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Intel SSD 311 (Larson Creek): Z68-Optimized

The Intel Z68 Express Review: A Real Enthusiast Chipset

As part of Intel's Z68 launch, the company is introducing its SSD 311, which is supposed to offer an inexpensive way to buy into SSD caching.

Most cheap SSDs not only subject you to low capacity, but sparsely-populated NAND channels also result in disappointingly-low write performance, too. Take Intel's 40 GB SSD 320, for example. It boasts reasonable 200 MB/s read speeds, but sustained sequential writes top out at a meager 45 MB/s. The SSD 311 overcomes this problem by using higher-performance 34 nm SLC NAND. Of course, single-level cell flash is more expensive than the MLC elements that compose the SSD 320. So, the utilization of SLC requires a trade-off in capacity at a given price point.

SSDPricePrice Per Gigabyte
Intel SSD 320 40 GB
Intel SSD 311 20 GB

That little table above tells the story. Twenty gigs of SLC is going to cost you $100, the same as 40 GB of MLC NAND. But you're going to get way better performance.

Don't expect multiple capacities of the SSD 311. Intel only wants to hit one segment: the budget SSD that can barely take a 64-bit Windows installation, but is perfect for caching. It's not the cheapest drive out there, but it’s the most affordable SLC-based drive we've ever seen from Intel. Granted, $5/GB is outrageously high compared to the MLC drives you'd use in a boot volume. Intel is counting on the fact that you want better write performance that what a small MLC drive delivers, rather than more capacity.

When it comes to caching, both are important, but remember that in write-through mode, Smart Response Technology is writing to the hard disk and SSD simultaneously. If your inexpensive SSD is slower than your hard drive, performance can actually be lower on the cached combination versus a hard drive operating on its own. The SSD 311 helps ensure that a pokey MLC drive doesn't end up penalizing performance.

SSDNANDSequential ReadSequential WriteRandom ReadRandom WritePrice
Intel SSD 320 40 GBMLC200 MB/s45 MB/s30 000 IOPS3700 IOPS$94.99
Intel SSD 310 80 GBMLC200 MB/s70 MB/s35 000 IOPS6600 IOPS$99.99
Intel X25-E 32 GBSLC250 MB/s170 MB/s35 000 IOPS3300 IOPS$375
Intel SSD 311 20 GBSLC200 MB/s105 MB/s37 000 IOPS3300 IOPS$100

The SSD 311 uses Intel’s PC29AS21BA0 NAND controller, the same one seen on its SSD 310 drives. As we know, though, the controller is only one factor in SSD performance. Firmware and NAND are the other two important variables.

Though, Intel doesn’t break down its specifications, the SSD 311 features five NAND flash ICs, suggesting a more conservative five-channel architecture rated for up to 200 MB/s reads and up to 105 MB/s writes. Intel also claims 4K read IOPS of 37 000 and 4K write IOPs as high as 3300, which is slightly better than the random read and write performance of its 80 GB SSD 310. Performance-wise, it’s better to think of the 311 as an SLC-based version of the 310 instead of a cut down version of Intel's older enterprise-class X25-E.

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  • 1 Hide
    LuckyDucky7 , May 11, 2011 7:41 AM
    The Intel 311 might be one of the weirdest products I've seen for a while.

    It doesn't have an impact on games and apps which are too large to be cached and 60 GB drives that blow the 311 out of the water can be had for 20 bucks more.

    And as far as getting QuickSync, it's about time. Should have been done in P67 (along with USB 3.0 support and 6 x SATA III ports) is all I can say.
  • 1 Hide
    acku , May 11, 2011 7:51 AM
    In an ideal world, that's what we should have seen, but Lucidlogix's Virtu really makes Z68 worth it.
  • 2 Hide
    hmp_goose , May 11, 2011 8:11 AM
    What is this "QuickSync"? My people do not have this word …
  • 0 Hide
    ghnader hsmithot , May 11, 2011 8:12 AM
    Sir and madam working at intel.You make us customers look retarded.Thank you.
  • 0 Hide
    Olle P , May 11, 2011 8:18 AM
    mayankleoboy1is this realy the platform for enthusiasts? with almost daily news of lga2011 ... its a little bit hard to get too happy with this
    Yes it is!
    I am going to buy myself a Z68 mobo and a Core i5-2500K within a few weeks.

    If you buy yourself an LGA2011 based platform we can get together a month from now and compare the results!
    ... or rather not, since it will take at least half a year for the 2011 to become available.

    Let's face it. For at least a full month from now the Z68 will be the enthusiast platform.
    Then AMD's competition will arrive, and we'll see how much of an option that is.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , May 11, 2011 8:34 AM
    hmp_gooseWhat is this "QuickSync"? My people do not have this word …,2833-4.html
  • 2 Hide
    ta152h , May 11, 2011 9:01 AM
    A good comparison would have been striping hard disks to compare against caching with EEPROMs. You'd have more capacity, a lot more, and wouldn't have a technology that dies after a certain amount of writes, which is dubious to use for something that's being used as a cache, and written on rather consistently.

    Performance of Raid 0 would be higher than a single disk, and you'd be increasing performance without a loss in capacity (per dollar). Or, if you wanted the same capacity. you could get higher performance disks, and compare them that way.

