There is some new evidence that Intel’s commitment to SandForce could be greater than previously thought. Recent product listings for a new Intel 300-series SSD have cropped up at e-tailers all over the globe, and like the “Cherryville” 520 series, it also looks to be LSI SandForce-powered.
The new Intel 330 Series SSD should be available in three capacities at launch: 60GB, 180GB, and 240GB.
Not much is known about the new mainstream series SSDs, but listed specifications would seem to indicate a 6gbps SandForce controller lurks inside the new 330 series drives. Intel has yet to release an Intel SSD with it’s own SATA III controller, though it has previously used the Marvell ‘9174 and SandForce 2281 inside the 510 and 520 series, respectively.
Each of the 3 new 330 drives will have specs similar to the 520 series released a few months ago. The 330 tops out at 500MB/s reads and 450MB/s writes, which would seem to suggest that SandForce’s real-time data compression is being utilized to bolster speeds. When it comes to random operations, the 330 should be capable of fewer transactions-per-second than the 520 series, but not by much.
Most of the manufacturers utilizing SandForce SATA III controllers make drives using both synchronous and asynchronous NAND flash. Synchronous NAND is much faster, while asynchronous NAND is slower. The trade-off is in price, with the slower asynchronous NAND flash costing less. The end result is slower flash being used in more economical drives and synchronous NAND in more performance oriented drives. It’s unclear whether the 330 series will use asynchronous flash or the faster sync NAND, but it does appear to be substantially cheaper and than both the 520 series and the current SATA II 320 series.
The reduction in speed over the similar Intel 520 series SSD could be attributed to asynchronous flash. However, it could instead be related to the addition of SandForce’s RAISE technology which can help the drive recover from a failed NAND die. Intel was the first to remove the SF RAISE feature with the 520 series, though other SF partners are following suite.
There is at least some evidence that eliminating the RAISE feature can increase speed, but it comes at the expense of fault tolerance. Intel’s 320 series uses a system similar to RAISE, so keeping the redundancy it affords would be in line with the current 320 series. In addition, the extra layer of protection could allow the 330 to use slightly lower grades of NAND and still be reliable. This could also help explain the 330’s lower cost if it uses the same components.
The current Intel 320 drives use the 10-channel Intel controller which first released in the original X25-M way back in 2008. A newer 6gbps version is being used in an enterprise-grade Hitachi SSD, but not in any of Intel’s current offerings.
It looks as though the 330 series could debut as early as mid-April, so the multitude of questions surrounding the drive could be answered then. As always, Intel isn’t saying much and some retailers have posted early!