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Intel SSD 330: Searching For A Segment To Satisfy

Intel SSD 330 Review: 60, 120, And 180 GB Models Benchmarked
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The SSD 330 family puts Intel in a unique position. Instead of one high-end and one value-oriented product family, the company now has three line-ups intended to more closely hit its customers' budgets.

But rather than differentiate its flagship and middle-of-the-road offerings using NAND interfaces, it equips the SSD 330s with the same synchronous flash as its SSD 520s. 

We're not certain if Intel slows the new drives down with a lower-clocked controller or just a de-tuned firmware. Company reps wouldn't answer those questions. What we do know, however, is that there appears to be binning going on to separate the 330s and 520s.

We're still puzzled by one thing. The SSD 520 is positioned to attract high-end enthusiasts. The SSD 320 addresses the value-seekers perhaps seeking Intel's famed reliability at a lower price. SSD 330s are supposed to slot in somewhere in the middle, but we're not quite sure how to characterize that middle-tier group of buyers. Are they folks who want to save money but simply can't stand to use a 3 Gb/s drive? Or is Intel laying a foundation for phasing out its older drives?

Breaking Down The Competition: Fastest To Slowest
Same Cell = Equivalent Performance
NAND
Price
Price Per GB
Warranty
Intel SSD 520 - 180 GB
Synchronous$270
$1.50
5-years
Intel SSD 330 - 180 GBSynchronous$220$1.22
3-years
OCZ Agility 3 - 180 GBAsynchronous$200$1.11
3-years
Intel SSD 520 - 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 3 - 120 GB
Synchronous$180
$135
$1.50
$1.13
5-years
3-years
Intel SSD 330 - 120 GBSynchronous$150$1.25
3-years
OCZ Agility 3 - 120 GBAsynchronous$115$0.96
3-years
Intel SSD 520 - 60 GB
Synchronous$105$1.75
5-years
OCZ Vertex 3 - 60 GB
Intel SSD 330 - 60 GB
Synchronous$90
$85
$1.50
$1.42
3-years
3-years
OCZ Agility 3 - 60 GBAsynchronous$70$1.17
3-years


Intel's aging SSD 320 remains a reliable and respectable performer, but again, it's limited to SATA 3Gb/s transfer rates.

When it comes to comparing more modern SATA 6Gb/s drives, Intel's SSD 330 is a shot across the bow of vendors selling mainstream drives with second-gen SandForce controllers and asynchronous NAND. Pitting the SSD 330 against OCZ's Agility 3, for instance, puts Intel decidedly on top. At any given capacity, the SSD 330 is faster.

Unfortunately, they're also more expensive. Prices on the SSD 520 hover around $1.50 per GB. The Vertex 3s costs as little as $1.13 per GB. There are plenty of folks out there who'll pay more to Intel for a solid reputation and a stellar five-year warranty. But the SSD 330 only gives you a three-year warranty, narrowing the value proposition to performance.

With that in mind, we expect many enthusiasts to look to other vendors selling SandForce-based drives with synchronous memory, no performance handicap, and lower price tags.

Intel's stand-out is the 60 GB model, which does match OCZ's Vertex 3 (and consequently, other drives that perform similarly) and sells for slightly less.

The SSD 330 is an impressive product. It bests the mainstream SandForce-based offerings it was seemingly designed to slay. But because Intel's pricing again appears off (the same thing happened when it launched SSD 520), it finds itself going up against higher-end models. Until Intel gets more price-competitive, it may find it difficult to sell the SSD 330 to first-time buyers craving the famed performance of a solid-state drive, and eager to get a good deal.

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  • 3 Hide
    Au_equus , May 16, 2012 5:08 AM
    I bought this samsung 830 256gb ssd for $390 five-six months ago
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147164
    now its $275 or $1.074/GB. Better price/stability/performance than those listed above.
  • 4 Hide
    phamhlam , May 16, 2012 6:16 AM
    au_equusI bought this samsung 830 256gb ssd for $390 five-six months agohttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6820147164now its $275 or $1.074/GB. Better price/stability/performance than those listed above.


    Crucial m4 128GB from Newegg and Amazon @ 124.99. That is less than $1/GB.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , May 16, 2012 6:45 AM
    One question, which didn't explained: what Intel SSD is better for SATA 3Gb/sec 320 or 330 series?
  • 1 Hide
    blazorthon , May 16, 2012 7:09 AM
    Intel should have used non-SandForce controllers. The Vertex 4 (with the new firmware) shows what Sandforce alternatives are capable of, I hope that Intel's next flagship series does something similarly spectacular without Sandforce. I think that Intel could have used the 330s as a stepping stone to get a controller (such as a Marvell controller) up to Vertex 4-like performance (or better) in more universal workloads than Sandforce for their next flagship series.

    On that note, why weren't the Vertex 4s included in this review with the other drives?
  • 2 Hide
    blazorthon , May 16, 2012 8:04 AM
    EoveinOne question, which didn't explained: what Intel SSD is better for SATA 3Gb/sec 320 or 330 series?


    I don't think that it makes much difference at SATA 3Gb/s, but the 330s are faster drives, so they might be marginally better.
  • 0 Hide
    chimera201 , May 16, 2012 8:14 AM
    When will the price of SSD come down to HDD level? That would be news.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , May 16, 2012 8:16 AM
    chimera201When will the price of SSD come down to HDD level? That would be news.