    If I want to spend an extra $100 to make my computer faster, will it? Duh, of course. That's all this article is saying. Is it the best way to spend that $100? Well, that much isn't clear at all. It wasn't compared with much of anything else. Two high capacity disks striped, and two higher performance disks (but lower capacity) striped, versus one disk and EEPROMs. All should be the same cost. It's more useful information. You'd have three fundamental choices - huge capacity, high "Winchester" performance, and low capacity with EEPROM caching. You could do a search on the capacity trade-offs pretty easily, but the performance difference between this caching and a high performance magnetic disk in RAID 0 is much less clear. Obviously, the hard disks would win a lot of tests, and could be a better buy for a lot of people.

    It is worth looking at.
  • 0 Hide
    Olle P , May 11, 2011 10:33 AM
    Another little detail:
    Larsen Creek was the work name for Intel's SSD.
    The final name now in use is Larson Creek, as can be easily read in the picture.
  • 0 Hide
    flong , May 11, 2011 10:43 AM
    Hey, did I read this right, the theoretical maximum of the 2600K and 2500k chips is 5.7 ghtz???? Has anyone ever got a cpu that high? The most Ive read about is 5.0 ghtz and that was with water cooling. So does 5.7 ghtz exist?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 11, 2011 10:50 AM
    My GoD!

    Intels output is capped at 1920x1200? Below my native res! I've been forced to put my buy on hold...

    What were they thinking?
  • 0 Hide
    ChilledLJ , May 11, 2011 10:58 AM
    flongHey, did I read this right, the theoretical maximum of the 2600K and 2500k chips is 5.7 ghtz???? Has anyone ever got a cpu that high? The most Ive read about is 5.0 ghtz and that was with water cooling. So does 5.7 ghtz exist?
    That result is with only 1 core running though remember
  • 0 Hide
    flong , May 11, 2011 11:09 AM
    I don't think that the output is capped at 1920 x 1200 because virtu let's you switch to the discrete GPU which can handle greater resolutions if you need it to by buying the appropriate GPU. For example, an ATI 6970 would run a 27" monitor which requires a greater resolution than 1920 x 1200. At least that's the way I think it works.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , May 11, 2011 11:13 AM
    Olle PAnother little detail:Larsen Creek was the work name for Intel's SSD.The final name now in use is Larson Creek, as can be easily read in the picture.

    Fixed! Thanks.
  • 2 Hide
    lradunovic77 , May 11, 2011 12:34 PM
    Boring platform. Really Intel? LGA1155, LGA1156, H67, P67, Z68 make up your mind!
  • 0 Hide
    daygall , May 11, 2011 12:34 PM
    another reason i dislike intel is bull like this, so your telling me that EVEN IF i buy the most expensive enthusiast class mobo i can utilize all the features without third party intervention??

    i ask again just for the slow, why in the world after purchasing there best mobo do i have to wait for third party intervention to utilize all features?

    ether that or i missed something and i shouldn't be reading and posting @ 4am >_>
  • 0 Hide
    tommysch , May 11, 2011 1:26 PM
    Our assumption here is that you care about Intel's Quick Sync technology.

    I loled at that... Is there anyone out there running an OCed 2500K/2600K that doesn't have a discrete GPU?
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , May 11, 2011 1:27 PM
    There are 13 of these on Newegg already, and the prices do look in line with good P67 boards. With around $200 estimated for the mobo in my upcoming [re]build, I'll get one of these if I choose SB.

    Edit: The "700W" Xion PSU would never taste A/C, but otherwise I'm in for the contest...would be really nice...
  • 2 Hide
    thechief73 , May 11, 2011 1:38 PM
    -On SSD chaching-
    Is it just me or doesn't this seem to be: to little, too late, too clunky, too expensive to be worth it? Reminds me of all they hype for "Ready Boost", seems a little gimmicky.

    Strait out of the article - "You’re going to get faster application loading from a 120 GB Vertex 2, for example, than any combination of SSD caching."

    So why not keep doing things the way we have with SSD's the past few years, skip all this and not waste a SSD on chache by spending just a little bit more? 1. Buy a system drive SSD and load a OS and some app's/games, and a HDD or two for mass storage. -or- 2. Drop the cash and buy one or two large volume SSD's and maybe a storage HDD, then be done with it.

    The way I use my PC I just cant see the benefits of this tech in any way, but I do understand that there are different kinds of users and others my find this a viable option, just not me.

    And 3rd party software to get all the features of a CPU, no thanks, never going to happen on my PC. Come on Intel stop treating use like sheep and sell us something that isn't dumbed down or crippled for your own devices.
  • 1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , May 11, 2011 1:38 PM
    Read the article on my phone. Might've missed something, but I really don't see why quick sync is so important and cool? it didn't seem to really do anything in the benchmarks?
  • 0 Hide
    jee_are , May 11, 2011 1:48 PM
    Hey, did I read this right, the theoretical maximum of the 2600K and 2500k chips is 5.7 ghtz???? Has anyone ever got a cpu that high? The most Ive read about is 5.0 ghtz and that was with water cooling. So does 5.7 ghtz exist?

    Check out the sub-zero overclocking page:
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