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

REPORT ANALYSIS AND FINAL THOUGHTS

The top SSD we have tested to date is the Intel 520 240GB SSD and the Intel 330 definitely seems to follow in it’s footsteps, but at a much lower price point.  The working components of both SSDs are of identical description with the 330 Series containing only eight modules of memory to the 520’s sixteen which makes sense as the 520 is a 240GB SSD.  There would definitely be firmware changes but Intel has fine tuned this SSD for a value conscious target audience which is where it will definitely succeed.

The give and take of it all is a bit of performance when moving incompressible data for a lower priced SSD and this makes perfect sense.  The hard facts are that the typical consumer will never realize a need for that performance and will not see any visible performance difference between the 520 and the 330 SSDs in their use.  Checking outlets, we see that the difference in price between the 520 and the 330, both 120GB versions, is $30.

The question then becomes one of the choice of Intel over the other brands and Intel has, not only reputation and a three year warranty to stand by, but they have also included just about everything one could imagine to simplify the migration process for the consumer.  In addition to the 330 Series SSD, each package contains the adapter bracket, data and power connectors, assembly screws as well as a disk which contains the Intel Data Migration Software and their Solid State Drive Toolbox.  We definitely don’t see this in every SSD sold today.  In fact, the only negative we can see with this SSD are a bit lower performance results when testing in incompressible data, a point which becomes moot when considering the target audience.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Intel has the size and weight to throw it’s muscle around and we are seeing that all too well.  In less than a year we have seen SSD entries in every corner of the market to include today’s 330 Series for the value minded, the 520 for the enthusiast, 710 for the enterprise sector and a recent announcement of the Intel 910 PCIe SSD for the data center.  Actually, we have one on route to our office as we speak so I might keep an eye out for it’s review in the next week or so.

Sticking to the Intel 330 though, it has performance, value, a decent warranty, availability and Intel’s reputation for quality which carries their products a long way.  They have done very well to introduce a high performing SSD for the value minded consumer and for that, Intel has earned our Gold Seal!

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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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