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128 KB Sequential Performance: Raw, Windows, And Mac

Intel SSD 520 Review: Taking Back The High-End With SandForce
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Sequential Read Performance

Examples include file copying, transcoding, game level loading, some gameplay, watching video, and editing video

In sequential reads, Intel's latest SSD finds its way to the top of our chart like a champ. The 240 GB and 60 GB SSD 520s are able to match the read speeds of the 256 GB m4 and both Vertex 3s. It's only at a queue depth of one where Samsung's 256 GB 830 enjoys a 100 MB/s lead. 

The most obvious story is the gaping performance hole between SATA 3Gb/s- and 6Gb/s-capable drives. It's hard to see, but both SSD 320s offer identical sequential read rates just under 300 MB/s at queue depths higher than two. The rest of the pack consists of SATA 6Gb/s-class SSDs, helping explain why those drives show up at 350 MB/s and scale up as high as 550 MB/s.

Faced with the overhead of NTFS, the group becomes a little easier to separate. At queue depths between two and four, Samsung's 830 takes the lead. Meanwhile, the 60 GB SSD 520 falls slightly behind, though Intel's lowest-capacity SandForce-based SSD still managers to outperform the 60 GB Vertex 3.

In a Mac environment, all of the SSDs are affected by host caching, which is why you see most drives start around 500 MB/s. Interestingly, only the 256 GB m4 and 830 maintain those speeds, eventually punching through the 600 MB/s barrier, which we know exceeds the SATA 6Gb/s interface's ceiling.

As far as the SandForce-based SSDs are concerned, we still see the opposite outcome of our PC-based tests. This time, both Vertex 3s outperform Intel's SSD 520s. Granted, the delta is relatively small. We're still talking about very fast SSDs, and all four SandForce-based SSDs are capable of delivering speeds close to 500 MB/s.

Sequential Write Performance

Examples include Application Installation, Document Backup

When it comes to writing compressible data, the SSD 520s match the Vertex 3's performance at nearly every queue depth. That's great considering all four SandForce-based SSDs outperform Crucial's m4 and Samsung's 830.

Interestingly, Crucial's 256 GB m4 and Intel's older SSD 510 seems to suffer some sort of performance penalty on our MBP.

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  • -8 Hide
    Anonymous , February 6, 2012 3:04 PM
    Hmmm, maybe I missed a good excuse, but I'd like to see the Octane in these tests.
  • 2 Hide
    phamhlam , February 6, 2012 3:11 PM
    I love Intel SSD. 128GB for about $210 isn't bad. It is just hard to not chose something like a Corsair GT 120GB that cost $150 with rebate over this. I would always put a Intel SSD in a computer for novice since it is reliable.
  • 3 Hide
    thessdreview , February 6, 2012 3:32 PM
    Nice Review!
  • 0 Hide
    jaquith , February 6, 2012 3:59 PM
    Nice article :) 

    Just need more SSD's to compare, I'd like to see similar tests done with 120GB...180GB...256GB and several more brands. Further, as I mentioned before in the other article please list the exact model numbers and OEM specs including their 4KB IOPS; otherwise folks don't understand the results and if relying on this a purchasing will have in many cases a 4 in 5 chance of selecting the wrong SSD.

    Prior article - http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/sata-6gbps-performance-sata-3gbps,3110.html
  • -3 Hide
    theuniquegamer , February 6, 2012 3:59 PM
    costly but i think reliability comes at a price. These ssds are best for enterprises . If the price will be little lower then the common user can afford these and get a good reliable ssd.
  • 1 Hide
    danraies , February 6, 2012 5:55 PM
    These prices are lower than I thought. $20-$40 extra (depending on the comparison) for peace-of-mind is not outrageous.
  • 2 Hide
    acku , February 6, 2012 6:02 PM
    carn1xHmmm, maybe I missed a good excuse, but I'd like to see the Octane in these tests.


    We didn't have the Octane on hand in the 256 GB capacity, but we'll be sure to make that side by side comparison down the road.

    phamhlamI love Intel SSD. 128GB for about $210 isn't bad. It is just hard to not chose something like a Corsair GT 120GB that cost $150 with rebate over this. I would always put a Intel SSD in a computer for novice since it is reliable.


    Excellent point. Price is always a fickle thing.

    thessdreviewNice Review!

    Thanks Les. :) 

    jaquithNice article Just need more SSD's to compare, I'd like to see similar tests done with 120GB...180GB...256GB and several more brands. Further, as I mentioned before in the other article please list the exact model numbers and OEM specs including their 4KB IOPS; otherwise folks don't understand the results and if relying on this a purchasing will have in many cases a 4 in 5 chance of selecting the wrong SSD. Prior article - http://www.tomshardware.com/review [...] ,3110.html


    We'll keep that mind for future reviews. However, we already list model and firmware on the test page.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 6 Hide
    willard , February 6, 2012 6:03 PM
    bildo123Getting out of standby on my HDD is a matter of seconds.

