Intel SSD 530 Review: A Revised Controller And 20 nm Flash

Results: 4 KB Random Performance

We turn to Iometer as our synthetic metric of choice for testing 4 KB random performance. Technically, "random" translates to a consecutive access that occurs more than one sector away. On a mechanical hard disk, this can lead to significant latencies that hammer performance. Spinning media simply handles sequential accesses much better than random ones, since the heads don't have to be physically repositioned. With SSDs, the random/sequential access distinction is much less relevant. Data are put wherever the controller wants it, so the idea that the operating system sees one piece of information next to another is mostly just an illusion.

4 KB Random Reads

Testing the performance of SSDs often emphasizes 4 KB random reads, and for good reason. Most system accesses are both small and random. Moreover, read performance is arguably more important than writes when you're talking about typical client workloads.

There is more variability between the three 180 GB SSDs from Intel than you might have expected. Across our 16 GB active test range, the SSD 530 achieves about 45,000 IOPS with compressible data. Roughly 35,000 4 KB IOPS is the best we can hope for testing incompressible data. Intel says its SSD 530 is good for 41,000 4 KB read IOPS at a queue depth of 32. We beat that number using compressible information, but don't quite get there pushing random payloads.

Interestingly, note that the diminutive SSD 525 beats the rest of the field.

4 KB Random Writes

Random write performance is also exceptionally important. Early SSDs didn't do well in this discipline, seizing up even in light workloads. Newer SSDs wield more than 100x the performance of drives from 2007, but there's a point of diminishing returns in desktop environments.

When you swap a hard drive out for solid-state storage, your experience improves. Load times, boot times, and system responsiveness all get better. When it's called upon, your SSD can handle a lot more I/O than the spinning media you had in there before. When it comes to typical client workloads however, getting to those operations faster is what matters, not necessarily trying to juggle more of them.

Intel's SSD 520 replacement delivers the 80,000 IOPS it's rated for, but only when we send compressible data down its channels. Repeating information is supremely easy for SandForce's real time data deduplication technology to manage, which is why we see the higher numbers. With random data coming out of the buffer, the SSD 530 goes so far as to surpass our expectations with 55,000 IOPS.

Here's a break-down of the maximum observed 4 KB sequential read and write performance with Iometer:

The order the drives appear in our chart is determined by maximum combined read and write performance.

The 180 GB SSD 530 posts respectable numbers, even if they don't top our chart. Isolating repeating data, the SSD 530 places under the 120 GB SanDisk Extreme II and 128 GB Silicon Motion SM226EN. It even slots in under the older SSD 520 and 525. Testing with random data, it finishes just ahead of Intel's Marvell-powered SSD 510. That means it's even behind SanDisk's Ultra Plus 64 GB.

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17 comments
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  • rolli59
    Good drive with nice idle power consumption numbers.
    2
  • jimmysmitty
    I went with a 520 for the fact that Intel has some of the best reliability along with Samsung.

    As well we wont see much of a difference in performance until SATA Express (8Gb/16Gb) and even then we might not notice it.

    The main benefit is lowering the price. If it sells for $170 that's a bit lower than $1/GB which is good since Intel is always a bit pricier than others.
    0
  • cryan
    Anonymous said:
    I went with a 520 for the fact that Intel has some of the best reliability along with Samsung.

    As well we wont see much of a difference in performance until SATA Express (8Gb/16Gb) and even then we might not notice it.

    The main benefit is lowering the price. If it sells for $170 that's a bit lower than $1/GB which is good since Intel is always a bit pricier than others.


    I can't, in good conscience, recommend anyone actually buy the 180 GB 530 -- not when the retail boxed 240 GB is only $198.

    Jay Crest (the 335) is a few bucks less, and its 240 GB edition is hovering near $180. Nice, but for just $20 more, grab the 530 240 GB box and call it a day... if for no other reason than the extra warranty coverage.


