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


ATTO Disk Benchmark is perhaps one of the oldest benchmarks going and is definitely the main staple for manufacturer performance specifications. ATTO uses RAW or compressible data and, for our benchmarks, we use a set length of 256mb and test both the read and write performance of various transfer sizes ranging from 0.5 to 8192kb. Manufacturers prefer this method of testing as it deals with raw (compressible) data rather than random (includes incompressible data) which, although more realistic, results in lower performance results.

Listed specifications of 500MB/s read and 450MB/s write do not compare to our results of 559MB/s read and 519MB/s write which are typical of the LSI SandForce processor at full speed.  This is an excellent start for the Intel 330.


Crystal Disk Benchmark is used to measure read and write performance through sampling of raw (0/1 Fill/compressible) or random data which is, for the most part, incompressible. Many new SandForce Driven SSD owners who cant wait to test the performance of their SSD often grab this program and run a quick test, not realizing that they are testing with incompressible data rather than compressible data used in testing by manufacturers.  We have provided compressible (oFill) results on the left with incompressible (random data) results on the right.

blankblankEven though Intel’s premium synchronous NAND flash memory is in use, we start to see the lower price point reasoning in the 330’s ability to work with incompressible data, results of 160MB/s high sequential write performance being just a bit short of the norm. Low 4k random write transfer speeds of 84MB/s are very good.


As much as we like other utilities, AS SSD was the first benchmark released specific to SSD performance and is still the bread and butter of testing SSDs.  Many enthusiasts prefer this software as it encompasses the worst case scenario in disk transfer speeds by utilizing incompressible data.

blankblankAS SSD confirms the low result when transferring incompressible data and also expands with relatively low IOPS results and disk access time results that is a bit slower than we see of many SSDs today.  This translates to slower file transfer times as can be seen specifically with our AS SSD Copy Benchmark shown below.

blankThe AS SSD Copy Benchmark is a very straightforward test, in that, it creates three files (ISO, Program and Game) and transfers each from one part of a disk to another.  The results here are rather flip flop as the initial ISO result is excellent but the transfer of the Program showed substandard performance resulting in a longer transfer time.


  1. blank

    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. blank

    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. blank

    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. blank

    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.

    • blank

      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.

      • blank

        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. blank

    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. blank

    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. blank

    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)?

    • blank

      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. blank

    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?

    • blank

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

      • blank

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

      • blank

        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.

      • blank

        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…

      • blank

        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. blank

    Hi Sir!!

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

    My ultrabook model is ACER M5-481T

  10. blank

    thanks you.çok t?k ederim gerkli

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *