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Intel SSD 520 Review: Taking Back The High-End With SandForce

128 KB Sequential Performance: Raw, Windows, And Mac

Sequential Read Performance

Examples include file copying, transcoding, game level loading, some gameplay, watching video, and editing video

In sequential reads, Intel's latest SSD finds its way to the top of our chart like a champ. The 240 GB and 60 GB SSD 520s are able to match the read speeds of the 256 GB m4 and both Vertex 3s. It's only at a queue depth of one where Samsung's 256 GB 830 enjoys a 100 MB/s lead. 

The most obvious story is the gaping performance hole between SATA 3Gb/s- and 6Gb/s-capable drives. It's hard to see, but both SSD 320s offer identical sequential read rates just under 300 MB/s at queue depths higher than two. The rest of the pack consists of SATA 6Gb/s-class SSDs, helping explain why those drives show up at 350 MB/s and scale up as high as 550 MB/s.

Faced with the overhead of NTFS, the group becomes a little easier to separate. At queue depths between two and four, Samsung's 830 takes the lead. Meanwhile, the 60 GB SSD 520 falls slightly behind, though Intel's lowest-capacity SandForce-based SSD still managers to outperform the 60 GB Vertex 3.

In a Mac environment, all of the SSDs are affected by host caching, which is why you see most drives start around 500 MB/s. Interestingly, only the 256 GB m4 and 830 maintain those speeds, eventually punching through the 600 MB/s barrier, which we know exceeds the SATA 6Gb/s interface's ceiling.

As far as the SandForce-based SSDs are concerned, we still see the opposite outcome of our PC-based tests. This time, both Vertex 3s outperform Intel's SSD 520s. Granted, the delta is relatively small. We're still talking about very fast SSDs, and all four SandForce-based SSDs are capable of delivering speeds close to 500 MB/s.

Sequential Write Performance

Examples include Application Installation, Document Backup

When it comes to writing compressible data, the SSD 520s match the Vertex 3's performance at nearly every queue depth. That's great considering all four SandForce-based SSDs outperform Crucial's m4 and Samsung's 830.

Interestingly, Crucial's 256 GB m4 and Intel's older SSD 510 seems to suffer some sort of performance penalty on our MBP.