    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    4
  • RealBeast
    I got a 480GB 520 a year ago on a great sale with the typical Intel rebate. Great drive. I'm hoping to see a nice rebate again this year as I need a number of drives.
    0
  • diazalon
    Where i am the 840 pro is cheaper so i think i will just get that, seems to perform pretty well too
    1
  • ssdpro
    The compressed vs incompressible data issue is still a problem for me with LSI/SandForce controllers. I need consistent data transfer and get that with my 840 Pro and Vector drives. With so many options I boil it down to 3 considerations: 1) Is data transfer consistent across data types and as fast as possible, 2) are there reasonable tools available from the manufacturer for examining drive condition, 3) how is the warranty and support in the event of the failure. The Intel 520/530 offering fails point 1 where Samsung 840 Pro and OCZ Vector excel. Intel, Samsung, and OCZ pass point 2. OCZ wins point 3 easily. They have active support forums and mostly reasonable support staff. Intel has decent process, OCZ has decent process. Samsung has horrid and lengthy support procedures. If you visit Samsung.com to initiate a support request I bet you can't even find your Evo or Pro on the drop down menu you MUST use. You have to call and wait on hold endlessly.
    0
  • vertexx
    Thanks for the informative article - would have liked to see a couple different capacities tested.

    If you look at the number of models and form-factors available for the 530, I'd say this product line is primarily about one thing: Distribution.

    The price points for the 240-256GB capacity drives have come down enough where they're probably ready for the mainstream. You see this with Samsung's aggressive (and cheesy) marketing of it's EVO line to the mass consumer market, and this is Intel's attempt to achieve maximum penetration into that market.

    About two months ago, I refreshed my 2-year-old primary work laptop with the Intel 335 240GB. It was on a special at Newegg for $50 off at $170. Now that same drive lists for $180. For a work PC, I was waiting for SSD affordability in the 240-256GB range before pulling the trigger, as anything less would lead to too much hassle moving files around between drives. So, I upgraded from a single 500GB HDD that was getting slower by the day to a 240GB SSD for my primary and a new 750GB secondary HDD running in a caddy in the ODD bay. With this upgrade, I believe I'm set for the next couple of years with this laptop, given the lower pace of development for core CPU tech.

    Overall I'd say that the 530 performance numbers in this article are disappointing, although low power consumption certainly is valuable for the laptop market. Still, I think the market expects performance improvement along with power efficiency improvement, even though reality is you probably wouldn't notice the difference in everyday use.

    It would have been good to see the performance numbers for the 240GB drive, as that really is the minimum point where you could reasonably get away with running a SSD as your sole system drive. With the prices coming down at that capacity, there certainly is a point in marketing SSD affordability in the mainstream segment.

    The other main selling point for me was reliability. Samsung leads the pack here with Intel not far behind. I passed over the Sandisk Ultra Plus 256GB recommended in Tom's "Best SSD's for the $$" due to a high percentage of 1-star ratings on Newegg and only 2-year warranty. It came down to the 335 and the 840 Evo, with the Evo having slightly better performance and the 335 at that point being about $30 cheaper with the Newegg Promo. I went with the lower price and the rest is history.

    For those contemplating upgrading to a consumer grade SSD, don't sweat the minor performance differences. Go with a good brand and a line with good reliability ratings. Do the hard work of re-installing a fresh copy of Windows (instead of using a migration utility), and your system will be flying. I couldn't be happier with this upgrade.
    0
  • npyrhone
    I think this is the least exciting SSD release this year. I really challenge you to find a major SSD release this year that showed less. 530 is relatively expensive and on the slow side. It excels in nothing.

    Intel's post x-25 SSDs' only claim for fame is "reliability" which is nothing but a mantra. Intel's SSD are no more or less reliable than any other manufacturer's. They do give a five-year warranty, true, but it means nothing. They break down just as often as others do, and because of this, Intel pays a bit more by sending replacement drives. This is small potatoes, a minute cost to pay to be considered "more reliable" by those less informed. Especially since the warranty does not cover all the hassle and expenses that come from actually replacing the broken drive (you must stop working, start waiting, install the new drive, move all the data, etc). Of course its nice to live in the beautiful illusion that by buying an Intel SSD I am more safe from all this.

