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  • Iketh - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    That price premium is doing me in, plus the irrecoverable drive thrashing. The 240gb Samsung will be my next purchase. Reply
  • Galcobar - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Find yourself having to ship a less reliable drive back to the manufacturer and the price premium disappears. At that point, not having to deal with the downtime and inconvenience of reinstallation is all gravy. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    These drives are all built to pretty much the same physical quality standards. Firmware might be a different story, but for firmware it usually doesnt require a trip to the factory. Do you have any evidence to suggest that the physical build quality of an OCZ Vertex 2 is less than an Intel X-25? Reply
  • hackztor - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    I had a vertex 1 that I had to ship back 4 times, finally I asked for a newer model. Got back the vertex 2. That right there is what Galcobar was talking about. Each time shipping is usually 10 bucks and about 2 weeks turn around time. Sometimes higher premium for better tested parts is worth the extra cost. Reply
  • pc_void - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    The key word is sometimes.

    And sometimes you pay a higher price and have the same thing happen.

    However, you can make an educated guess based upon lots of research. It still doesn't mean it won't happen.
  • Flunk - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    I don't think firmware alone is responsible for the much lower failure rates of Intel SSDs over say... OCZ.

    I'm not saying other brands are bad, my Vertex 2 is still going strong with no issues, but these SSDs are built a little bit better than OCZ's drives and most of the other competition.
  • coder543 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    It's widely known that non-Intel SSDs have reliability issues. Recently they've gotten much better, but they still aren't yet comparable. Reply
  • taltamir - Monday, March 26, 2012 - link

    The issue is that there are firmware bugs that intel fixed that sandforce and its other partners do not.
    You are right that there is no need to ship it back to the manufacturer... because they CANNOT fix it. A replacement drive will have the same bugs.

    Your only recourse is to live with the bugs and BSODs or sell it second hand and buy an intel.
  • dmprok - Sunday, April 01, 2012 - link

    I got Intel X-25 80Gb drive that failed on me TWICE in one year and I lost data. I picked Intel for TRIM function and because it was highly rated. First drive was purchased for $280 by my friend and it failed on him in 2 weeks, I thought he was doing something wrong, I bought dead drive from him and RMA'ed. It failed again for me in 6 months, one day computer just would not boot, I send it to RMA and got my 3rd drive, I hesitated to install for few months because I lost all faith in Intel SSD drives. I am not a heavy user, I don't run my PC 24/7, also the last drive drive I received does not look like quality made at all, the top of the drive is warped, I am disappointed, considering getting new Sandisk SSD for next upgrade. Reply
  • nsanity - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Having to ship a drive back means *absolutely nothing*. Hell, having to buy a complete new drive means nothing. The lost productivity when a business who has used a pair of SSD's as a shortcut to IOPS, as the machine BSOD's or drops an array till the system is physically powered off and on again simply dwarfs those costs.

    I'm a SMB Integrator and having to clean up after the mess of others who have used SF-2281 drives (Corsair Force 3 in particular) to achieve superior IOPS as opposed to using tried and true SAS arrays.

    Random BSOD's and array's falling off a system is the plague i've seen with the SF-2281's. Firmware updates have really done nothing to help on the Corsair Drives.

    On the Corsair Force 3 release, to enthusiast/gamer customers, I sold 3 drives, only to RA them 5 times within a month.

    From that point I essentially told all my enthusiast customers that I would not sell them a Sandforce-based Drive, because I simply do not like unhappy customers, and nothing is more unhappy than someone bringing me a drive back within 48 hours.

    I realise my sample size is small (Probably about 20-30 SSD's total), but I can tell you that out of the 15 Intel Drives I've seen/touched/supported (X-25M G2's, 320's and 510's), none of them have had any faults what so ever. Every, single, SF-2281 drive has had faults.

    The advent of Intel making Sandforce based drives leaves me with very uneasy. Intel's reliability is second to none, but I need more than just an anecdotal review telling me that they've "fixed" the SF-2281. I've been burned on a small scale, and i've watched a fellow SMB integrator friend lose thousands of dollars in free labour trying to repair systems based on these drives.

    I'm looking forward to Anand's part two, using these drives in an Enterprise scenario - and hopefully he's got a machine doing heavy load testing in the mean time to better report on the reliability- or otherwise of these drives.
  • frank1985 - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    I am a customer of this guy, and I had to return my $240 Corsair Force 2 drive/paperweight *11 days* after purchase (at which point I traded it in for his old OCZ Vertex2 which has been running without issue).

    Like Iketh, the fact that you can't recover performance with TRIM is a showstopper for me. I'm going to stick with the 320 series drives - they might be slower, but TRIM does what it's supposed to.
  • Wolfpup - Monday, July 23, 2012 - link

    The TRIM issue worries me too. Sounds like it's even worse than on Micron/Crucial's M4?

    My 320's been great, though annoyingly the 600GB version is MASSIVELY more than the 480GB 520, or the 512GB M4...possibly because of this issue?
  • Ratman6161 - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    I have an OCZ drive based on the SF22xx. For the first month it was nothing but trouble. Then with the release of the 2.15 firmware, suddenly all the problems went away like magic. It could simply be that OCZ paid the price for being early adopters and released to the market a product that really should have been a Beta version. Now that it has the firmware that it should have had from the beginning, everything is fine.

    Intel has waited until the product is more mature so its no surprise they aren't seeing these problems
  • Wolfpup - Monday, July 23, 2012 - link

    Did you read the article? Intel explicitly fixed problems still present in other firmware. Reply
  • ckryan - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    The Samsung 830 is maybe the finest consumer drive released in all of 2011. There is no shame in going Samsung, and in my mind, it's a fine alternative to almost every drive out there.

    Samsung and Micron probably have to wonder how Intel gets all the press about their NAND being better. As far as I can tell, Samsung's 27nm Toggle in the 830 is pretty damn good. The Micron NAND used in Micron's own drives is fantastic, and of course Intel's top shelf NAND is good too. But only Intel gets the press for having excellent NAND in it's own drives.

    I don't think enough emphasis is placed on the NAND. You can't get a clear picture of NAND quality through benchmarking.
  • krumme - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Exit Intel from the controller market. No wrapping in reliability, as rightfully as it is, can change that fact seen from here.
    Anyway, Intel can earn on the memory, as was probably the plan from day 1. We will see how profitability is here in 5 years time.
  • tipoo - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    I still get a kick out of how a relatively tiny startup company makes better performing parts than the chipzilla that is Intel. Good call working with them. Reply
  • Makaveli - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    What I think you are missing is that Intel doesn't because they don't have to or care to. Intel is a huge company with equally big profit margins to maintain for their shareholders. The SSD market is still a small compared to the other things they dabble in. And yes they produced a controller in the past but I don't think the Money and R&D was worth it for them to continue based on the profits needed to keep them interested. We already know they make a ton of money selling nand as is.

    So to sum it up they could easily put out a controller that would be superior but just don't care too at the moment.
  • Kevin G - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Intel's plan was to gain control of the entire SSD product: from flash (joint venture with Micron), to the controller and to the firmware. It does appear that their original plan has fallen apart due to delays with their custom controllers which has forced them to use 3rd party controllers.

    I wouldn't say that Intel has stopped investing into developing their own controllers though. Intel can offer a level of integration that no other vendor can offer: direction integration into an x86 SoC. I strongly suspect that the successor to Haskwell and future Atom SoC will come with a direct ONFI connectivity backed by an internal Intel controller.

    At that point in time, I suspect that SSD controllers will become akin to what discrete GPU's are today: a midrange or high end item for consumers.
  • NitroWare - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    People forget Intel was one of the innovators in bringing MATURE Flash to consumer technologies.

