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Intel SSD 330 Review: 60, 120, And 180 GB Models Benchmarked

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.

Binning, Are We?

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?

Looks The Same: SSD 520 & SSD 330

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.

SSD 330's Code Name: Maple Crest, But Cherryville Stamp On PCB
  • Au_equus
    I bought this samsung 830 256gb ssd for $390 five-six months ago
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147164
    now its $275 or $1.074/GB. Better price/stability/performance than those listed above.
    Reply
  • phamhlam
    au_equusI bought this samsung 830 256gb ssd for $390 five-six months agohttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod 6820147164now its $275 or $1.074/GB. Better price/stability/performance than those listed above.
    Crucial m4 128GB from Newegg and Amazon @ 124.99. That is less than $1/GB.
    Reply
  • One question, which didn't explained: what Intel SSD is better for SATA 3Gb/sec 320 or 330 series?
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    Intel should have used non-SandForce controllers. The Vertex 4 (with the new firmware) shows what Sandforce alternatives are capable of, I hope that Intel's next flagship series does something similarly spectacular without Sandforce. I think that Intel could have used the 330s as a stepping stone to get a controller (such as a Marvell controller) up to Vertex 4-like performance (or better) in more universal workloads than Sandforce for their next flagship series.

    On that note, why weren't the Vertex 4s included in this review with the other drives?
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    EoveinOne question, which didn't explained: what Intel SSD is better for SATA 3Gb/sec 320 or 330 series?
    I don't think that it makes much difference at SATA 3Gb/s, but the 330s are faster drives, so they might be marginally better.
    Reply
  • chimera201
    When will the price of SSD come down to HDD level? That would be news.
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    chimera201When will the price of SSD come down to HDD level? That would be news.
    Probably at least not until a cheaper memory than Flash is used in SSDs, so maybe ten to twenty years, if we're lucky.
    Reply
  • EDVINASM
    Am not a mad scientist or anything so I have missed something but to me Intel SSD is as good as any others on the market. I wouldn't see any difference in real world scenario between 330 and 520 or Samsung 830 or even M4. Who cares? I don't anyway. Just get the drive that you trust and that has reasonable warranty (3 years +) and good support. Done.
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    edvinasmAm not a mad scientist or anything so I have missed something but to me Intel SSD is as good as any others on the market. I wouldn't see any difference in real world scenario between 330 and 520 or Samsung 830 or even M4. Who cares? I don't anyway. Just get the drive that you trust and that has reasonable warranty (3 years +) and good support. Done.
    Whether or not a part that is faster for your workloads than others and is faster enough to make a difference depends on what you are doing. If I was doing a lot of storage heavy stuff, like constantly downloading and decompressing large archives, then an SSD that can deal with in-compressible data very well would provide very noticeable gains over any SandForce drive or any lower end non-Sandforce drives.
    Reply
  • EDVINASM
    blazorthonWhether or not a part that is faster for your workloads than others and is faster enough to make a difference depends on what you are doing. If I was doing a lot of storage heavy stuff, like constantly downloading and decompressing large archives, then an SSD that can deal with in-compressible data very well would provide very noticeable gains over any SandForce drive or any lower end non-Sandforce drives.
    Fair point. Mind you, if you do that much and it's that important hardly any of standard (consumer grade) SSDs would interest you. Unless you are talking of downloading software and games from questionable sites, then yes - cheap and fast is cheerful.
    Reply