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

Inside The Box, Test Setup, And Benchmarks

We got our hands on a retail drive, complete with Intel's desktop installation kit. Because this is a 7 mm-tall SSD, the company includes a black plastic spacer to hit a 9.5 mm Z-height. You also get an obligatory sticker, a 3.5" adapter sled, a power adapter, and a black SATA cable. Sifting around the pile a little more, you'll also notice a 3" optical disc with instructions, a quick-start guide, and random mounting hardware.

The boxed drive includes a five-year warranty. OEM models often sell for less, but pay close attention to the guarantee coverage. Everything we found on Newegg includes five years of protection, but it's not unheard of for OEM offerings to pare back on warranty.

Test Hardware
ProcessorIntel Core i5-2400 (Sandy Bridge), 32 nm, 3.1 GHz, LGA 1155, 6 MB Shared L3, Turbo Boost Enabled
MotherboardGigabyte G1.Sniper M3
MemoryG.Skill Ripjaws 8 GB (2 x 4 GB) DDR3-1866 @ DDR3-1333, 1.5 V
System DriveKingston HyperX 3K 240 GB, Firmware 5.02
Drive(s) Under TestIntel SSD 530 180 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: DC12
Comparison DrivesIntel SSD 520 180 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 400i
Intel SSD 525 180 GB mSATA, Firmware: LLKi
SanDisk A110 256 GB M.2 PCIe x2, Firmware: A200100
Silicon Motion SM226EN 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: M0709A
Crucial M500 120 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: MU02
Crucial M500 240 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: MU02
Crucial M500 480 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: MU02
Crucial M500 960 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: MU02
Samsung 840 EVO 120 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: EXT0AB0Q
Samsung 840 EVO 240 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: EXT0AB0Q
Samsung 840 EVO 480 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: EXT0AB0Q
Samsung 840 EVO 1 TB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: EXT0AB0Q
SanDisk Ultra Plus 64 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: X211200
SanDisk Ultra Plus 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware X211200
SanDisk Ultra Plus 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware X211200
Samsung 840 Pro 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware DXM04B0Q
Samsung 840 Pro 128 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware DXM04B0Q
SanDisk Extreme II 120 GB, Firmware: R1311
SanDisk Extreme II 240 GB, Firmware: R1311
SanDisk Extreme II 480 GB, Firmware: R1311
Seagate 600 SSD 240 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: B660
Intel SSD 525 30 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi
Intel SSD 525 60 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi
Intel SSD 525 120 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi
Intel SSD 525 180 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi
Intel SSD 525 240 GB mSATA 6Gb/s, Firmware LLKi
Intel SSD 335 240 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 335s
Intel SSD 510 250 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: PWG2
OCZ Vertex 3.20 240 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 2.25
OCZ Vector 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: 2.0
Samsung 830 512 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: CXMO3B1Q
Crucial m4 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s Firmware: 000F
Plextor M5 Pro 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s Firmware: 1.02
Corsair Neutron GTX 240 GB SATA 6Gb/s, Firmware: M206
GraphicsMSI Cyclone GTX 460 1 GB
Power SupplySeasonic X-650, 650 W 80 PLUS Gold
ChassisLian Li Pitstop
RAIDLSI 9266-8i PCIe x8, FastPath and CacheCade AFK
System Software and Drivers
OperatingSystemWindows 7 x64 Ultimate
DirectXDirectX 11
DriversGraphics: Nvidia 314.07RST: 10.6.1002IMEI: 7.1.21.1124Generic AHCI: MSAHCI.SYS
Benchmarks
Tom's Hardware Storage Bench v1.0Trace-Based
Iometer 1.1.0# Workers = 1, 4 KB Random: LBA=16 GB, varying QDs, 128 KB Sequential, 8 GB LBA Precondition, Exponential QD Scaling
PCMark 7Secondary Storage Suite
PCM VantageStorage Suite
  • rolli59
    Good drive with nice idle power consumption numbers.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • cryan
    11835302 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

    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • diazalon
    Where i am the 840 pro is cheaper so i think i will just get that, seems to perform pretty well too
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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."
    Reply
  • 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
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply