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Intel SSD 510-Series 250 GB Review: Adopting 6 Gb/s SATA

Let’s start with OCZ’s Vertex 3, rather than Intel’s SSD 510. Although the Vertex 3 doesn’t clean house in every discipline, it is most consistently toward the top of each workload.

Intel’s SSD 510 is almost bipolar in comparison. Rather than focus on a well-rounded drive, Intel seems to have deliberately optimized for sequential transfers, moving large files around. Perhaps this was done to purposely demonstrate the benefits of a 6 Gb/s interface.

As coincidence might have it (or probably not), the P67 and H67 Express chipsets are Intel's first to feature this functionality natively. And even OCZ concedes that your best storage experience with its drives come from Intel’s PCH-based controller. There’s no better way to showcase what your next-gen platform can do than build a desktop storage device capable of demonstrating peak throughput numbers previously unheard of. So, whereas the X25-M’s mission in life was to let Nehalem-based processors achieve their potential, it increasingly looks like the SSD 510’s directive is to show what Intel’s brand new 6 Gb/s chipset-based SATA interface can do. A means to an end, if you will.

What does that mean for end-users? Well, let’s take a quick look at pricing. OCZ hasn’t responded to me yet on availability of its Vertex 3 drives, but unless the company was completely blowing smoke up our collective rear-ends ahead of Intel’s SSD 510 hard-launch, we should be seeing 240 GB Vertex 3s selling for $500, or $2.08 per gigabyte. In comparison, Intel’s 250 GB SSD 510 has a $584 MSRP. That’s $2.33 per gigabyte.

Assuming we see Vertex 3s mid-March at OCZ’s stated price points, that’s the drive for which you should be waiting—a recommendation based exclusively on well-rounded performance. Remember that the Vertex 3s employ 25 nm NAND, and the jury is still out on how reliable it’ll be long-term. This will have to come from us installing these SSDs in our daily drivers and hitting them as hard as we would any other product. As soon as they pop up on Newegg, you can bet I’ll do just that, too.

Intel’s SSD 510 costs more and it can serve up better sequential numbers than Vertex 3. However, it’s actually slower than its predecessor in situations where you’re working with lots of small files. The applications where this 250 GB drive makes sense are fairly clear cut. But again, it looks like you’d get a better all-around experience from OCZ’s Vertex 3 when it becomes available.

Don’t take that as the last word, though. We’re still expecting a new 6 Gb/s drive from Crucial in the days to come, and Intel’s X25-M refresh isn’t far off, either. That drive will employ Intel’s own controller. It’ll also see the company introduce higher capacity points enabled by higher-density 25 nm flash. Although it’ll be dubbed a mainstream solution, we’re looking forward to seeing what the cost reduction of smaller lithography does to prices!

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