Intel SSD 510-Series 250 GB Review: Adopting 6 Gb/s SATA

Benchmark Results: I/O Performance

It is probably unfortunate for Intel that I start these stories off with our Iometer-based test patterns. As opposed to a PCI Express-based drive like OCZ’s RevoDrive X2 (OCZ’s RevoDrive X2: When A Fast PCIe SSD Isn’t Fast Enough), or even a standard SATA SSD like the Vertex 3, the SSD 510’s I/O throughput starts off mediocre, and doesn’t really improve as queue depth increases.

The RealSSD C300, based on Marvell’s first-gen 6 Gb/s controller, underperforms the SSD 510 at low queue depths, but speeds up at queue depths as high as eight. There, its eight-channel configuration levels out and no longer benefits from increased concurrency.

Our file server pattern is dominated by the Vertex 3 Pro and Vertex 3. Meanwhile, Intel’s new SSD 510 trails OCZ’s old Agility 2 and Vertex 2 (based on the latest 25 nm NAND ICs).

Intel’s X25-M, even after repeated tests, outright fails this test at queue depths above four.

OCZ’s poor Vertex 2 gets absolutely hammered in our Web server workload, which reads a ton of small blocks to mimic the behavior of a Web server sending similarly small files to client machines. This is consistent with what we must come to expect from the Vertex 2 until OCZ rectifies the ECC-related overhead first discussed in The OCZ Vertex 2 Conspiracy: Lost Space, Lost Speed?

And consistent with Intel’s specifications, the SSD 510’s random read performance does indeed trail the X25-M, witnessed here as lower I/O throughput.

These tests are again dominated by OCZ’s Vertex 3s. The Agility 2 takes a perhaps-unexpected third-place finish ahead of our retail-purchased Vertex 2 based on 25 nm flash. Crucial’s RealSSD C300 inserts itself between those two OCZ drives, topping out when queue depth matches the drive’s maximum number of channels. Intel’s SSD 510 ends up second-to-last thanks to larger random transfers and occasional sequential workloads that favor its superior read performance.

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  • JohnnyLucky
    I made the rounds and read other 510 reviews. I also read the comments in a lot of forums. There is quite a bit of disappointment with the performance and price of the Intel 510. Perhaps Intel will redeem itself with the next ssd series.
  • eklipz330
    i love when small companies like sandforce can make massive companies shake in their boots... really puts another meaning on competition
  • nitrium
    Something ALL reviewers seem to ignore is what sort of queue depths average users experience. This has been addressed in a thread on The facts appear that most disk activity has a queue depth of 1. Yes, ONE. It very rarely spikes above 4. Booting Windows 7 x64 requires 190 IOPS(!) - 20,000+ IOPS on these drives are literally NEVER going to be utilized by most users in anything they do in day to day work. Almost no one buying these SSD drives is using anything remotely near their capability. It looks to me like this is all just technical benchmark BS that are of no use to the end user whatsoever... aside from bragging rights of course.
  • cangelini
    nitriumSomething ALL reviewers seem to ignore is what sort of queue depths average users experience. This has been addressed in a thread on The facts appear that most disk activity has a queue depth of 1. Yes, ONE. It very rarely spikes above 4. Booting Windows 7 x64 requires 190 IOPS(!) - 20,000+ IOPS on these drives are literally NEVER going to be utilized by most users in anything they do in day to day work. Almost no one buying these SSD drives is using anything remotely near their capability. It looks to me like this is all just technical benchmark BS that are of no use to the end user whatsoever... aside from bragging rights of course.

    IMO, don't buy a premium SSD for booting Windows. In fact, I go for weeks at a time without rebooting at all.

    Link to the XS thread you're referencing? We going to be putting more effort into quantifying real-world storage workloads in the next two months, given some new software. This could definitely help mold the work we do. The goal, of course, is real-world relevance.