    Intel Desktop and OEM motherboards have used their surface mount flash chips for PC BIOS since 1996. This setup provided a recovery mode to get out of BIOS corruption. To this day, excluding motherboards with dual BIOS no motherboard has the same robust recovery system as Intel boards do.

    If the recovery mechanism fails then there is a more serous failure anyway.

    At the time other vendors were still using older DIP socket EEPROM and some still do now , only changing to serial format ROM.

    Even for current ASUS Flagship ROG boards, the best failsafe they offer is a socketed BIOS.

    Intel offered those Turbo Boost Flash cards several years ago for the 1156 motherboards and laptops which did not take off. They also championed Hybrid HDD for portables.

    So I think Intel know what they are doing with solid state, but yes eventually the technology will become commodity
  • ckryan - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    True, but the 520 series isn't the 320 series. Intel has the 510 and 520 series to satisfy the user that desires speed, but the fact is Intel will sell more SATA II than SATA III drives for the next few years. Reply
  • lyeoh - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Maybe making fast expensive drives and selling them for profit isn't Intel's main goal. Perhaps Intel is trying to push the SSD market to the next step.

    Nowadays drives are often the biggest performance bottleneck, and so it stops making a big difference whether you buy a top of the line Intel CPU or not, or even buy AMD instead.

    But once fast SSDs start becoming more reliable and sell at closer to _commodity_ prices, then Intel can get back to selling powerful CPUs to more people.

    A marketplace full of fast expensive SSDs that BSOD and lose data and slow cheap hard drives doesn't help for such a goal.

    But helping Sandforce _eventually_ get their act together (Intel aren't doing this for free of course) might do so. They might also be concerned about Samsung.
  • NitroWare - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    "Perhaps Intel is trying to push the SSD market to the next step."

    Intel has frequently done this with different technologies.So it is logical.
    In the article, Intel claimed they had 100% of staff on Intel SSD. Vendors usually do not make claims about internal employee hardware.

    Ethernet, Wifi, PCI, Legacy free, non x86 ISA (Xscale, Itanic), Fibre, PC I/O and RAM Technologies.

    They even dabbled with video conferencing years ago
  • gramboh - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    I'm in the market for a 240gb SSD in the next few months, and would love to buy a 520 series over other SF-2281/Marvell options, but right now it's a 42% price premium which is way too much.

    The 120gb has a more realistic price premium of about 25% (taking into account rebates on the 2281/Marvell drives) which I would consider, would have been nice for Intel to price the 240gb at $400-430.
  • mckirkus - Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - link

    "Would have been nice for Intel to price the 240gb at $400-430"

    The 240gb version is $357 on Amazon right now (2/29).
  • LeftSide - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    I bought the Kingston version on Black Friday for $120 after MIR. It was a great deal. Although I did worry about the BSOD (especially right after sending in the MIR). Thankfully, I haven't had any problems and it has been an excellent drive. It's unbelievably fast. Reply
  • NitroWare - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    They have the 332 firmware available for download from their website. There is even a toolbox utility now but this only has SMART features and no wipe tool. Reply
  • jaydee - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Would you expect the 120GB version to perform similar to the 60GB or the 240GB version? Or right down the middle? Reply
  • extide - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Historically, 128GB drives have seemed to perform closer to the 240/256GB counterparts than the 60/64GB ones. That's just my observation, though. Reply
  • ckryan - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    It's closer to the 240GB in performance. The 60GB SF drives are really at a disadvantage, especially in sequential writes. There have been benches of the 120GB 520 for some time, but the 240GB is unquestionable faster. You might not notice the difference in real usage. You can look at Anand's 120GB roundup from last year, and the 120GB version should come out slightly ahead of the Vertex 3. Reply
  • AnnoD - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Well I'm sorry, but... As positive as the conclusion is, to me this all sounds like Intel has found a way of hampering the competition. (I almost put "a new way" in that sentence instead, but I don't want to fire of wars...) How ethical is all this really? Is Intel putting effort into bugfixing itself, having SandForce doing the same work but with less manpower? Or are they actually not allowing to fix what Intel fixed for a while? I think this should not be so easily overlooked! Reply
  • quanstro - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    i'm not sure how one could say that intel is morally obligated to give competitors the results of a year's testing. or that the competition has lost anything. if intel had not done the validation work, competitors would have exactly the same benefit from intel. would that also be stifling the competition? Reply
  • spazoid - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Do you expect Intel to give their findings and bug fixes away for free? Why would they do that? Do you have ANY examples of that happening outside of the open source community? Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Yeah, I sure wish I had one fewer drive to chose from, especially if that one was the most reliable! All in the name of "fairness." ;) Reply
  • DanSmith - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Well thats how business works. Guessing you own a drive with a buggy SF controller from a competitor. Intel spent a year funded testing and bug fixing a controller they bought the rights to use so they get the benifit. Bet you OCZ have a similar deal but dont have the man power (or desire) to so thoroughly test.

    I know my time (and my companies downtime) is worth much more than the extra % for an SSD from a similar ilk as the x-25 and 320 series. As a sysadmin the thought of ever putting low cost consumer SSDs in production systems would keep me awake at night!

    I will be getting a few of these to evaluate for sure.
  • Morg. - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    You're (like anandtech) overrating Intel's edge w/ their firmware.

    At best they've got a few more resolved firmware issues than the default SF firmware.
    Who cares ?

    And most of all, who cares about a late and expensive third gen drive when the biggest issue with its direct competitors is that *some* of them cause problems.

    Overall the 520 is a failure as a product and a resounding marketing success, as all of Intel's sponsored reviewers have an easy "real" story to tell. (like we had a 2281 that failed, put in the Intel one and boom it worked ... never tried another 2281, never tried another controller ... but who cares, let's buy overpriced intel)
  • seapeople - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Yes, it's a huge failure for a product to not only equal the fastest drives on the market today in performance, but to do so while besting them all in reliability and stability.

    Where's my sarcasm font?
  • MrSpadge - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Since it's ~50% higher on the Intel drive and the BSOD issues seem related to power management, I suspect Intel turned part of the power management off.

  • coder543 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    yet somehow they aren't terribly power inefficient. Reply
  • Hauk - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Intel can you fix my OCZ Vertex 3 drives? They don't see to be as reliable as my old G2's.. Reply
  • Lord 666 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Is there a link or reference on compatibility for 320 drives in HP servers?

    One element that was not mentioned was encryption of the 520 and use within servers.
  • Mr Perfect - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Intel is also quick to point out that while other SF-2281 manufacturers can purchase the same Intel 25nm MLC NAND used on the 520, only Intel's drives get the absolute highest quality bins and only Intel knows how best to manage/interact with the NAND on a firmware level.

    Intel forgot to mention that they don't have to pay a markup on their own flash. Or do they intend to pass that on the consumer? Maybe accounting steps in and makes the SSD department pay up so the flash division doesn't loose profit?
  • Jovec - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Actually, the probably do pay a markup. Often times with large companies a division actually "buys" resources/parts from another. Yes, it is mostly accounting, but the flash division can book flash sales to their SSD division as revenue. The SSD division cannot just factor in flash memory "at cost" when developing their SSD product lines. Reply
  • NitroWare - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    From what you can disclose, what has Intel acutally being doing during development ? Have they been debugging a branch of the firmware or have they been doing accelerated lifetime testing as part of their QA

    Not much use debugging the firmware ( although required for OEM ) if the things don't last as long as others in real world use specially enterprise.

    Intel is only offering 5yrs because they can, because they have tighter control over the project but not full control. Its a token guesture. I wonder if the terms of the warranty cover any applications or just typical desktop/notebook use.

    Intel only 'covered' overclocking recently, so it would not be suprising if there are some clauses in the terms of use of Cheryville.

    Most of the launch reviews have claimed the drive is 'more reliable'? The consumer is supposed to take their word for it? SSD are not cheap and EVERY Intel product ever made has errata, many marked as nofix, many marked as fix in sw, many as fix in next hw.

    The e-ink on the embargoed reviews isn't even dry and claims of reliabililty.

    P54C had erratta, PIIX4 had errata, many slot1 Desktop boards had erratta, FWH had erratta, ICH5 had errata, some early 775 boards needed a BOM update list to support core2duo, many GMA have erratta, SNB-E has erratta.

    The firmware issue for other OEM customers can be seen more critical than Intel getting their product right. Many users or resellers do not even know there is a firmware update for their product. Look what happened with Crucial, the fix for their problems only came out recently.

    Kingston were even still shipping outdated specs on the boxes on their product and nowhere is there any mention that the user should even consider looking for firmware. As of Novemeber/December last year, that particular drive did not have 332 preloaded at the factory.

    SSD vendors are still claiming the fix is 'optional and should only be applied if issues occur' to cover themselves. This drive being released is just more shiny or is a swiss army knife with more tools in it. It does not change the status quo with SF or any other third party controller.

    Validation Lists are lacking for many SSDs as some are seen as enthusiast toys yet and It is very hard to answer somonewhen they ask if an enthusiast grade SSD using SF is suitable for a server, especially if the server is to use a RAID HBA and Linux.

    I will also note that the testbed used for this review is using an older version of the Intel RST Driver, the changelog for each release is quite signficant and there is focus on improving SSD performance and reliabililty.

    The latest BIOS for motherboards updates the Intel RST OROM improving compatibilty for AHCI, especially RAID. Latest stable Intel RST should be used by end user. Intel is churning out the updates more frequently than the past which is good to see.

    Then theres third party controllers. AMD is really lax with SATA updates, let alone the third parties. How is a professional supposed to put trust in a third party SATA or USB controller when the shipping firmware is labeled 'version 0.9' ?

    I am even on the fence about reviewers using stable platforms for reviews. I like to update drivers whenever possible and recommend drivers be kept up to date, I can understand the need to keep a stable platform, but in the real world bugs get fixed, updates get released and people apply these updates.

    I am really glad Intel took their time with this product, as there is a pointless marketing flooding of identical SSDs but what now and as we know Intel take their time and do things right with foward looking farsightness but in real world use it will take the masses a long time to discover any flaws especially if they are of a life-expectancy nature.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    It's far more complex than just accelerated lifetime testing. Intel's validation encompasses that as well as widespread compatibility testing, field testing and workload testing. As we've seen in the past, it's by no means perfectly complete but it's generally more robust than anything the competition is able to do on a regular basis.

    In our review we presented a situation where the 520 was indeed more reliable than standard SF-2281 drives.

    We use a stable platform for performance tests but we always do functional testing with the latest available drivers/BIOSes (this was the case in Brian's BSOD testbed).

    Take care,
  • NitroWare - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Anand I am with you on Intel's validation processes being 200% of whats needed and then some, many forget where Intel products end up - they end up in places of serious use, enterprise desktops, developers, F1 Teams, Military, OEM and whitebox Integrators.

    There was even a quote from John Carmack in the PR...

    One GPF or one BSOD thats driver related should not be tolerated and I am in the belief that any error can be debuged, traced and fixed by any sw or hw vendor. Its more the fact that do they want to for whatever reason inernal or external.

    You are right in your latter definition of reliable and I at least know that if you say that word to your readers you can back it up, but everyone else took the bait on a general level which is why I waited for your personal overview as you would say more than just that 'it is fast'

    You were one of the few who bothered to dive deeper to uncover the truth behind all SSD in your vlog on youtube and edtorials.

    The way I am defining reliable is over the life cycle of the drive though, that you can depend on the drive to always work and not die/lose data randomly.

    Field testing - that worked great for the Vertex with ICH10R.. I think there are still conemporary boards out there that don' have patches for the early Vertexs.

    Its worse with laptops, I am aware of Thinkpads with issues with third party SSDs.

    Several server /hosting companies are interesting in putting 520s in RAID 10 with a HBA and have told me they went with those simply because the 710 is too expensive, the 710 is A$700 for 100GB at the moment where as the 520 is several hundred less let alone a 'generic' 240GB 2281 drive.

    When you are quoting a client for a server, they may be picky on the final price and downgrade it .

    The things better work. The irony is the HBAs in question are LSI and IMO I think LSI do not care (yet) about SSD interop with their own companion products. .
  • Morg. - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Intel's validation is great.

    Some issues arise from the chipsets ... a spot where Intel (even when they're not doing shady stuff) can easily make important adjustments knowingly.

    Overall I would still think the Intel drive will be more *reliable* but when you're talking raid arrays .. who cares ?

    And putting two vertex3-s instead of an intel 710 is called upgrading : more resilience, more speed, more space for the same price.

    (the minimal fine-tuning related to ssd power states is a mere detail on a server that's not even running windows in the first place)

    Same goes for consumers imho .. if you're going to market a 3% reliability advantage at 45% price, I sure hope nobody buys it.
  • Morg. - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    You presented nothing Anand, you just said what Intel paid you to say.

    You cannot measure that this disk is more reliable because you have NOT tested a thousand drives in a thousand configs, i.e. the scenarios that actually caused so many vertex 3's to fail.

    So the only conclusion one can draw from your review, you included, is that the computer that had a BSOD-ing SF-2281 did not BSOD with the intel 520 .

    And that is not what I would call "indeed more reliable".

    OTOH, gotta keep your sponsor money and I respect that - just cut the bullcrap ;)
  • seapeople - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Brilliant, you've figured it out! The reason Anand has been recommending SandForce drives for the last three years is because Intel told him they would eventually get on board with SandForce, and therefore paid him to preemptively pump up the SandForce drive reputation.

    This is sheer genius.
  • NitroWare - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    "Overall I would still think the Intel drive will be more *reliable* but when you're talking raid arrays .. who cares ?"

    When the HBA vendor or even motherboard sata controller hasnt validated RAID SSD proply it does matter. Look at the lists for many popular RAID HBA, not all mechanical HDD are listed,even ones which are intended for RAID.

    "And putting two vertex3-s instead of an intel 710 is called upgrading : more resilience, more speed, more space for the same price."

    Two instead of 1 - fair enough but RAID 1 will no eliminate any bugs in a drive especially if the drives are identical and have logic flaws rather than part failure.

    Say you had two M4s with the counter issue in RAID, RAID doesn't solve anything and server/data redundancy comes in. Drive RAID helps for when a drive may fail randomly. If all the drives in your array have the same flaw/known issue then you might be in trouble.

    "the minimal fine-tuning related to ssd power states is a mere detail on a server that's not even running windows in the first place"

    Firmware is firmware. AHCI is AHCI. I don't think anyone has done finite analysis on wether any issues can come up in Linux with the multitiude of controller hw and firmware, drivers, kernels combinations and so on.

    Good RAID HBA are only validated for particular OSes. Just too many combinations.

    "Same goes for consumers imho .. if you're going to market a 3% reliability advantage at 45% price, I sure hope nobody buys it. "

    Consumers will never buy the more expensive part. Enthusiasts are cheapskates.

    These drives arn't meant for the average consumer. They are meant for power users , enthusiasts, pros and entry enterprise. 3% matters. By that notion, you disapprove of ECC in workstations and servers as the spend is too much even though this isn't for Consumer.

