This review is an indepth look at the Intel 710 Series 200GB 3Gbps solid state drive. At first glance, we see that the 710 is SATA II, capable of typical speeds of 270MB/s read and 210MB/s write with advertised specs of 38500 IOPS read and 2700 IOPS write; this at a MSRP of $1250.
All is not as it seems, however, and the 710 is not intended for the consumer market. It is designed for data center use and this report will clearly display why the 710 is such a special entry into the SSD arena.
With a price tag of $1250 for a SSD not capable of even half of the performance now seen in today’s SATA III solid state drives, the 710 has definitely raised the interest of the SSD crowd. It was only a few months ago that we reviewed the Intel 320 Series SSD, another SATA II SSD, which started rumors that Intel was struggling in the SSD world and absolutely crazy to release a SATA II SSD in the new age of SATA III. With all the SATA III SSD hype, most had forgotten that 99% of consumers today utilize SATA II systems and would key in on the SATA II interface along with Intel’s reputation in their SSD upgrade consideration.
Now, here we are again with Intel releasing yet another SATA II SSD and at an unbelievable price of $1250 for the 200GB version that we have in our hands. In fact, they sent us two at an import value of $2400 which set off all of the bells and whistles of Canada Customs. Are they crazy? Who would even consider such a purchase?
Our opinion is that, with such well rounded and perfectly timed releases so far this year in the mPCIe 310 SSD, SATA III 510, SATA II 320, enterprise 710 and enthusiast ‘SandForce Driven’ 520 Series that we have speculated about here and here in past articles, Intel may just have had a stroke of genius in their war room discussions.
*NOTE* To ‘speculate’ is to form a theory or conjecture about a subject without firm evidence.
The Intel 710 Series SSD is available in capacities of 100, 200 and 300GB and we found it available at prices of $649, $1299 and $1999 respectively. It is a 3Gbps SSD and capable of 270MB/s read and 210MB/s write with 38,500 IOPS read and 2700 IOPs write at 4k random disk access.
The 710 has 128-bit hardware encryption, power safe write cache (stay tuned), a three year limited warranty and has an mtbf of 2,000,000 hours.
The key specification that will sell this SSD is its endurance rating of up to 3Pb (petabyte) which may be less depending on capacity and configuration of the drives over provisioning. Simply put, this SSD will last a very long time and Gizmodo has published a great explanation that demonstrates the enormity of a Pb.
In trying to make this as easily understood as possible we approached Intel for some idea of the amount of write cycles the 710 was capable of and quickly learned that they do not share cycling details. They did explain it like this, however:
The ability to write and erase the SSD depends on the workload. For a worst case 4kB random workloads, the endurance for the 200GB is 1PB, which is the same as writing the drive capacity completely 5,000 times, or 4.5 times each day for 3 years. Writing the drive sequentially significantly increases this capability.
If you overprovision the drive capacity by 20% to a user capacity of 160GB, the endurance extends out to 1.5PB. This is the same as writing this total 160GB user capacity 9375 times, or writing the entire drive 8.5 times a day for three years. Again, sequential writing increases this significantly as well.
The Intel 710 has a two piece metal and aluminum shell which protects the printed circuit board and is held together by four screws. It is a fairly unremarkable SSD of standard dimensions except that it is only 7mm thick.
Once opened, the PCB contains Intels PC29AS21BA0 SATA II controller along with 20 modules of Intel’s new MLC-HET (High Endurance Technology) 25nm NAND flash memory (29F16B08CCME1). Each module is actually 2x25nm 8GB die for a total of 320GB (16×20) for our 200GB 710 sample SSD. Thats a total of 120GB of spare NAND and the ability to over provision it a further 20% yet. If the controller seems at all familiar, that’s because it is the same controller contained within the Intel 320 and X25m before that, only with a new and very updated firmware.
The PCB also contains a Hynix 64MB DRAM cache along with six transistors that provide for Intel’s ‘power safe write cache’. If their is a power failure, the capacitors ensure that there is no data loss by completing all writes to the NAND flash memory. Simply click on the picture for a close-up.