form of redundancy with the 320 series. When the firmware detects a failed area of NAND, it automatically maps a new physical NAND location into the logical SSD map. Intel claims that there is sufficient space to allow more than an entire die’s worth of blocks to be recovered, a feature not available for the second-gen X25-M. This is more accurately described as analogous to RAID 4 at the NAND “memory band” level.

Intel's SSD 320, The Third-Gen SSDIntel's SSD 320, The Third-Gen SSD

The 300 GB SSD 320 sample in our Bakersfield, CA lab has 20 NAND packages, and each package adds 16 GB to the drive's capacity. In total, our 300 GB has 320 GB of raw NAND flash, and like other consumer drives, the SSD 320 series employs ~7% overprovisioning. Hence, this drive is listed as the 300 GB model (279 GiB in Windows). Data parity is already accounted for in the ~7% of over-provisioning.

Separately, Intel adds power loss protection to the SSD 320 drives. But instead of using a super-capacitor, as we've seen from some of OCZ's more enterprise-class drives, the SSD 320 drives use several lower-cost capacitors. This allows Intel to save some board real estate and forgo the cost of an additional component. However, Intel needed to add a detection circuit to complete this design. When a power failure occurs, the circuit sends a signal to the controller on the SSD indicating power loss. The controller then cuts the input power to the drive and uses the remaining power in the capacitors to finish any outstanding transfers in the buffer.

Intel SSD 320 Series (based on 1,000 unit quantity)
40 GB
80 GB
120 GB
160 GB
300 GB
600 GB
Price
$89
$159
$209
$289
$529
$1069
Price per GB
$2.23
$1.99
$1.74
$1.81
$1.76
$1.78


Arguably, the biggest story isn't what Intel has changed architecturally. It's really about the price tag. When it was first introduced, the 80 GB model of the X25-M (G2) cost roughly $225. Thanks to more competition and more efficient manufacturing, prices have fall around $2 per gigabyte. This is right about where prices for the SSD 320-series also happen to fall. Though, at capacities above 80 GB, there are some really good deals. The 120 GB model costs only $1.74 per gigabyte.

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  • 0 Hide
    rainwilds , March 28, 2011 2:23 PM
    Oooo, Crucial or Vertex? Decisions, decisions!
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , March 28, 2011 3:28 PM
    Could you expand on the Full Disk Encryption capabilities of the Intel 320?
    If you can actually use hardware FDE on that drive (rather than just secure erase), that's a winner for me.
  • 0 Hide
    bto , March 28, 2011 3:31 PM
    Why does the Intel 510 250GB appear to have two scores in crystalmark? (469.4 and 259.7) on the top benchmark on page: "Benchmark Results: CrystalDiskMark Streaming Performance" the specs are identical for both.
  • 2 Hide
    poppasmurf , March 28, 2011 3:42 PM
    Great lil tidbit, wonder what the difference will be between other SSD's with different interface connections other than physical appearance and the interface connection. More on the lines of pro's and con's between the SSD interface connections I'm referring to the OCZ PCI-e drives vs. SATA 6GB just a thought to stir up the hoop la of ssd's :p 
  • 1 Hide
    JohnnyLucky , March 28, 2011 4:13 PM
    I am beginning to wonder if we haven't reached the point where the human eye and brain are finding it harder to differentiate performance among ssd's. Some mainstream benchmarks seem to suggest that. Some of the benchmarks in this review seem to indicate the same. There are some very tight groupings.
  • 2 Hide
    henryvalz , March 28, 2011 4:49 PM
    At the speed points that SSDs are functioning, I'm beginning to think that durability and reliability might be the best basis for decision. I would also really like to see some boot times from Windows 7, or loading time for games.
  • 1 Hide
    kev_stev , March 28, 2011 5:13 PM
    Does anyone know when the vertex 3 and M4 are going to actually be available? I have heard rumors that the vertex 3 will be released "any day now" since mid march...
  • -1 Hide
    iamtheking123 , March 28, 2011 7:35 PM
    I'll go SSD in my next build, probably in a year and a half. Right now I'm satisfied with Raid 0-ed 1TB Caviar Blacks.
  • 0 Hide
    foscooter , March 28, 2011 8:19 PM
    No mention of a release date. When will they be "in stores?" Q2 isn't exact enough.
  • -1 Hide
    zerapio , March 28, 2011 8:20 PM
    Alert! Spelling police is coming and their PISSED

    (yes, it was intentional)
  • 0 Hide
    microking4u , March 28, 2011 8:23 PM
    Why are the I/O's for this drive way off on your review compared to others such as Anand and PCPer?
  • 0 Hide
    groberts101 , March 28, 2011 9:00 PM
    Would have been interesting to see those Vantage marks on a Vertex 3 that hadn't already been hammered into a throttled state by all the previous tests. While it obviously shows the stamina and expected performance of the V3 after extremely heavy usage, the test doesn't take into consideration what many will see on newly installed drives that are used moderately. From that standpoint, the testing protocol is flawed, IMO.