    "You cannot measure that this disk is more reliable because you have NOT tested a thousand drives in a thousand configs, i.e. the scenarios that actually caused so many vertex 3's to fail."

    At a launch like this, the product is only available a short time before launch. To do indepth projects such as long testing over time is something some vendors are not interested in with some media and some regions.

    How many users are willing to wait, 1,2,3 months for the outcome of a long term test for something 'this hot' . They will go buy the Force 3 for $180 because they can't wait.

    "So the only conclusion one can draw from your review, you included, is that the computer that had a BSOD-ing SF-2281 did not BSOD with the intel 520 ."

    WHat did the other embargo reviews do ? they all ran the standard suite and claimed it was faster and more reliable. How many did a plugtest with AMD, JMB, ASMedia, Marvel, Intel, Apple SATA., HBA, etc

    "OTOH, gotta keep your sponsor money and I respect that - just cut the bullcrap "

    I do not see anyone else in a similar position to him championing that SF improve their products. In all of his vlogs and editorials he explains the difference in operation between SandForce and Intel fairly objectively. Anything further is irrelevant.

    I do not think the industry has been at the mercy of a third party vendor where there is a cloud over the reliability of their product for some time. We have to go back several years when certain video and audio vendors had poor or non existent support, but even those are accessories and did not affect data.
  • GrizzledYoungMan - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Excellent review, Anand. I really appreciate your focus on reliability/compatibility over performance in your latest SSD reviews; that really reflects my own experience in terms of where SSDs need to improve.

    Do you (or anyone) know when the Intel 520 is scheduled to be available for sale? I didn't notice this information in your article.

    Here's hoping it's soon. I am returning a newly purchased Crucial m4 (which has a number of rather absurd semi-known/unacknowledged issues, like stuttering with Intel RST drivers installed, and failing to wake up from sleep) and seeking to replace it with an Intel drive. After owning OCZ and Crucial, I am really looking forward to not having to extensively modify my system just to get things working.
  • GrizzledYoungMan - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    This just came up on Amazon:

    Price looks right, and is sold by Amazon directly. Can anyone confirm that this model number is correct?
  • ckryan - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Cherryville has been selling in small quantities for weeks now. Benches and pics have been out there. I thoroughly enjoy every one of Anand's SSD reviews as it's never just a review of the drive, but in this case the 520's performance profile has been established well in advance of NDA expiration.

    Intel's reliability is well deserved IMHO. For those of us wishing against hope for Intel's 10 channel 6gbps controller, keep hoping. As late as 60 days ago, I was hoping that the 520 would utilize the Marvell controller, but when Cherryville started shipping a few weeks back, all hope was lost. And it was pretty obvious when the specs were leaked months and months ago.

    Intel's own controller is not fast by the standards of today, but Intel really got to the heart of the matter with the first and second gen drives, which is speed is superfluous without reliability.

    SandForce drives have been tamed to a large extent with the 3.3.2FW, but I'm unconvinced of their long term reliability -- the nDurance chart literature reproduced in the article is not realistic in any way, and in my experience SF drives tend to lose in endurance compared to it's competitors. I still own and use SF drives, but when I need reliability over speed, SF is not the way I personally choose to go.

    I respect Intel's decision to go SF, and in it's entirely likely that no drive has received the internal scrutiny that the 520 has -- and I'm sure it will pay dividends. But I won't be selling my older Intel drives on eBay anytime soon.
  • GrizzledYoungMan - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Good comment, and useful thoughts, thank you.

    Since you seem to have a lot of experience with these devices, and similar priorities as me, which would you pick for the system disk of a workstation: the 320 or the 520, both at 120GB? I'm on a p55 mobo with a 3gb/s SATA controller, FYI.

    While the performance of the 520 series is attractive, I'm still inclined to believe that I wouldn't notice the real world difference between the two. In which case the 320 series wins on demonstrated reliability.
  • ckryan - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    The 320 has a great record -- it's one reliability fault was the rare 8MB error, since corrected. Firmware is so crucial with SSDs, and the actual act of updating FW can cause issues of it's own (ala the Samsung 830, another excellent drive).

    On a 3gbps Intel mobo port you won't get the sequential speeds, but you will get the good random performance and the 520 handily bests it's fore-bearers in that area.

    So I suppose that the issue of price should be considered. The 120GB 320 and 520 are going to be nearly the same price -- so you'd be getting more with the 520. I would say if you're comfortable with it, get the 520.

    Regardless of whether SSD or HDD, you should be in a position that if the drive dies 20 minutes from now, restoring your data to it shouldn't be a problem. With that in mind, you can probably bet that the 520 will hold out for it's 5 year warranty. If it doesn't, you still have a 5 year warranty.

    As an aside, I recently bought a 320 series 120GB just to have on hand should the need arise, and it is pretty magnificent. I think most people would be just as happy with a 320 than a faster 520 -- the people who crave speed are going to get the fastest drive anyway, so for everybody else the 320 series is still a viable option.
  • Roland00Address - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    The 80gb intel 320 has routinely been on sale for the last month from several different online retailers. The sales involve mail in rebates but you see final MIR prices being between 70 to 90 dollars for the 80gb.

    The 120gb intel 320 on the other hand hasn't really gone on sale in Janurary, only time it went on sale in the last few months was a black friday sale (and BF is not a normal thing.)
  • GrizzledYoungMan - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Just bought a 120gb Intel 320 series SSD for $182.00 - nearly $1.50 a gig. Not bad.

    Between the reliability (both in terms of software, architecture, and power loss protection) and the insane IO performance on reads at lower queue depths, I feel confident I made the right choice.
  • alpha754293 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Reading this, I'm tempted to buy the 180 GB version because I will be using it in a HPC environment.

    And if the OCZ Vertex 3 is going to have BSOD issues, I'd rather pay a little bit of a premium or lose a little in storage capacity in order to make sure that the system will be humming along perfectly/nicely.

    Such a shame/waste that the Vertex 3s are relegated to being just data drives.
  • neotiger - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    It doesn't look like Intel 520 has any capacitors to prevent data loss.

    So how is this SSD any different from the 5,000 other SandForce SSD's already in the market, except this one is much more expensive than the others?
  • Sunrise089 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Read the article ;) Reply
  • iLLz - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    There you go, being all logical and stuff. Reply
  • DanSmith - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    +1 Reply
  • kyuu - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    So, Intel wants people to pay a huge price premium over drives with identical flash and an identical controller? For what? Some validation testing and a custom firmware? Despite the fact that they source their own flash giving them a price advantage over everyone except maybe Samsung? Please.

    Also, the 240GB is *more* than twice as expensive as as the 120GB? Why wouldn't you just buy two 120GB drives then? I doubt the performance difference is even worth noting, and once Intel's own new RST drivers come out that support passing the TRIM command to RAID arrays comes out, you can R0 them and get *better* performance than a single 240GB.
  • FunBunny2 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    *NOT* identical flash or controller. Anand spent much of the text explaining that. Reply
  • NitroWare - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Not sure if the PCB is completely custom or Intel just put their logo on a slightly modified circuit board - and then there is the Bill of Materials for the supporting components.

    Corsair have been claiming publicly they went with a custom PCB for their Force 3 and even put up oscilloscope eye diagrams to 'prove' that their signal integrity as superior to a generic reference PCB
  • Coup27 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Anand, could you please update Bench with the 830 results? They appear to have been forgotten about adding into Bench. Reply
  • Narrlok - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    I second this request. I was about to post about this as well since I wanted to compare the 830 with this drive. Reply
  • beginner99 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Well it seems obvious especially also because of the delay that the general advice here is to not touch OCZ and especially Sandforce seems to be more than true. There obviously must be quite a lot of bugs in the sandforce firmware.

