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Setting The Stage For Scrappier Pricing

Intel SSD 335 240 GB Review: Driving Down Prices With 20 nm NAND

There are only so many ways to say the same thing, and I hope we're done with SSD reviews for a while until I can come up with a new way of telling you that, when it comes to crushing storage bottlenecks, nothing matters more than getting an SSD into your system. Although we rave about Samsung's 840 Pro being the fastest drive we've tested, you'll notice we continue to recommend Crucial's m4 in our Best SSDs For The Money column as a proven solution, even though it wound up toward the bottom of today's charts. At the right price, there are a number of drives we're comfortable suggesting. We don't insist on the fastest one.

Intel's SSD 335 launch, which, remember, is limited to a 240 GB model, is all about helping the company bring down what it costs to manufacture a solid-state drive worthy of wearing Intel's brand name. The result is a lower price tag. In fact, the 240 GB SSD 335 is Intel's first launching for less than $1/GB.

It doesn't set out to knock our socks off with speed. After all, it employs the same controller technology from SandForce that debuted nearly two years ago. As a matter of fact, as a refreshed product, the SSD 335 doesn't really offer any additional performance at all. We do measure lower power consumption, but the only real reason we can see for the incremented model number is to make it perfectly clear that this drive features 20 nm NAND flash. More information is always preferable to less in our books, so we appreciate Intel's specificity.

Of course, that takes us to the question of: would we buy an SSD 335? Intel says its manufacturer-recommended pricing should be $184 for 240 GB of space. However, as of this writing, Newegg lists the drive for $210. In contrast, the 240 GB SSD 330, composed of 25 nm NAND, sells for $190. Of course, then there's a 240 GB Muskin Enhanced Chronos Deluxe, which centers on the same SandForce controller, but offers better performance. Our only caveat would be the reason many enthusiasts are willing to pay $20 more for a slightly slower Intel drive: perceived quality.

If you're loyal to Intel's hardware and sensitive to cost, a 120 or 180 GB SSD 330 is your entry-level sweet spot. Even if you're willing to spend a little extra on 240 GB, the SSD 330 is still less expensive. But we have to imagine that, one, prices on the SSD 335 will slide down faster than the SSD 330 moving forward and, two, the 335 can be expected to replace the 330 over time. To that end, we're not so much excited about the SSD 335 as a product as we are appreciative that Intel is beginning its adoption of NAND flash manufactured at 20 nm and letting us all know what's happening.

Breaking Down The Competition: Fastest To Slowest
Same Cell = Equivalent Performance
Market Price
Price Per GB
Intel SSD 520: 240 GB
Intel SSD 520: 180 GB
OCZ Vertex 3: 240 GB
Five Years (SSD 520)
Three Years (Vertex 3)
Intel SSD 335: 240 GB
Intel SSD 330: 240 GB
Intel SSD 330: 180 GB
Three Years
OCZ Agility 3: 240 GB
OCZ Agility 3: 180 GB
Three Years
Intel SSD 520: 120 GB
OCZ Vertex 3: 120 GB
Five Years
Three Years
Intel SSD 330: 120 GBSynchronous$100$0.83
Three Years
OCZ Agility 3: 120 GBAsynchronous$95$0.79
Three Years
Intel SSD 520: 60 GB
Five Years
OCZ Vertex 3: 60 GB
Intel SSD 330: 60 GB
Three Years
OCZ Agility 3: 60 GBAsynchronous$65$1.08
Three Years

Intel has never been a company to play pricing games. Rather, it banks on a reputation for reliability to justify a bit more expense. With that notoriety in mind, do we worry about the idea of lower write endurance, per our media wear indicator-based analysis? 

Not until we discover a reason to, which we have not. Intel knows what the components in its drive can do, and by creating a 240 GB version of the SSD 335, it reduces the likelihood that you'd ever see the end of its write endurance. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised to see a 180 GB version of the SSD 335 soon. We're far more interested how a drive like Samsung's 64 GB 840 Pro, which doesn't employ compression to minimize write amplification, but does utilize the latest 21 nm memory, will behave over the long-term. 

At the end of the day, Intel's SSD 335 becomes more than the sum of its parts, matching the speed of an SSD 330, more attractive power consumption, and the same three-year warranty. But, armed with 20 nm NAND flash, it's also better-equipped to contend with aggressively-priced competition. We can't recommend it when the 240 GB SSD 330 still sells for less, undermining the entire point of this exercise, but we'll keep an eye out each month in our Best SSDs For The Money column and make it a point to mention when the SSD 335 passes its predecessor with regard to value.

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