    IOW, the testing protocol in reverse would have been more interesting to see typical Vantage scores from an unthrottled controller. I know for fact through personal beta-testing of the V3 that they would have been much higher.

    Or even better yet would be too take into account the special Durawrite throttling which the Sandforce drives STILL have built into the firmware(though not nearly as aggressive as the V2). Would surely give a nice little boost to SF through secure erase cleansing. If done at the 50% point it would show the potential in certain portions of the test suite that most WOULD see when not hitting thier drives with benchmark after benchmark in some sort of "hammer em' till the dust settles" protocol.

    Decent enough writeup though and all the review sites will eventually get it figured out, I guess.
  • 0 Hide
    PraxGTI , March 28, 2011 9:39 PM
    Our SQL server has done more than 5*10^25 I/O Write Bytes in its 3 years lifespan. I really doubt the reliability of SSDs in a corporate server, although the IOs would be nice since our server can be crippled to 500% disk usage with disk queue sizes up to 8 at times.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 29, 2011 12:27 AM
    praxgtiOur SQL server has done more than 5*10^25 I/O Write Bytes in its 3 years lifespan. I really doubt the reliability of SSDs in a corporate server, although the IOs would be nice since our server can be crippled to 500% disk usage with disk queue sizes up to 8 at times.


    How did you work that one out,

    10^24 bytes is a 1 yobibyte = 2^80 bytes = 1208925819614629174706176 bytes = 1,024 zebibytes

    1 zebibyte = 270 bytes = 1180591620717411303424 bytes = 1,024 exbibytes

    1 exbibyte = 260 bytes = 1152921504606846976 bytes = 1,024 pebibytes

    All of the data in the world on every hard drive is estimated at around 500 exbibytes.

    even in bits you are in order of several magnitude off
  • 1 Hide
    acku , March 29, 2011 12:28 AM
    Quote:
    Would have been interesting to see those Vantage marks on a Vertex 3 that hadn't already been hammered into a throttled state by all the previous tests. While it obviously shows the stamina and expected performance of the V3 after extremely heavy usage, the test doesn't take into consideration what many will see on newly installed drives that are used moderately. From that standpoint, the testing protocol is flawed, IMO.

    IOW, the testing protocol in reverse would have been more interesting to see typical Vantage scores from an unthrottled controller. I know for fact through personal beta-testing of the V3 that they would have been much higher.

    Or even better yet would be too take into account the special Durawrite throttling which the Sandforce drives STILL have built into the firmware(though not nearly as aggressive as the V2). Would surely give a nice little boost to SF through secure erase cleansing. If done at the 50% point it would show the potential in certain portions of the test suite that most WOULD see when not hitting thier drives with benchmark after benchmark in some sort of "hammer em' till the dust settles" protocol.

    Decent enough writeup though and all the review sites will eventually get it figured out, I guess.


    Hi groberts101,

    The test are actually run backwards. We just have help in a different order in the review. :) 

    Cheers,
    Andrew
    TomsHardware
  • 0 Hide
    acku , March 29, 2011 12:29 AM
    Quote:
    Why does the Intel 510 250GB appear to have two scores in crystalmark? (469.4 and 259.7) on the top benchmark on page: "Benchmark Results: CrystalDiskMark Streaming Performance" the specs are identical for both.


    I think there is a legend in the lower right hand corner. One is using the 6Gb/s port and one is using the 3Gb/s port.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , March 29, 2011 3:46 AM
    Quote:
    Why are the I/O's for this drive way off on your review compared to others such as Anand and PCPer?

    Which ones are you referencing?
  • 0 Hide
    ww2003 , March 29, 2011 4:35 AM
    From what i have been hearing the new vortec 3 is going to be the best SSD on the market with faster speeds the any other one has right now.
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , March 29, 2011 5:13 AM
    I like the part in the conclusion that one not need the fastest SSDs out there especially for desktop uses.
    In my opinion, Intel has a point with their new products and pricing, enable bigger capacities at lower capacities.
  • 0 Hide
    zodiacfml , March 29, 2011 5:16 AM
    I meant prices. :p 

    zodiacfmlI like the part in the conclusion that one not need the fastest SSDs out there especially for desktop uses. In my opinion, Intel has a point with their new products and pricing, enable bigger capacities at lower capacities.

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