Saturday , 19 April 2014
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Intel 330 Series 120GB SATA 3 SSD Review – LSI SandForce Performance With Unbeatable Value

It wasn’t so long ago that we broke news of the Intel/SandForce partnership and everyone told us we were nuts.  Once again, we are here to publish another SSD first and Intel seems to be front and center once again.

Our SSD analysis today will examine the Intel Series 330 SATA 3 SSD, the value priced little brother of the Intel 520, and the similarity between the two is rather odd. In fact, one could almost consider them twins as they contain exactly the same SandForce processor and model of memory.

Who would have expected Intel to ever join hands with LSI SandForce much less market two different solid state drives with a slightly different look yet the same components?

INTRODUCTION

If you plan on checking out reviews for Intel’s new 330 Series release, you might be looking for awhile.  It seems Intel, a company that many thought might exit the SSD business just over a year ago, has marketed so many SSDs since then that they are now being selective with respect to what product is sent to reviewers for review.  No 330 samples were sent to websites for review and, if you think it is because this SSD might be substandard in any way, you couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Intel 330 Series SSD is available in capacities of 60, 120 and 180GB and a price check on Amazon shows their pricing to be 97.99, 144.99 and 219.99 respectively. Right off the hop, this makes the 330 one of the lowest prices for new release SSDs we have seen of this configuration.  Performance is listed at 500MB/s read and 450MB/s write with 22500 IOPS at 4k random aligned read and 33000 IOPS at 4k random aligned write disk access..  We can tell you that we will see much higher IOPS results as Intel is very stringent in their testing methodology.  I might predict somewhere in the area of 80, 000 IOPS at 4k aligned random write disk access.

COMPONENTS AND ACCESSORIES

The exterior casing of the 330 is of a metal 2.5″ notebook form factor and, unlike all other Intel SSD releases, it is 9mm thick and cannot be used in systems that require that slim 7mm design.  Accessories contained in the packaging include a 2.5″ to 3.5″ desktop adapter, data and power cables screws, instructions and a disk containing both system migration software and the Intel Toolbox.  This is easily the most complete packaging we have seen to date, short of our original Kingston HyperX review.

Removal of four Phillips screws allows access to the printed circuit board (PCB) where we found something that we didn’t expect.  Like the Intel 520 Series SSD that we had previously reviewed, we knew the LSI SandForce SF-2281 processor would be identical but all believed that the NAND flash memory would be newer 3K memory as Intel had reduced their warranty from 5 to 3 years on the 330.

In actuality, the new 330 Series has the exact same type of NAND flash memory, this being 25nm synchronous MLC memory with the model designation of 29F16B08CCME2.  The only physical difference between the PCBs is that being that the 520 has 16 pieces of memory (240GB) while this 330 has 8 pieces of memory (120GB).

The following pictures display the 520 Series SSD that we reviewed previously for comparison. Can you see the difference between the back side of each PCB?

Even the board is designated ‘Cherryville’ rather than ‘Maple Crest’, which is the 330 Series name, but the sole difference is a little sticker on the PCB that says ‘Bin 2′.  Don’t ask because we haven’t a clue.

About Karen Tokar

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