Intel has a very enjoyable SSD in their hands with the 520 series. We honestly where surprised though that after everything that has happened with the SandForce 2200 series controllers and their firmware issues that Intel actually pursued this product as a basis for their most high performing product.
Let me explain, the past year Sandforce 2281 based product have been plagued with firmware issues, the SSD would spontaneously drop themselves from the storage array, or sleep mode related bugs made the SSDs system crash. It was weird to see and witness. Though we always have had a hard time replicating the issues ourselves, a lot of our readers did run into them. As such it is only fair to mention this.
The latest firmwares have solved 99% of the problems, but for many the trust in SandForce based products vaporized. Please know that Intel develops their own Firmware, but obviously uses the source code from LSI. I'd honestly have no problem using a 2281 based product myself, I'll even step it up a notch, most of our tests systems are equipped with one -- but the reputation damage is done and all costumers flee to Indilinx and Marvel controller based product, just to be save -- and we can't blame them.
Being SandForce 2281 based the peak read and write performance on this product will be a notch higher when you compare it to Marvel and Indilinx based product. When you focus purely at IOPS performance, well that's where an SSD like this is a winner, hands down.
The big question remains, and its totally up to you, if you still, trust SandForce 2200 series based products. Again, know that the initial bugs have been found, squashed and eliminated. The SandForce controllers are stable and it shouldn't be a reason to "not" get one. But storage is all about reliability, and if that reputation is dented... well it might be until the next generation until people will regain that trust. Data integrity means the world to us, you can't forfeit on that -- period.
An SSD is enjoyable, very much so. If you put a drive like this into your SATA 3 compatible laptop or SATA 3 compatible PC, you'll have no idea what is about to hit you. We very much enjoy the grand sustained performance of this SSD series, so you you copy a fast amount of compressed data, then the Series 520 will slay and slaughter in performance.
SATA Controllers Some overall recommendations then. Should you be in the market for a SATA 3 SSD then we have a couple of hints though, we absolutely prefer the performance of the Intel Series 6 (H67/P67/Z68/X79) integrated SATA 6G controller over anything else available in the market. If you run an AMD chipset with the added Marvell 6G controller for example, you will see lower performance.
The new Asmedia controllers we spotted lately on motherboards are also offering good performance, albeit still 20%~25% slower then Intel's controllers. Also make sure you run your drive in AHCI mode, it does make such a difference in performance -- really guys, a big difference.
Prices HDD versus SSD My advice is simple and I'll keep repeating this in each and every SSD conclusion; you probably should stop looking at the Solid State Disk technology as if it were a traditional HDD. We all will be old and grey before the two reach the same prices or top the multiple TB volume storage the HDD offers for less money. Comparing an SSD with an HDD is making a comparison in-between an integrated IGP or a dedicated graphics card, that last one will cost you a heck of a lot more yet you gain incredible overall performance. It is the very same with an SSD, use it as boot drive on Windows and applications and you instantly have removed a huge bottleneck, namely load and access times. It is a difference in-between night and day (in a proper system). For massive storage like movies, MP3 files and bulky data you do not access on a regular basis, sure that's where the HDD remains the winner as a cheaper storage solution.
The magic simply is finding a good combination in-between the two and balance things out. That's where the magic happens. I kid you not, all my test systems and work systems run on SSDs, not once have I considered going back to HDDs. The benefits of a good SSD are simply grand. But that doesn't mean I do not understand the budget and cost dilemma that many of you are facing though. There are still many variables and unknowns regarding life-span.
The future 2012 is going to be an interesting year alright, there are new competitive players in the SSD arena when it comes to brands but also the soiree of SATA 3 SSD controllers. So we expect the dynamic to shift in 2012 alright, especially with the one fact in mind that SandForce has been purchased by LSI recently.
All these options in the SSD arena will only make things more competitive and that as always drives performance up and prices down. Which is a good thing of course.
Concluding Choice is good though. The Intel Series 520 SSD 240GB model as tested today is an incredible sexy and high performing product, it's late to a crowded SandForce 2281 market though. Intel certainly holds ground amongst the competition, though I dare to state that parties like OCZ and Corsair have a more refined firmware allowing a notch more performance. Hey, they had a year advantage in the development process. The performance differences however are too small to ever notice in real-world usage.
At a price of sub 200 EUR for a 120GB model we'll have to see how popular the 520 series really will become. SandForce is jinxed and though I have complete and utter confidence in the 2281 based products based on the latest firmware, reputation damage is a hard thing to fight off. To keep the good spirit, Intel will cover this product with a five year warranty, opposed to the two or three years you see from other manufacturers. Regardless of how you might feel, we certainly can recommend the 520 series, it is a powerhouse in terms of storage performance and as such comes recommended.
Intel series 520 240GB SSD review We review the Intel series 520 240GB SSD. They now have multiple SSDs on the market initially with their proprietary controller, then a Marvel controller, and today Intel releases the Series 520 SSDs based on SandForce, well LSI these days.
Intel series 320 SSD review We review the Intel series 320 SSD. Armed with cheaper NAND flash memory this drive competes at the middle segment tagged with a decent price. But will it be enough to compete with the competition ?