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

Intel SSD 330: SandForce At A Lower Price

Like the late, great comedian Rodney Dangerfield, it sometimes seems that leading SSD controller maker SandForce just "can't get no respect”. A key player in the dramatic growth of the SSD marketplace, SandForce is the controller vendor of choice for a majority of today's solid-state drive manufacturers, and it deserves credit for helping those companies boost sales while aggressively cutting costs. Despite SandForce's success, potshots from competitors aimed at the company's data compression technology have sometimes forced SandForce to duck for cover.

Drives based on SandForce's second-gen controller rely on proprietary data compression technology to achieve exemplary SATA 6Gb/s-class performance. However, the company is often criticized for using its data compression as a "gimmick" that inflates or misrepresents storage benchmarks. Some believe those accusations have merit, while others dismiss them as an example of market success triggering unjustified competitive scorn.

Much of that disparagement faded when Intel launched its SandForce-based SSD 520 series (check out Intel SSD 520 Review: Taking Back The High-End With SandForce). After all, Intel is not known for embracing "gimmicky" technology to achieve performance. Adopting SandForce-based controllers in its SSDs created a slight marketing challenge for Intel: the company's new SSD 520 delivers performance similar to OCZ's older Vertex 3 based on the same controller technology. Further, Intel's SSD 520 series typically commands a premium over the other SandForce-based drives out there. Perhaps that's why the SSD 520s include generous five-year warranties.

Most of the vendors building SSDs with SandForce controllers employ a couple of different tiers, simultaneously targeting mainstream and high-end customers. Intel is doing things a little differently, though.

The company continues to ship SSD 320 drives based on its own 3 Gb/s flash controller. Meanwhile, it also recently introduced the entry-level SSD 330. Together with the SSD 520 family, Intel is taking on a multi-tiered approach intended to address a maturing SSD segment where one model cannot satisfy everyone.

As Intel's second SandForce-based drive line-up, the SSD 330s are positioned underneath the SSD 520s as inexpensive performance-oriented alternatives offering SATA 6Gb/s-class performance more affordably. The SSD 330 series is only available at three capacity points: 60, 120, and 180 GB.

The following table allows you to contrast the specifications of Intel's SSD 520 and 330 families, both of which employ second-gen SandForce controllers.

Intel SSD 330 / Intel SSD 520Compressible Performance60 GB120 GB180 GB
4 KB Random Read (IOPS)12 000 / 15 00022 500 / 25 00042 000 / 50 000
4 KB Random Write (IOPS)20 500 / 23 00033 000 / 40 00052 000 / 60 000
128 KB Sequential Read (MB/s)500 / 550500 / 550500 / 550
128 KB Sequential Write (MB/s)400 / 475450 / 500450 / 520

The SSD 330s certainly doesn't appear to be hobbled at all, despite Intel's apparent value focus. Because they occupy a space one tier below the SSD 520s, these 330s go heads-up against mainstream SSDs like OCZ's Agility 3 and other drives that combine asynchronous flash with SandForce's tech. 

In theory, drives like the Agility 3 should be just a bit faster in sequential read and write performance, if the manufacturers' own benchmarks are to be believed. If that were the case, of course, we wouldn't have to worry about doing such a thorough job. In our massive 60 GB SandForce-based SSD round-up, we saw almost-identical sequential performance from Intel's SSD 520 and OCZ's Agility 3. Random read performance was Intel's only significant advantage. We're eager to see how these less-expensive models fit into that picture.

  • 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