    Probably at least not until a cheaper memory than Flash is used in SSDs, so maybe ten to twenty years, if we're lucky.
  • 4 Hide
    EDVINASM , May 16, 2012 8:42 AM
    Am not a mad scientist or anything so I have missed something but to me Intel SSD is as good as any others on the market. I wouldn't see any difference in real world scenario between 330 and 520 or Samsung 830 or even M4. Who cares? I don't anyway. Just get the drive that you trust and that has reasonable warranty (3 years +) and good support. Done.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , May 16, 2012 8:51 AM
    edvinasmAm not a mad scientist or anything so I have missed something but to me Intel SSD is as good as any others on the market. I wouldn't see any difference in real world scenario between 330 and 520 or Samsung 830 or even M4. Who cares? I don't anyway. Just get the drive that you trust and that has reasonable warranty (3 years +) and good support. Done.


    Whether or not a part that is faster for your workloads than others and is faster enough to make a difference depends on what you are doing. If I was doing a lot of storage heavy stuff, like constantly downloading and decompressing large archives, then an SSD that can deal with in-compressible data very well would provide very noticeable gains over any SandForce drive or any lower end non-Sandforce drives.
  • 1 Hide
    EDVINASM , May 16, 2012 9:04 AM
    blazorthonWhether or not a part that is faster for your workloads than others and is faster enough to make a difference depends on what you are doing. If I was doing a lot of storage heavy stuff, like constantly downloading and decompressing large archives, then an SSD that can deal with in-compressible data very well would provide very noticeable gains over any SandForce drive or any lower end non-Sandforce drives.


    Fair point. Mind you, if you do that much and it's that important hardly any of standard (consumer grade) SSDs would interest you. Unless you are talking of downloading software and games from questionable sites, then yes - cheap and fast is cheerful.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , May 16, 2012 9:12 AM
    edvinasmFair point. Mind you, if you do that much and it's that important hardly any of standard (consumer grade) SSDs would interest you. Unless you are talking of downloading software and games from questionable sites, then yes - cheap and fast is cheerful.


    Well, I think that Steam would be a perfectly legal example for this. I also happen to play around with many OSs in VMs, so I'm often downloading each new version of many different Linux distributions and other operating systems (such as React OS and Haiku). I also download and test out a lot of freeware and some of them can get pretty big.
  • 0 Hide
    EDVINASM , May 16, 2012 9:43 AM
    blazorthonWell, I think that Steam would be a perfectly legal example for this. I also happen to play around with many OSs in VMs, so I'm often downloading each new version of many different Linux distributions and other operating systems (such as React OS and Haiku). I also download and test out a lot of freeware and some of them can get pretty big.


    Good point. What SSD do you use if you don't mind me asking? And how long have you been using it? Any issues? I had Intel 320 80GB but that was just for few months. Getting SSD 330 120GB now, not sure how it will perform but anything that is faster than RAID 0 HDD and is quiet would be better in my book. Never mind the storage amount.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , May 16, 2012 9:46 AM
    edvinasmGood point. What SSD do you use if you don't mind me asking? And how long have you been using it? Any issues? I had Intel 320 80GB but that was just for few months. Getting SSD 330 120GB now, not sure how it will perform but anything that is faster than RAID 0 HDD and is quiet would be better in my book. Never mind the storage amount.


    I have little money to throw around right now. I don't have an SSD yet, by I think I'll grab a Vertex 4 if I can get around to it. For now, RAID 0 hard drives has been the best that I could get. It's not great at all, but it's what I could afford and it could be worse.
  • 0 Hide
    dgingeri , May 16, 2012 12:25 PM
    What's with all the "raw" benchmarks? We don't use these things "raw". We use them with file systems. These things perform differently with file systems installed.
  • 0 Hide
    nekromobo , May 16, 2012 12:27 PM
    On amazon crucial m4 was 199$ for atleast 1 weekend.. even at 240$ its a steal. been a happy user for 8 months now and about to get my 2nd M4 :) 
  • 0 Hide
    beavermml , May 16, 2012 12:55 PM
    i currently own 320s for my boot drive just for casual stuff and i notice tremendous performance compared with normal HDD.. if i upgraded to 330s do i get more performance? how many seconds can i shaved more from booting? since using SSD i do not standby my pc anymore..
  • 5 Hide
    bartholomew , May 16, 2012 1:00 PM
    chimera201When will the price of SSD come down to HDD level? That would be news.


    One could only wish. I'm waiting for HDD prices to come down to HDD level!.
  • 0 Hide
    blazorthon , May 16, 2012 1:42 PM
    beavermmli currently own 320s for my boot drive just for casual stuff and i notice tremendous performance compared with normal HDD.. if i upgraded to 330s do i get more performance? how many seconds can i shaved more from booting? since using SSD i do not standby my pc anymore..


    It won't be nearly as distinct of a difference. Unless you do work that makes fairly small differences in storage performance very obvious, you probably won't notice any difference. The 330s are considerably faster than the 320s, but even the 320s are orders of magnitude faster than HDDs for random accesses and a few times faster than HDDs for sequential throughput. The difference between the 320s and HDDs is far greater than the difference between the 320s and 330s.
  • 3 Hide
    Chainzsaw , May 16, 2012 3:42 PM
    IMO Intel's SSD's are overpriced for what they are.
  • -1 Hide
    phump , May 16, 2012 5:57 PM
    Literally every value analysis on Tom's is invalidated by their neglect of real world prices. Newegg has the 330s well under $1/gb. How could I ever care who a false price is aimed at attracting?
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