    But then the price premium? I don't see it. You can get a crucial m4 that preforms just as good and has a very good track record in terms of reliability. (ignoring this 5000 hr bug...but it doubt even intel would spot that)

    While it is sure a fast and reliable drive, the m4 is too while costing much less. And the Samsung isn't bad either.
  • eman17j - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    they fixed the 5000 hr bug Reply
  • eman17j - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Also the newer line ocz came out with uses the Indilix controller Reply
  • hugh2323 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Some posters are missing the reason why this drive has a high premium. It is intented for the market that values reliability over price. This market considers the price of lost data to be higher than the premium of the drive. If you are a business, and a computer goes down with its data, the lost hours of productivity and cost of data loss can easily add up. Compared to paying 20% extra for the drive initially (or whatever it is), is chump change compared to that.

    And then there is the consumer market that doesn't have time to f*** around with blue screen of death and whose purse strings perhaps aren't so tight.

    So if you don't want to pay the premium, then your not in the target market. Simple as that.
  • neotiger - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    ... except this SSD doesn't give you reliability.

    It doesn't have any capacitors, which means after a computer crash or a power outage you will lose your data.

    Not exactly reliable.
  • eman17j - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    ssd are nonvolatile memory how are you going to lose all your data? Reply
  • eman17j - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    oops I spoke to soon I know what you mean it wouldnt have the power to finish any write operation if there was an crash or power outage thereby losing your data Reply
  • bji - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Irrelevant. Any application can make a sync call to ensure the data is written to the flash as necessary. Any application which does not make this sync call is risking the data at multiple levels of write cache before it actually makes it to the flash, so a capacitor would reduce the window of opportunity for data loss only slightly. And if you care that much about data loss, you are using sync anyway at that point of the application. Reply
  • eman17j - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    buy an ups Reply
  • Jediron - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Since when are MLC based SSD's more reliabele then SLC based SSD's ?
    Sorry, if they intended to put these SSD's in the market for endurance and reliability they make a mistake.
  • FunBunny2 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    bingo. but they last used SLC in the X25-E, and even Texas Memory is switching to MLC. The vendors are convinced they can get through warranty period with MLC. Unlike a HDD, which can last pretty much forever if it makes it through infant mortality, an SSD will die when it's time is up (think "Blade Runner"). Reply
  • bji - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Theoretically, the failure mode for completely worn out flash should be that the drive can no longer be written to, but every existing block can still be read from. Thus you would not lose any data, you'd simply have to buy a new drive and clone the old one to it.

    In practice, it seems like either most SSD failures are not in the flash (maybe they are the result of firmware bugs that wedge the on-disk structures into an unrecoverable state?), or that if they are in the flash most firmware do not handle such failures gracefully and instead of putting the device into a read-only recoverable mode just give up and die. This is after reading many, many reports of SSD failures where the device became completely inoperable instead of going into read-only mode.

    Also I've had plenty of platter HDD failures over the years, I always found them to be the least reliable component of any computer (ok, I guess fans are less reliable, but fan failure usually isn't catostrophic and is easy to fix; also power supplies die pretty frequently and finally for some reason CD/DVD drives also seem to fail disturbingly often).
  • beginner99 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    I disagree. It is too late to the market. the crucial m4 has proven its reliability in the real world and the intel drive has no special reliability features. And IMHO real world usage beats any validation tests intel can do.

    If you value your data you would have to back it up anyway, regardless of which drive you use.

    m4: never heard of BSOD issues.

    While I agree that sandforce drives have issues, there are others that do not and are also cheaper. The m4 is way best value. It's similar to CPUs. It is basically impossible to recommend any Desktop AMD CPU in any price or performance category. Same for SSD but here it is not possible to recommend Intel anymore.Neither for price, performance or reliability.
  • eman17j - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Are you trying to say that Amd's cpus are unreliable? I have one and I have no problems at all with it. I dont have crashes or freezes. Reply
  • bji - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    He's a beginner. He doesn't know what he's talking about. Reply
  • eman17j - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Wrong because the business buys the drive at an higher price then raises the price on their product or service and passes the cost of the drive to the consumer so the consumer ends up paying for the price premium anyways Reply
  • gamoniac - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Is playing game part of Brian's job description? Reply
  • Brian Klug - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Heheh, I guess you could say that for once, yes, playing BF3 was part of the job! :)

  • Oberst - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Seems like there is the first customer with the bsod bug in the intel forum. It seems like the reliability is no better than at all the other SF drives and it's just a matter of (bad) luck.
  • Makaveli - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    That tool installed his brand new Intel 520 drive in IDE mode? Reply
  • NitroWare - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    You would be surprised how many laptop owners (and even desktop owners) are unaware that they should use AHCI mode. I can guarantee that there are millions of boards out there with modern HDD or SSD in non optimal mode.

    Another large tech site interviewed several mobo vendors about Z68 and most sad it was supposed to ship with RAID mode as default due to the SRT feature., the reality is much different.

    2010 1st gen core i5 thinkpad has problems with third party SSDs which some users claim IDE mode is the only way they get their 'cheap' SSD working

    There is a mentality that if a user knows how to physically install a drive then they do not need to do anything else. Then there is the old drivers issues, yeah whatever the motherboard came with at best.

    That is something the chipset vendors need to work on. Some motherboards put up a warning if you try to turn AHCI off with an auto counter to re-enable it.

    It is definitely possible that a BIOS can detect a SSD and at least put up a text message saying what the recommend setting is. It is hard to ignore such messages.
  • mustardman29 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    I was trying to tell the OCZ support guys ever since their latest firmware that the BSOD is still there. It happens a lot less but it's still there.

    They were trying to tell me it was something wrong with my system and that I should re-install windows. That the kind of thing I would expect to hear from a 1-800 number that goes to someone in India reading a script. Not from a drive manufacturer.

    I'll never buy another OCZ drive. Not because of the problem but because of the way they are dealing with it. Pretending it's does not exist and telling people to re-install windows.

    And yes, Sandforce deserves part of the blame for pretending there was no problem for a long time despite many people saying otherwise.

    However, I would not hesitate to buy this intel drive. They obviously found the problem and fixed it with their own firmware. Something the controller manufacturer seems incapable of doing.
  • ckryan - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    You're not crazy. SF2281s still have stability issues, and the TRIM related BSODs are still happening too. Most people won't ever have problems with a 2281, but many did and still live with the occasional problem. The last round of FW did indeed fix many problems (it solved mine), but others still suffer. I stopped using the drives just because I have quite a few I play with, but you can still get a 2281 to flop on TRIM every once in a while.

    I'm sure Intel really put the screws to Cherryville's FW, but I think some of the issues with 2281 and their ilk are still mysteries to the SF partners, and possibly even LSI/SF and Intel (the expect fewer problems?).

    Here's hoping the next gen of the SF is bulletproof.
  • Sunburn74 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    A short, but more indepth article on your findings concerning the BSOD bugs afflicting the Sandforce ssds would be well appreciated by many. The findings of a tech supergenius like yourself would help dispel all the quackery that is floating about concerning what causes it and what doesn't and ultimately will help us all. Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    "The first possibility is that SandForce has been made aware of flaws in its current firmware and chooses against (or is legally prevented from) disclosing it to its partners"

    In other words, Intel is possibly forcing a company to sell knowingly defective product to its competitors. That is exactly the type of criminality that I would expect from intel. If this is true then it should be another billion dollars at some point, probably 8 years from now.
  • Rick83 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    I don't see any "forcing to sell" happening.
    I do see in-house development not being given away for free, which is normal business behavior. I'm pretty sure, for the right price, Intel would be willing to share the information.

    In fact, the problem lies entirely with SandForce and the people blindly using their firmware, without doing the testing. Yes it's cheaper in the short run, but if you have to deal with a bunch of returns and your name being sullied, it may not pay off.

    Also, I remember OCZ having an excllusive deal with SandForce at the start, where they were getting preferential treatment with regards to patches - that's criminal too?
  • DanSmith - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Great article thanks. The documentation on the 520 states it supports AES FDE but judging from my experience with other SF based drives it can be extremely hit and miss, with OCZ for example telling customers on their forum not to use it as it can permanently damage drives!!

    I hope to read more about AES on the 520 in the real world when you cover SSD's and enterprise soon.

    Cheers, Dan
  • Beenthere - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Even after "extensive validation" of their own SSD controller Intel had Bugs and had to issue a firmware update to fix it. I'm not going to be so sure that the SF controller validation is any better than Intel's controller until the 520 series drives have been out in the field for 18-24 months. Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    -- until the 520 series drives have been out in the field for 18-24 months.

    Given the rate of change in SSDland, there'll likely not be any 520s for sale in that time frame.
  • Beenthere - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Then it's probably smart to let the guinea pigs suffer thru yet another half-baked SSD instead of wasting our time and money to be unpaid Beta testers for negligent SSD makers. Anand was correct: WAIT 6-12 months to see if they sort out most of the Bugs... He may need to extend that time frame to 36-48 months?

    As you can see from the numerous comments here, the 520 already has one or more BSOD reports at Intel's support site and people with OCZ and other drives still have issues even after the SandFarce firmware updates. On-The-Job-Training seems to be the current SSD strategy for most if not all SSD companies... which IMO is a disgrace.
  • FunBunny2 - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    I'm no fan of SF. It's only that SSD land is vastly different from HDD land. Reply
  • FelixO - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link


    I am very tempted to get one of these because I want to shove it in a machine and forget about it for 5 years (rather than upgrade regularly).

    However the performance after being filled up is pretty worrying since that it something I do all the time!

    Anand, in your SSD reviews you used to talk about what % of the disk was reserved space to help with avoidance of write amplification, or to assist with wear-levelling (or something like that!). You also used to say whether formatting the disk or doing a secure-erase would get you back to peak performance.

    You seem to have omitted these discussions from recent reviews.
    Any comments on those issues for this drive (Or the Samsung 830)?

    Is it possible to adjust the reserved area on these drives? Will that mitigate the problems associated with completely filling the drives? Any comments on running these drives under Linux?

  • 4G92 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    Can anyone (Anand?) confirm if the Vertex 2 drives have this same Sandforce bug? I know the controllers are different, but my symptoms are EXACTLY the same.

    I just replaced my Vertex 2 with a Crucial M4 and the problems have now stopped, so I suspect the OCZ drive is the cause of the lockups...
  • km23 - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    What drive would you suggest for a Mac Pro? I have an early 2008 with 3G connection. I keep reading about the Mercury drives from Macsales. Any suggestions? Thanks. Reply
  • Beenthere - Monday, February 06, 2012 - link

    WAIT for SSD makers to sort the Bugs out of their SSDs. Contrary to what Intel says, I think that's the only way we will have any idea of the reliability of the 520 series SSDs. Maybe in 12 months enough guinea pigs will have found most of the Bugs. Reply
  • troystarr - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    I understand why IOPS would go down for smaller capacity drives with fewer NAND die to interleave, but I'm curious why it would go down when the capacity goes up. Reply
  • haa - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    When using SSDs in laptops whole disk encryption is often required (and easy to enable with e.g. FileVault 2 on Macs) so it is not just a corner case as the computer is writing incompressible (encrypted) data all the time, bringing out the worst case performance case probably pretty soon... Reply
  • Cow86 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    So now that the belated 520 has finally shown up (originally Q4 according to the roadmap), will the other SSD that also should've been out already also show up soon? The successor to the intel 311, hawley creek? Kinda been waiting for that one for a reliable, and hopefully cheaper, caching SSD....Enough capacity means getting 180GB or more, which is too expensive from any vendor at this time for me, and I'm not too sure about using a 60 GB SSD for caching either, with regards to reliability....Hawley Creek seems to have completely dissapeared off the radar though :/ Reply
  • fausto412 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    these things still have reliability issues? Reply
  • Westyfield2 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Intel say:
    "Superior data protection features: The new Intel SSD 520 Series offers the best security features of any Intel SSD to date and comes preconfigured with Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) 256-bit encryption capabilities. In the event of theft or loss of your computer, you have the peace of mind that your personal data is secured by an advanced encryption technology. Additionally, the Intel SSD 520 Series contains “End-to-End Data Protection” ensuring integrity of stored data from the computer to the SSD and back."

    Any details Anand? Here's a forum thread about FDE on the Intel 320.

    I, for one, would be very interested in an FDE SSD (I remember Samsung did one a few years ago, but that's all gone quiet).
  • panthal - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    I find it odd Anand or anyone else doesn't think what Intel as has done is shady as hell.All the issues were not with the Sandforce controller.It was also partly how the Intel chip-sets handled power schemes and other advanced parts of the power management.Intel one was one of the MAIN vendors pushing for some of the more advanced power settings,then DISABLED them on their own Intel branded SSD drives.What does that tell you?

    The Sandforce fixes didn't come because Intel didn't want them sorted till it got closer to time for their own Intel branded Sandforce drives.They helped just enough to get the last firmware pushed that solved most the Sandforce issues.
    Call it conspiracy if you want,but it's all there if you care to look.
  • Beenthere - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Perish the thought that Intel would ever operate in any manner than with the utmost integrity and respect for it's customers and the PC industry.
  • NitroWare - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Some of the SATA power management schemes were convinced years ago before cheap SSDs became mainstream. Intel did not invent SATA by itself.

    No logic is perfect, even from Intel.

    As for claiming Intel has somehow thrown a wrench into the gears thats a bit foolish. Corsair, OCZ and Kingston amongst others put their reputations on the line when these issues arise. These firms do not sell $300-$2000 CPUs that make up their revenue. For some tech firms, a product recall is the last thing they will ever want to do.

    Apparently these cheap SATA III SandForce SSDs are selling like hotcakes in some regions from what some channel distributors tell me and they can't keep enough stock to meet demand or the vendors have to shift stock allocations between regions to meet such demands, annoying other regions.

    Consumers want cheap SSDs, regardless of who they are from. No consumer will buy an ultra enterprise product for $2000. You can not have your cake and eat it too.

    If there is a genuine issue with a product, either a fix will be made available or worst case swap under warranty for a revised product.

    For specific motherboard support blame the mobo vendors. They are reluctant to patch BIOSes for older models such as adding the latest Intel Option ROM. Many angles to this. Manpower, validation, lazy, no care factor, pushing newer models, open a can of worms and so on. They can get the latest drivers, firmwares or fixes if they want, if they still buy particular chips they are provided with support. If they don't use this support its their fault.

    Some are even reluctant to patch new boards.
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Unfortunately Intel just like OCZ, Corsair and most all the rest of the SSD purveyors have adopted the Asus Biz model where you ship it today and hope you can fix it tomorrow when people find it's got lots of defects.

    It's totally unscrupulous to ship products with defects that have not been corrected due to a proper validation procedure not being implemented because the mfg. was more interested in rushing the product to market for quick profits or they are simply incompetent.