    And with an SSD, your computer comes out of standby faster than your monitors do. Not kidding.
  • 7 Hide
    mrkdilkington , February 6, 2012 6:08 PM
    Anyone else disappointed Intel isn't producing their own high end chipset? Been waiting to upgrade my X25-M for a while now (Intel 320 isn't a big upgrade) but might just go with Samsung.
  • 0 Hide
    boletus , February 6, 2012 6:49 PM
    Good to see Intel throw its hat into the ring for the prosumer market. We should be able to expect performance and out-of-the-box functionality (as opposed to theoretical endurance) for the amount of money these devices cost. As the article repeatedly infers, this has not always been the case to date (although the last year has seen some major kinks worked out). Competition at the mid to upper end of the market will lead to higher expectations.
  • 1 Hide
    universalremonster , February 7, 2012 12:26 AM
    Quote:
    Anyone else disappointed Intel isn't producing their own high end chipset? Been waiting to upgrade my X25-M for a while now (Intel 320 isn't a big upgrade) but might just go with Samsung.


    Yes, I'm with you on that one. I've had an Intel 320 128Gb SSD for quite some time now and have nothing but the greatest things to say about my particular experience with it. I purposely held off from buying the Marvell controller 510 in hopes that the next refresh would have a new Intel made 6Gb controller. One thing I am curious about, does the new 520 still have the Intel Toolbox software with it? I have gotten alot of use out of it with my current drive and would really hate to not have it on a new one.
  • 0 Hide
    acku , February 7, 2012 12:29 AM
    universalremonsterYes, I'm with you on that one. I've had an Intel 320 128Gb SSD for quite some time now and have nothing but the greatest things to say about my particular experience with it. I purposely held off from buying the Marvell controller 510 in hopes that the next refresh would have a new Intel made 6Gb controller. One thing I am curious about, does the new 520 still have the Intel Toolbox software with it? I have gotten alot of use out of it with my current drive and would really hate to not have it on a new one.


    You can use the Toolbox software with the SSD 520. It will however not work with other SF drives.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 7, 2012 12:47 AM
    Andrew, could you please comment on the encryption capabilities of the new drive. Does it support AES encryption like the Intel 320? Is there an option for pre-boot? Thanks in advance!
  • 2 Hide
    compton , February 7, 2012 3:03 AM
    Andrew,

    Your SSD investigations/reviews/history lessons are Tier 1.


    But I always get curious when Intel starts on and on about how it has the best NAND around. It's not that I even doubt them when they say this, but AFAIK Intel/Micron/IMFT are made and binned in the same place.

    IMFT is supposed to be 49% Intel and 51% Micron-owned. Now both companies' own drives are stocked with what I presume is the best available NAND at that price point, but how did Intel get the reputation of having better NAND? (and if I'm honest, there is at least some evidence that it does). Micron doesn't run around talking up their NAND as much as they should, and this makes me think that the details of the IMFT arrangement are probably pretty strange. In a blind taste test, they taste pretty similar.

    But not all Micron NAND is created equal, nor is Intel's (for example, does Kingston really get Intel's top shelf shtuff?). The IMFT NAND used in so many drives today runs the gamut from fantastic down to mediocre, only one step above Hynix's too-dirty-for-television flash. I'm probably the one person on this planet that wants to know more about Intel, Micron, and their bastard love child, IMFT.
  • 0 Hide
    nikorr , February 7, 2012 4:15 AM
    So, does this SandForce's SF-2281 controller has the bug as well?

    Or it is already fixed?

    Or they have replaced it with a new version?
  • 0 Hide
    dragonsqrrl , February 7, 2012 6:11 AM
    nikorrSo, does this SandForce's SF-2281 controller has the bug as well?

    As far as Anand can tell... no.

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5508/intel-ssd-520-review-cherryville-brings-reliability-to-sandforce


    Intel's SF2281 implementation seems to be stable, and BSOD free.

  • 1 Hide
    DjEaZy , February 7, 2012 8:38 AM
    ... my OCZ Vertex 3 is still strong...
  • 0 Hide
    triny , February 7, 2012 9:00 AM
    I have a crucial 128 my next will be Samsung
  • 2 Hide
    TEAMSWITCHER , February 7, 2012 11:44 AM
    Thank you for the OS X benchmarks! There are real differences between Windows 7 and OS X and having these benchmarks helps Mac users make better upgrade decisions.
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