    I would never buy this over a Samsung-product that is less expensive, has greater performance and equal reliability. I can't understand why this article concludes like it does. It should say: "There is nothing wrong with 530, but you can get better for cheaper, so stay away from 530."
    0
  • cryan
    The 530 and the newly announced 1500 Pro are both about filling out the gaps in client computing. Both are nearly identical, with wide varieties of form factors and capacity points.

    Regards,
    Christopher Ryan
    0
  • npyrhone
    Cristopher: Is there a single metric that would support the decision for anyone to fill that gap with an Intel 530 product, rather than with a Sandisk Ultra Plus product, or Samsung 830 840 (EVO) product?
    0
  • toolmaker_03
    Wow that is hard core I have two Intel 520 SSD's in a array so if one fails I lose everything and as you stated the same goes for any consumer SSD they tend to fail consistently after 3 years. With got me to thinking how do I prolong the life of my drives, so with a little research I found the Intel DC-s3700 200Gig SSD, no they do not seem to be any faster, but in my opinion they are, and I think that under normal operation, internet/gamming, this type of drive could last for 10 years in a home based system, but only time will tell, and I have two in my system now, so in ten years I will let you know if they still work. 10 years ago I bought four 36.4Gig raptors and water cooled them to get them to last as long as they did. I do not think that that water cooling will work on a SSD to prolong its life, but I do think that getting an industrial grade SSD will.
    0
  • RealBeast
    Anonymous said:
    Where i am the 840 pro is cheaper so i think i will just get that, seems to perform pretty well too


    Anonymous said:
    Wow that is hard core I have two Intel 520 SSD's in a array so if one fails I lose everything and as you stated the same goes for any consumer SSD they tend to fail consistently after 3 years. With got me to thinking how do I prolong the life of my drives, so with a little research I found the Intel DC-s3700 200Gig SSD, no they do not seem to be any faster, but in my opinion they are, and I think that under normal operation, internet/gamming, this type of drive could last for 10 years in a home based system, but only time will tell, and I have two in my system now, so in ten years I will let you know if they still work. 10 years ago I bought four 36.4Gig raptors and water cooled them to get them to last as long as they did. I do not think that that water cooling will work on a SSD to prolong its life, but I do think that getting an industrial grade SSD will.
    My oldest high use SSD is an early X-25M that is now an Adobe scratch disk with hundreds of TBs of writes that is still going strong, the Intel Toolbox still gives it 80% life. I worry little about how long they will last. :)
    0
  • toolmaker_03
    Yes, and I hope that in another ten years we will have a new interface to play with like going from IDE to SATA.
    -1
  • laststop311
    Samsung is really doing something right. The 840 pro has blistering fast performance and incredibly low power consumption. Still king of the hill but there are some other drives close to it.
    1
  • tripleX
    How can this be considered a 'fair' review with an Intel-sponsored video produced by Toms Hardware embedded into the article. It is clear that this SSD does not excel at anything, and falls well behind cheaper SSDs with much better performance. The conclusion ends awkwardly, without the writer giving any real opinion as to whether the SSD is worth it in comparison to other SSDs, which from the results it obviously is not.
    3
  • emv
    This is a nice SSD, average in performance with a relatively low capacity. Intel has a brand identity and while they have had some issues, they are above average but not outstanding in reliability. 20nm NAND means that it is slower and less mature than 25nm.... and cheaper for Intel.

    So like others said, what is new here? shouldn't the conclusion be "buy it only if it is cheaper than all the other drives" or "buy it... the sticker looks cool"
    0
  • steave_01
    SF SSDs are good enough to rely on & am happy with the response times on both kinds of data - compressed/incompressed. Keeping the firmwares up to date, thats the key.
    0