Intel series 520 240GB SSD review -
What is SATA 3 (6G) ? - 25nm NAND - MLC
What is SATA 3 (6G)?
SATA 6G (SATA 3), the latest revision of your SATA storage unit connectors, will increase the bandwidth on the SATA controller from 3 GBit/sec towards 6 GBit/sec. For a regular HDD that is not really very important. But with the tremendous rise of fast SSD drives this really is a large plus. Typically we get 3000 Mbit/s : 8 = 375 MB/sec bandwidth minus overhead, tolerances error-correction and random occurrences.
SATA 3 is doubling it up, as such we get 6000 Mbit/sec : 8 = 750 MB/sec (again deduct overhead, tolerances error-correction and random occurrences) of available bandwidth for your storage devices. As you can understand, with SSDs getting faster and faster that's just a much warmed and welcomed increase of bandwidth.
Put Sata III in RAID and you'll have even more wicked performance at hand. Most motherboards offer only two ports per controller though, so you are (for now) limited to RAID 0 and RAID 1 (stripe or mirror).
Also there are two controllers currently being used for mainstream, currently the Sandy Bridge P67 platform offers the highest performing solution. Though still fast, any platform using the Marvell 9128 or 9130 will see lower performance scores as the Marvell controllers use a PCI-Express Gen2 x1 lane interface to the system which restricts performance a little. The internal processor in that chipset also limits IOPS by the way.
MLC VS. SLC
At the beginning, memory cells stored just a single bit of information. However, the charge on the floating gate can be controlled with some level of precision, allowing to store more information than just 0 and 1. Basing on such assumption the MLC (Multi Level Cell) memory came to exist. To distinguish them, the old memory type was called SLC - Single Level Cell.
The decision of choosing between SLC of MLC is driven by many factors such as memory performance, number of target erase/program cycles and level of data reliability. The MLC memory endurance is significantly lower (around 10'000 erase/program cycles) comparing to SLC endurance (around 100'000 cycles).
So what about that new 25nm NAND lifespan?
In 2011 new 25nm NAND FLASH memory was introduced, designed to be cheaper. The overall lifespan of the ICs has been reduced from 10.000 towards 5,000 program/erase cycles. Rumors are, that the numbers for consumer grade 25nm NAND flash memory (as used on the SSD tested today) are even lower at 3000 program/erase cycles.
But granted, as drastic as that sounds, it's all relative as this lifespan will very likely last longer than any mechanical HDD. Drive wearing protection and careful usage will help you out greatly. With an SSD filled normally and very heavy writing/usage of say 10GB data each day 365 days a year, you'd be looking at roughly 22 full SSD write cycles per year, out of the 3000 (worst case scenario) available. However, all calculations on this matter are debatable and theoretical as usage differs and even things like how much free space you leave on your SSD can effect the drive.
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 ?