Final Words

I've been a fan of SandForce's technology since it first showed up in OCZ's Vertex 2 Pro in late 2009. Performance has never been an issue with SandForce and because of the fact that the controller writes less than its competitors, the controller and drives based on it are well behaved over months of use. The biggest issue with SandForce has always been a lack of validation compared to other, bigger players like Intel and Samsung. SandForce relies on its partners to do a lot of the validation and testing that would normally be internalized at its competitors. Until now, SandForce hasn't really had a partner large enough to really throw a ton of resources at drive validation. Now that SandForce is under the LSI umbrella things may change, but until then we finally have a well validated SF-2281 drive: the Intel SSD 520.

I'm still curious to see if other bugs crop up but if Intel hasn't found anything else after twelve months of testing I'm willing to bet that either the SF-2281 is irreparably broken or the 520 is going to be a reliable SSD.

I only have one data point where the 520 behaves better than other SF-2281 based drives, but that alone is a perfect example of what you pay for with Intel. This is exactly what we've been waiting for. If you want the absolute fastest SSD on the market today, the Intel SSD 520 is the only drive to get. If you're put off by the price, Samsung's SSD 830 is an excellent alternative.

I'm going to save this next bit for a future article, but have a look at the 520's performance in our enterprise workloads compared to the Intel SSD 320:

Enterprise SSD Performance
  Oracle Swingbench MS SQL DailyUpdates MS SQL WeeklyMaint
Intel SSD 320 300GB 56.5 MB/s 207.3 MB/s 230.4 MB/s
Intel SSD 520 240GB 67.2 MB/s 376.7 MB/s 418.1 MB/s

The 320 is actually widely used in servers as it's very reliable and can last a good amount of time with the right amount of over-provisioning. The 520 just destroys it. The bigger benefit is that if you're dealing with a workload that's not already compressed, the 520 will guarantee you much better drive longevity than the 320 thanks to the fact that it's simply not writing as much data to NAND. If you're looking for an affordable way to get a ton of IOPS for your enterprise workloads, Cherryville may be your ticket...

Power Consumption


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  • 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 2, 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

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