Inside The SSD 330: A Binned 520?
Intel's SSD 330 ships in a true 9.5 mm-tall form-factor. That's different from previous Intel drives that used a 2.5 mm shim on a 7 mm enclosure to achieve that 9.5 mm z-height.
Opening the drive up reveals SandForce's familiar SF-2281 controller, as expected. The on-board flash memory gave us more of a surprise, though.
Interestingly, the SSD 330 uses 64 Gb 25 nm synchronous NAND. Vendors employing SandForce controllers typically offer two line-ups: high-end drives armed with expensive synchronous memory and lower-end models with cheaper asynchronous NAND. But Intel uses the synchronous stuff in its "value-oriented" 330s. That's a nod to performance, for sure.
So, now we know that the SSD 330s feature the same controller and flash as the 520s. That makes the two products essentially the same, right? Well, yes—and no. Close examination of each SSD 330 (we purchased all three drives on Amazon) reveals a sticker labeled "Bin 2." Could Intel simply be sorting its SSDs, separating, configuring, and packaging them based on their tested performance characteristics?
We're not certain if Intel is dropping the frequency of SandForce's controller or simply using a de-tuned firmware to achieve its more conservative specifications. What we can be relatively sure of, though, is that it's filtering out parts in much the same way as it does with CPUs. Unfortunately, Intel would not respond to our requests for comment.