  • nitrium
    Sorry for not providing a proper link. Here it is:

    My beef with this whole synthetic benchmarking is that I think the vast majority of users are unaware that getting this SSD or that SSD will make absolutely no material difference. Why don't reviewers benchmark actual things people are interested in? e.g. booting Windows 7, loading Dragon Age Origins/COD Black Ops, archiving a folder, launching Thunderbird/Firefox/Photoshop, running a virus scan? Is it because there will be no material difference between any performance SSD manufactured in the last 3 years? The thread above also notes that aside from SYNTHETIC benchmarks, raiding SSDs makes absolutely no difference in anything you do in a typical day to day environment.
    Yes, absolutely enterprise class users might get something tangible out of these new drives, but I suspect they are not the core audience of Tom's Hardware.
  • cangelini
    No worries nitrium, and thank you for the link.

    I'd agree that the synthetic measurements are primarily used to draw "worst-case" comparisons. There is a very deliberate reason I wanted to break down most of the results by queue depth this time around--specifically to demonstrate how wildly performance can differ based on QD. And as you mention, at a QD of 1, an SSD is doing a lot less for the average desktop user than it would if you were hammering it with the concurrent requests of a database server.

    If you look at the task breakdown of PCMark Vantage, it comes relatively close to real-world usage. My problem with that metric is its consistency. Futuremark is aware that Vantage wasn't written to test SSDs optimally, and I'm expecting the company to come out with something very soon that improves its utility in that regard.

    I personally don't see anything *wrong* with running real-world tests, like Windows start-up, level-loading, or launching a sequence of apps. The only challenge there is time. Adding more benchmarks is never a problem--it's what the readers want to see.

    I'll go through the XS thread with a couple of staffers and see what we come away with.

    Cheers nitrium,
  • Nexus52085
    Well, I'm sincerely happy to find out that the Crucial C300 I bought yesterday still holds up nicely against the new SSDs from the other heavy hitters. Thanks for the review, Tom's!
  • nitrium
    I think of some of this heavy focus on benchmarks on SSDs (and really, all hardware sites do it, so I'm not singling this site out specifically) is a bit like measuring say the theoretical texture fill rate of the latest and greatest GPU, but forget to mention that most people will never actually use half of it cos they're running 1920x1080 XBox360 port-acrosses. Instead GPUs are measured at variety of screen modes, in a variety of games... i.e. real world benchmarks. There is a reason for this. Frankly I could care less what an SSD scores in CrystalMark or IOMeter at a queue depth of 32 or whatever. From the Xtremesystems thread above it dawned on me that perhaps reviewers HAVE to rate SSDs using synthetic benchmarks, because otherwise most of these drives would be nearly indistinguishable.
    Oh, and in all my ranting I forgot to thank you (and your colleagues) for the excellent work you do. It is very much appreciated!
  • ubercake
    Seems like a half-a#$ed effort on Intels part to get to the next gen. Why take away the two-lane advantage? Intel could have improved upon their own product. Other companies have drastically improved their offerings, while some benchmarks show Intel's new drives performing similarly to the X25-M. Disappointing is a good word for it. Seems like the competition in the SSD area has been reduced by removing the Intel controllers from the mix.

    If you're going to jump to the next level, it makes it really hard to consider Intel at this point.
  • tipoo
    SATA 3 is going to become a bottlneck before it becomes the standard on most shipping PC's.
  • noblerabbit
    I'm still happy I purchased an Intel 80GB SSD X-25M last year, for the fact that I can load windows and play 3 or 4 of my favorite games in silence, instead of that dreadful WDC Raptor noise I was accostomed to , makes this upgrade well worth it. I am glad to read I won't be needing Intel 510 at all this or next year. I am waiting for the next price drop or product promo to slap an SSD into my PS3.
  • webbwbb
    I am heavily considering purchasing an SSD in the coming months for HD video editing in Adobe Premiere and After Effects... I would love to see some benchmarks of those applications in your SSD reviews.
  • ta152h
    These problems with 25 nm make me wonder if EEPROM based drives are doomed. If it's an unavoidable aspect of going to smaller and smaller lithographies, magnetic disks will erase them like an ugly pimple. 3000 writes is already too small, although not tragically so, but if the next generation has only 60% as many, it's essentially unworkable. Even if it has 80%, which is a lot more than 25 nm had compared to 34 nm, it's a huge problem. And the generation after that?

