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Intel SSD 330 Review: 60, 120, And 180 GB Models Benchmarked

Intel SSD 330 Review: 60, 120, And 180 GB Models Benchmarked
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Intel recently introduced its SSD 330 family, positioned ahead of the SSD 320s and below the SSD 520s. Like the company's highest-end models, these drives employ SandForce's controller technology. We bought all three capacities and ran our tests on them.

Like the late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield, it sometimes seems that leading SSD controller maker SandForce just "can't get no respect”. A key player in the dramatic growth of the SSD marketplace, SandForce is the controller vendor of choice for a majority of today's solid-state drive manufacturers, and it deserves credit for helping those companies boost sales while aggressively cutting costs. Despite SandForce's success, potshots from competitors aimed at the company's data compression technology have sometimes forced SandForce to duck for cover.

Drives based on SandForce's second-gen controller rely on proprietary data compression technology to achieve exemplary SATA 6Gb/s-class performance. However, the company is often criticized for using its data compression as a "gimmick" that inflates or misrepresents storage benchmarks. Some believe those accusations have merit, while others dismiss them as an example of market success triggering unjustified competitive scorn.

Much of that disparagement faded when Intel launched its SandForce-based SSD 520 series (check out Intel SSD 520 Review: Taking Back The High-End With SandForce). After all, Intel is not known for embracing "gimmicky" technology to achieve performance. Adopting SandForce-based controllers in its SSDs created a slight marketing challenge for Intel: the company's new SSD 520 delivers performance similar to OCZ's older Vertex 3 based on the same controller technology. Further, Intel's SSD 520 series typically commands a premium over the other SandForce-based drives out there. Perhaps that's why the SSD 520s include generous five-year warranties.

Most of the vendors building SSDs with SandForce controllers employ a couple of different tiers, simultaneously targeting mainstream and high-end customers. Intel is doing things a little differently, though.

The company continues to ship SSD 320 drives based on its own 3 Gb/s flash controller. Meanwhile, it also recently introduced the entry-level SSD 330. Together with the SSD 520 family, Intel is taking on a multi-tiered approach intended to address a maturing SSD segment where one model cannot satisfy everyone.

As Intel's second SandForce-based drive line-up, the SSD 330s are positioned underneath the SSD 520s as inexpensive performance-oriented alternatives offering SATA 6Gb/s-class performance more affordably. The SSD 330 series is only available at three capacity points: 60, 120, and 180 GB.

The following table allows you to contrast the specifications of Intel's SSD 520 and 330 families, both of which employ second-gen SandForce controllers.

Intel SSD 330 / Intel SSD 520
Compressible Performance
60 GB
120 GB
180 GB
4 KB Random Read (IOPS)12 000 / 15 000
22 500 / 25 000
42 000 / 50 000
4 KB Random Write (IOPS)
20 500 / 23 000
33 000 / 40 000
52 000 / 60 000
128 KB Sequential Read (MB/s)
500 / 550
500 / 550
500 / 550
128 KB Sequential Write (MB/s)
400 / 475
450 / 500
450 / 520


The SSD 330s certainly doesn't appear to be hobbled at all, despite Intel's apparent value focus. Because they occupy a space one tier below the SSD 520s, these 330s go heads-up against mainstream SSDs like OCZ's Agility 3 and other drives that combine asynchronous flash with SandForce's tech. 

In theory, drives like the Agility 3 should be just a bit faster in sequential read and write performance, if the manufacturers' own benchmarks are to be believed. If that were the case, of course, we wouldn't have to worry about doing such a thorough job. In our massive 60 GB SandForce-based SSD round-up, we saw almost-identical sequential performance from Intel's SSD 520 and OCZ's Agility 3. Random read performance was Intel's only significant advantage. We're eager to see how these less-expensive models fit into that picture.

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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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