    If you bought a new car and the brakes didn't function you'd have a Helleva lawsuit. If the car's trans only worked on Wednesdays and Fridays, you'll have a Helleva lawsuit. If the car maker only responded to the problems by replacing the defective product with another defective product - yup, you'd have a Helleva lawsuit.

    This is how a lot of SSD companies are responding the defects in consumer grade SSDs.
  • NitroWare - Thursday, February 09, 2012 - link

    I understand what your saying but ASUS is a company who do no skimp on overall validation of their products. This can be objectively proven by comparing their BIOS changelogs and QVL lists against a tier 2 manufacturer.

    Enthusiast products are touch and go especially when high speeds or aggressive compatibility is involved. You can not have it both ways wether its a SSD, Mobo, VGA or even a car

    There are 'stable' products and there are 'aggressive' products (esp mobos and vga)

    The stable products, Intel Desktop Boards, Supermicro server/workstation boards, DELL/HP Prebuilts and some basic generic motherboards are BORING to part of the target market who are being targeted by cheap and fast SSDs.

    Do dell even validate many different SSD controller on their desktop and portables?

    There are firms who have SSD in Mission Critical apps. Either Team Lotus or Red Bull F1 I forget who switched all their pitcrew laptops to SSD due to vibration from the F1 engines.

    Can you imagine what would happen if an engineer experiencing a BSOD such a frantic scenario ?

    The target market want the bleeding edge and many vendors are forced to comply by playing the numbers game or including technical features on their products which have no benefit (eg extra power sockets) except as a marketing bulletpoint targeted to enthusiasts and matching their competition.

    Many would be surprised how many features on components such as motherboards or power supplies are stuck on simply due to customer (OEM) requests or technical marketing/competitive demands.

    There are parts of the enthusiast community, especially extreme and sub zero overclockers who don't care about 'stability' or who do not understand what the true meaning of this is. Their definition is stability is how much LN2 they can pour by balancing one hand with another hand on their mouse in vain effort to get their overclock stable.

    Manufs of cheaper devices have never really cared about support and many have a small handful of design engineers who are already overworked. This has not changed in twenty years of PC add on devices.

    It is a shame that some 'brand names' currently have issues really, a damm shame.
  • vol7ron - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    One of Intel's biggest advantages was the spread spectrum of their wear-leveling controller. I may have missed it, but I didn't see any mention of it in the article.

    It would be nice if they could have combined the SF-2281 with their own controller to give a fast, controller that was spread evenly across the NAND, to further increase its shelf-life. Maybe that would be too costly, or maybe it wasn't needed, but I'm interested to hear what they have to say.

  • Sufo - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    So, will the 720 be based on SF-2000? How far away is that?

    I'm soon to be building an enterprise server... are these Intel drives (5xx or 7xx) really up to enterprise load? Unlike many people, being able to pick something like the 710/720 would be a huge cost _saving_ - it seems to me that approved drives such as the HP ones cost 10x more than even these Intel drives.

    On a side note, since Apple's acquisition of Anobit, is it safe to say the Genesis 2 is on hold?
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    The story title is really inappropriate considering there is no proof that the 520 is any more reliable than other SSDs. There are even reports already of BSOD on the 520 drives at Intel's customer support forums. Reply
  • Wolfpup - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    No question, BUT I'd still pick my Intel 320 over the 520. I still trust Intel's controller more, and the 320 is the only drive I know of that has built in hardware encryption. Completely awesome! I'm sure there must be other drives that do too, but that alone would have me picking the 320, and then when you consider I trust it more anyway, and it's a bit cheaper...

    Wish the 600GB 320 wasn't over $1000 though :-D Oh well, my 300GB one is okay, and my Seagate Momentus XTs are great too.
  • Beenthere - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    Already reports of 520 BSOD at Intel support... :( Reply
  • Galvin - Friday, February 10, 2012 - link

    I could get a BSOD and report in intel forums too. All I have to do is disable AHCI drivers in windows and reboot. Get a BSOD. I think the issue is not the drive but the user not setting their bios up correctly or windows correctly or both. Reply
  • Galvin - Friday, February 10, 2012 - link

    Just wanted to update if you read that post. He fixed the problem. It had nothing to do with the drive. People want to hate intel just cause they're intel. Reply
  • mbryans - Thursday, February 09, 2012 - link

    Intel SSD 520 Series 480 GB: random 4 KB writes up to (only) 42,000 IOPS? While for 240 GB could reach 60,000 IOPS. The greater capacity should be faster. Reply
  • borynek - Saturday, February 11, 2012 - link

    I am very curious how does the encryption option work in Intel SSD 520? Does it use ATA password? When I connect it to another computer or via USB the data cannot be read? Reply
  • schouwla - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    I am not very excite about the new SSD from Intel. How does it stack up against A-DATA AS510S3-120GM-C that has reads at 550 MB/S and writes at 510 MB/S. A 120G disk is 11500 yen in Japan Reply
  • MadMacMan - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    I'm what you would call a "power user" I suppose and I've used SSD's for several years. I had an X25-M G1 for the longest time and when Intel decided not to go after the speed crown anymore after the X25-M G2, and instead focus on reliability with the 320, I jumped ship. I love the fact that Intel is BACK with the 520 and although I'm surprised at the controller choice (SF-2281), it's still Intel and while only time will tell if it will have been a good purchase, but I'm going to get the 180GB version of the 520 series.

    I do have some experience with SF-2281 drives and they are all positive. At first, I was using two 120GB OWC Mercury EXTREME Pro 6G SSD's in RAID 0 in a 2011 Mac mini, which has SATA III (6Gbps) support. They ran like a dream using Apple's software RAID 2.0. Sequential speed tests for reads and writes were consistently above 900MB/s and sometimes approaching the 1GB/s mark, although I never went over. This setup lasted 3 months when I attempted to do the same when I switched into my (Late-2011) 17" MacBook Pro, but due to an issue having SOLELY to do with Apple, I am restricted to using only one of my SSD's. Needless to say, speeds dropped to around 500MB/s, but my machine runs beautifully and is still kick-ass at those rates. (On a side note, when I researched the issue, the 13" MBP, for some inexplicable reason, DOES run beautifully with 2 SSD's from OWC (i.e. SF-2281) in RAID 0, but not the 15" and 17" ones. As I said, this has NOTHING to do with the fact that they are SF-2281 drives.

    The bottom line here is that I have had a combined 6 months experience with specifically the SF-2281 from OWC and they have been flawless for me and again, my system is on 24/7 and gets plenty of use. To give you an idea just how much use, I upgraded to 16GB of RAM recently, because 8GB simply wasn't enough.

    So as I said, I will sell both of my 120GB OWC drives to raise some money for one of these, most likely the 180GB version. According to one of the charts in the review, the 180GB and 240GB run at almost the exact same speed (as opposed to the 120GB and 60GB variants). That's a sweet spot for me as far as capacity and price point are concerned. I'm looking forward to going back to Intel, although OWC's drives have been great!
  • e-kirill - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

    I am thinking about buying Intel 520 180GB for my iMac 27" (mid 2011, MC814, OS X Lion 10.7.3), going to swap factory HDD with sweet (?) Intel 520.
    What do you think, guys, is it a good choice, considering NO TRIM factor for non-factory SSD under OS X Lion?
    Yes, I know about TRIM Enabler ( but I am just ... not sure, how will it work over time.
    It would be great to know your thoughts.
    Thanx in advance!
  • SezeMakto - Friday, February 17, 2012 - link

    First post ever! I'm torn between 3 SSDs. The Samsung 830 256GB for $340 delivered, the Samsung 830 512GB for $675 delivered, or an Intel 520 240GB for $500 delivered... Any help? Thanks. Reply
  • TheJian - Friday, March 02, 2012 - link

    You report Trim doesn't do squat with this drive. Then how do they report trim works in seconds here using SSD Optimizer. You can even set it to scheduled so you don't worry about trim any more:

    If this is true, your whole article needs to be changed to say it's the best drive out there with trim or without even in XP etc.

