Intel 330 Series 120GB SATA 3 SSD Review – LSI SandForce Performance With Unbeatable Value

TEST BENCH AND PROTOCOL

Our analysis today will be conducted with our Z68 Extreme 7 Test Bench, full description of which can be found here.

In testing, our main objective is to obtain results as pure and as accurate as possible and we want to ensure that no anomalies slip through. Simply put, we want to provide you with the absolute best results the tested hardware can provide. Repetition in testing is standard and, if necessary, we may conduct specific tests in Windows 7 safe mode to ensure the OS has little to no influence on the end result.

In order to validate and confirm our findings, testing is supported by industry accepted benchmark programs. All results are displayed through capture of the actual benchmark for better understanding of the testing process by the reader.

We would like to thank ASRock (Z68 Extreme 7), Intel (Core i7-2600), Crucial (Ballistix), Corsair (H80), Be Quiet (PSU/Fans), and Fractal Design (Define XL) for supporting the build of our Z68 Extreme 7 Test Bench.

SSD COMPRESSION AND TESTING FLUCTUATIONS

All SSDs are not created equal and many new SSD enthusiasts realize that when they test their new drive to confirm specifications and ensure all is in order. LSI SandForce controlled SSDs, as in the Intel 330 Series SATA 3 120GB mSATA SSD we are testing today, use compression techniques in storage whereas many others do not. This creates a bit of confusion when enthusiasts test the drive with random data through benchmarking programs such as AS SSD and Crystal Diskmark. The results seem to be lower than the listed specifications.

The results actually present a false portrayal of the drives ability when compared to other drives such as Crucial M4 SSD that we recently reviewed. It is for this reason that our comparison testing is typically done through PCMark Vantage. PCMark Vantage HDD Suite simply provides evaluation results based on transfer speeds reached through typical user patterns. Vantage provides a better testing medium, in that, it sees through the typical synthetic benchmarks and provides us with true to life results of the drive.

BENCHMARK SOFTWARE

The software we will be using for todays analysis is typical of many of our reviews and consist of ATTO Disk Benchmark, Crystal DiskMark, AS SSD, Anvil Storage Utilities and PCMark Vantage.  We rely on these as they each have a way of supporting one another yet, at the same time, adding a new performance benchmark to the total picture.  Much of the software is free and can be downloaded simply by clicking on the linked title.

CRYSTAL DISK INFO VER 3.9.3

Crystal Disk Info provides some excellent information about the SSD itself to include its health, product information, power on information as well as the characteristics of the SSD. We can see that the SSD is capable of TRIM as it is not greyed out as with AAM.

We definitely would have liked to see enhanced SMART data when examining this result.

24 comments

  1. try the latest version of crystaldiskinfo (4.6.1) for more SMART data. the intel ssd toolbox should display more info as well.

    also, no 120gb sandforce powered drive will pull over 300mb/s in sequential writes with incompressible data. that’s the realm of the 240gb drives. the fastest 120gb drives – the ones with 8 channels and 4-way interleaved 32nm toggle nand, like the mushkin chronos deluxe and patriot wildfire – can hit around 250mb/s. but those drives cost about 50% more than this one.

    the other ‘budget’ 120gb drive is the sandisk extreme. performance is more or less the same, with the sandisk being a couple of dollars cheaper.

    inching ever so slowly to that $1/gb mark.

  2. Nice review Les!

    The SSD market is becoming very interesting these days with Intel’s 520 & 330 series, OCZ Vertex 4 and new PCIe SSDs from OWC’s, Super Talent, Muskin to help push OCZ in performance and Price.

    I look forward to see what the rest of 2012 and beyond holds for the SSD market!

  3. AAM should always be greyed out for a SSD in CDI. AAM is automatic acoustic management, and is therefore unnecessary for disks which don’t have any moving parts.

  4. Does Intel use broken synchronous NAND that cant run at full speed? I would say so. Or synchronous has become that cheap that asynchronous isn’t manufactured any more? Ask them Les, everybody wants to know.

    • This is an interesting conversation that I have been having behind the scenes. The idea is that although NAND has the exact same product number, there are actually different grades within where, as Intel has even stated, they hold their best for SSDs like the 520. Would it be logical to think that the NAND, of the same product number, could be of a lesser quality lot that would mandate the 3 years vice five?

      Then, if this is a possibility, can we determine this by numbers which could be lot numbers on the module itself?

      Thats why I also brought attention to the sticker saying Bin 2.

      • So, we can suppose that the 3K P/E cycles NAND is purposely set to run in async mode. Analysing further, Kingston HyperX 3K uses synchronous NAND modules with part number Intel 29F16B08CCME3, which is very similar to Intel 330 SSD’s one. Considering that, if a one manages to flash Intel 330 SSD with Intel 520 SSD firmware, we could get Intel 520 from Intel 330! Now the question, who is going to do the experimenting part?

  5. love anvil storage utilities – best SSD that can produce consistent results (even on older controllers – like older JMicron, Indilinx, X25Ms, etc). you’re one of the few that actually use it but have done the most reviews (that I can find) with it. nicely done…

  6. Hey, I planning on buying either the 120gb Intel 330, or the 128gb Vertex 4. The SSD I choose will be used as a boot drive and for a few games- no heavy editing programs etc.
    The 330 is £105, [I’m in the UK], whereas the Vertex 4 is £120. Thats ~ $25 difference.
    Which one should I get? Taking into account my useage requirements. Thanks.

  7. Hi. I’m not familiar with SSDs so I wanted to ask if this will work with the late 2006 black Intel-based Macbook (model 2,1)?

    • My best suggestion might be to dig around the net. For the most part, there isn’t any reason why a HDD/SSD switch shouldn’t work at all but, in older systems, sometimes the bios can be a bit tricky and not recognize the drive.

  8. Can i directly plug this ssd (intel 330 series 120gb sata 3) into my sony vaio vpcsb3le notebook replacing the current hitachi hdd? If not, what kind of connector/convertor should i also obtain?

    • Yes there should be no problem with that and the SATA connector is the same as the hard drives.

      • Do you advice sandisk extreme 120gb sata 3 over the captioned intel 330? It is 10 usd cheaper?!

      • Hmmm…ten bucks is ten bucks but capacity is capacity. If both SSDs are going into a SATA 2 system, it boils down to a personal choice between two great SSDs now doesn’t it? Both have great customer feedback as well.

      • After your article, i was about to buy intel one but later i recognised that sandisk has newly arrived to the store. As far as i know my system is SATA3 and both of the ssds have the same capacity of 120gb. Would “new” sandisk beat intel?! Or maybe waiting for 240gb models to get cheaper would be wiser 😉 Now the ratio is 253 usd/ 120 usd…

      • They are going to be neck in neck for the most part… My thought…stop thinking so much, buy the one that you are leaning towards and enjoy! eheh

  9. Hi Sir!!

    Can I replace SSD from 20GB (original) to 120GB by using your method?
    Thanks!

    My ultrabook model is ACER M5-481T

  10. thanks you.çok t?k ederim gerkli

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