    Hopefully this isn't a physical limitation that can't be overcome, but if it is the good old Winchester drive will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future. EEPROMs will probably have a place, because their price will drop even if you can't realistically increase capacities. Maybe they'll be used as cache drives for real hard disks, and then you just throw them out and replace them when they go. If they're cheap enough, it would be pretty useful.
  • hardcore_gamer
    Flash simply sucks..PCM is the future
  • neo_moco
    don`t need to sugar coat it
    conclusion : it sukks
    intel has 3 options : go back to the drawing board and make a better ssd not this crap (compared to vertex 3 and it`s the same as older vertex 2 )
    drop prices very low and we all know that won`t happen
    go and make what you know best - microprocessors and leave the big boys handle the ssd market
    sandforce sf-2000 give us some love
    hopefully intel can make a better product and become competitive again cus we don`t need this kind of ssd that are launched just for the sake of having a new thing on the market wich on top of it it`s overpriced.
  • vvhocare5
    After reading the OCZ Vertex article I was convinced I wanted that SSD to replace my 160G X25. I began reading this article thinking Intel was going to climb back on top. Crash - what?? Intel this bad - look wait. ITs one of the artificial benchmarks, yeah, next one Intel on top - ok this is my next drive - raw read and write throughput, but then down I go with it placing last in everything else... huh??

    To the person who says you cannot see the difference - wrong. A crappy SSD in my laptop is worlds faster opening docs, searching, moving 100's of megabytes of mail into archives than any other system around me.

    I also agree with the poster who said these benchmarks lose sight of real world performance. At least with a GPU we get to see FPS in a game at some point. At some point these drives stop adding performance value to a system.

    After reading this test its clear my 160G X25 is headed to my laptop and Im buying that Vertex 3
  • matthelm
    So, is there any controller I can add to my X58 system that will get me full transfer rates with this or the OCZ's SSD???
  • salsoolo
    i'll start looking at SSDs when they become close to $1/GB :)
  • sinsear
    salsooloi'll start looking at SSDs when they become close to $1/GB

    I'll wake you up in 5+ years.
  • louno
    I am a bit disapointed in this review...

    It would really be nice if people doing reviews of intel 510 would at least compare it to OTHER brands using the SAME controller, because as was specifically pointed out in this article, companies using the marvell controllers can really make a difference with their firmwares.

    Right now there are 2 drives with the Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2 controller :
    Intel 510 AND Corsair Performance 3 series. Benchmarks for the Corsair P3 are near impossible to find even though that drive came out WAY before the intel 510.

    Wouldnt it make sense to compare the 2 !?!?! I mean, you still use the Crucial RealSSD300 which is an "old" drive that use the previous version of the marvell controller 88SS9174 BJP2... I just dont understand why the corsair p3 doesnt appear nowhere in reviews/benchmark online, instead the older crucial c300 is ALWAYS there in all reviews... is there some sort of heavy bias against corsair ssd's ?

    Additionally, it would be REALLY nice when doing benchmarks to not ONLY use the 250 GB version, most people are interested in the 120GB range drives because that is the sweet spot in terms of price. To most people, 584$ is just too expensive for a 250GB drive ! This leaves us making a decision on which drive to buy based on the benchmark of the bigger drive which we know are faster than the smaller versions.

    Aside from that, thanks for the review, you still do a great job and we appreciate it, but im just really disapointed about the lack of Corsair P3 drives in all the reviews out there.