    Am I wrong? I almost bought but now want intel instead. Your article almost steered me to M4 just to avoid sandforce. I'm rethinking that now as maybe Intel really is WORTH the money.

  • zenith1 - Monday, March 12, 2012 - link

    "Performance in this worst case scenario isn't terrible but the fact that it's irrecoverable even after a TRIM is what's most troubling."

    I am a bit unsure about this worst case scenario, does this mean that if I get into this corner case, there is no way at all to restore the drives performance? It will not help to free up some space or, as a last resort, a secure erase?

    Would not mind any pointers on this issue, if it has been thoroughly discussed before. Just a bit mind boggling if there is no solution to this problem.
  • cansande - Thursday, March 15, 2012 - link

    A couple of days ago the price was around 206 for the 120. It dropped to 199 and then 179 today. It looks like Intel may start to be more competitive with ocz and others. 10 dollars more than a vertex 3. Reliability and a 5 year warranty is 10 dollars more. I'll take it. Reply
  • kzinti - Monday, April 16, 2012 - link

    I got myself an Intel 520 SSD (180GB) two weeks ago. While installing windows, I got 2 BSOD (dreaded F4), both resuming from hibernate. So I dissable hibernate and any power saving option. The drive worked fine for a week (so I forgot all about it).

    Then I started getting random freeze and last night, BSOD (F4) within 10 min of each reboot.

    This was on an Asus P5K Deluxe, Bios updated to 1005 and ICH9R controller to

    I put back my old system drive to reformat the SSD and that took me a dozen attempt. The SSD drive would keep locking up and disconnecting.

    Since I removed the SSD, my system is stable as it always' been.

    I am returning it today. I sure hope these new drives aren't plaggued with the same problem.
  • kzinti - Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - link

    Exchanged the faulty SSD and haven't had a single problem in 3 days. The shop guy was genuinely surprised and said no one ever returned an Intel SSD. Well, I guess now there is one. =) Reply
  • vanteo - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    I got a 520 120 GB for my Lenovo W520 a week ago ($187). I experienced a few freezes (mouse still movable but the HD light stuck on and I couldn't actually DO anything), and long stutters (5 sec < n < 1 min) while setting it up shortly after Windows 7 64-bit install. It came with the 400i firmware, which was still the latest. As I used it more, the freezes have stopped and the stutters seem to have all but disappeared. I did install Intel's latest Rapid Storage Technology drivers at some point, so perhaps that helped. Otherwise, very fast and I'm pleased. Reply
  • vanteo - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    I should clarify that the problems were during normal operation. They had nothing to do with hibernate, standby, or resume. Reply
  • vanteo - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Update: I'm still running into these hangs regularly, actually. I followed some advice to change some advanced Hard disk power options (LMP), but that had no effect. Either it's a bad drive, or there's some system incompatibility with the Lenovo ThinkPad W520. Reply
  • kzinti - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    Just following up on my April 18 post... I am still running the replaced 520 SSD as my OS and everything runs smoothly. Haven't run into a single BSOD or hiccup / slowdown. I use my computer 4h+ a day. Reply
  • jfgreen - Monday, September 17, 2012 - link

    This drive has some serious issues this was my post in Intel Support Community:

    Last Thursday I received my brand new Dell Precision M6600. Before I started to use the system I upgraded the hard drive to an Intel 520 Series..

    After dropping in the SSD, I was ready to install Windows 7 Pro. I first went into the BIOS and left the setting on RAID. After reading tons of forums, this seemed like the right way on installing the hard drive. Once complete I installed all the necessary drivers (which is a story in its self!). After, I went on the Intel website and ran the driver utility make sure everything is up-to-date. I also installed the SSD toolbox to optimize the drive.

    After dealing with the BIOS not always detecting the SSD and the occasional OS freeze, I made my way into the Intel control panel. I noticed the hard drive was only running at 3GB/s, I thought that was kind of odd since the computer is capable of running 6GB/s. I decided to change the BIOS to AHCI and reinstall 7..

    Once complete, I still had to deal with the BIOS not detecting the SSD and 7 freezing up, every so often. Anywho, once I re-installed all drivers and utilities. I now see the hard drive running at 6GB/s. I was a happy camper until I started to use the computer. I noticed it freezed up the more I use it.

    Intel (typing this while simultaneously shaking my pointer finger) you have a serious issue with your SSD. You need to post a firmware update. Not only to fix the issue with 7 but, also for folks who have M6600 and other affected laptop/desktops; who decide to buy your SSD.
  • nextel2010 - Saturday, September 29, 2012 - link

    I hear you. I purchased three Intel 520's and installed them in three systems known to be stable. One works well, one had intermittent freezes, and the last would freeze and BSOD several times a day, regularly. This last one also had problems being recognized by the BIOS during installation, and would intermittently drop off the system afterwards.

    I researched the issue, and found a whole lot of suggested fixes, but no general patterns to a solution. In an effort to troubleshoot the last system, I replaced the 520 with an old OCZ Core II, purchased in early 2009. The OCZ was recognized immediately by the BIOS, and installed easily. It ran perfectly, if a bit slower, up to the present time (more than a month).

    i don't have time to troubleshoot the two nonworking systems, which are mission-critical and needed to be operational, so I returned the two troublesome 520's and replaced them with Samsung 830's. The Samsungs are lifesavers. They work perfectly, are every bit as fast as the Intels and, most importantly, are rock stable. I couldn't be happier with them or recommend them more. Adding even more value is the fact that the Samsungs were less expensive than the 520's.

    I initially went with the Intel because of their five-year warranty and reputation for reliability, but to me at least, it doesn't appear that they have been able to iron out the issues with the SF-2281. To date, no firmware update had been released. A longer warranty for a troublesome drive is pointless. A lot of users have had no issues with the 520's, but a good number still encounter problems. If it was my own system and time wasn't an issue, I wouldn't mind tinkering and troubleshooting, but under the circumstances, I simply went with the solution that works.
  • toncij - Sunday, September 30, 2012 - link

    It is a nice review, but what bothers me is:
    "Intel did go on record saying that the 520 is expected to have far fewer F4/F7 BSODs than any other SF-2281 drive. I asked Intel if I should read into the phrase "far fewer", but the answer was no - the 520 is expected to have similar reliability to the Intel SSD 510 and 320."

    Since I've experienced 320 series and would never go back there, I wonder why intel avoids to say "NO BSODs" - I'm not particullary fond of "far fewer BSOD's" and I prefer zero of those.

    I'm looking for the best SSD I can get, but with stability and reliability being a primary variable to look at. I've noticed people praise SM 830 drivers, but these seem much slower than 520 and still quite power-hungry at idle and load, which pretty much is not what I'd like to put into my ultraportable.

    Is Intel still prone to BSODs and how good it really is compared to SM830?
  • sarangiman - Friday, October 12, 2012 - link

    Not sure why this article mentions that the 480GB drive is only available with a 9.5mm chassis.

    If you remove the black spacer, it's 7mm (well, 6.5mm as measured by my caliper).

    Albeit, I just bought the drive this week (10.2012); was this 480GB drive originally 9.5mm but now they're shipping 7mm chassis + black spacer?

    If one could find short screws for the 7mm chassis, I don't see why one couldn't use the 480GB drive in form factors requiring 7mm drives...

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