Final Words

It's great to see that Intel has not forgotten the enthusiast market. While the SSD 520 and SSD 530 weren't bad SSDs, they didn't exactly fill the shoes of X-25M—they were just another batch of SandForce drives, with more generally better validation. With the SSD 730 Intel finally provides a solution that's capable of filling the shoes that have been left empty for more than two years. However, the SSD 730 doesn't provide anything substantial in the terms of performance like the X-25M did.

The performance consistency of the SSD 730 is brilliant but nothing we've not seen from other OEMs before, and the consistency comes at the cost of peak performance. Even though consistency is an important metric regardless of the workload, I would say peak performance is still the dominant factor in most cases as client IO tends to happen in bursts, whereas in enterprises it's more of a constant flow of IO requests.

On top of that, the SSD 730 lacks some features that other high-end drives have. There is no TCG Opal 2.0 or eDrive support to enable proper hardware encryption, which is something that's slowly becoming a norm. Many companies and governments require encryption in all drives they use and that's a market the SSD 730 misses, although that was never its target market. Another weakness is the high power consumption, although neither that or the lack of encryption support plays a big role in the desktop market.

However, given that laptops and other portables cover most of the market nowadays, I feel it's not the best choice to completely rule that market out. Much like the Skulltrail platform whose logo adorns the SSD 730, this targets a very specific enthusiast niche, and the prices not surprisingly are going to be higher than "typical" consumer SSDs.

NewEgg Price Comparison (2/25/2014)
  240/256GB 480/512GB
Intel SSD 730 (MSRPs) $249 $489
Intel SSD DC S3500 $300 $605
Intel SSD 530 $180 $399
Intel SSD 335 $200 N/A
OCZ Vector 150 $210 $445
OCZ Vertex 460 $190 $360
Samsung SSD 840 EVO $190 $300
Samsung SSD 840 Pro $215 $410
Crucial M500 $136 $275
SanDisk Extreme II $233 $450
Seagate SSD 600 $130 $380

MSRPs are fairly high but as usual should be taken with a grain of salt. We are definitely dealing with premium pricing (though nothing close to the enterprise prices) but the SSD 730 is still rather competitive with the other high-end drives. Intel likely views the OCZ Vector 150 and SanDisk Extreme II as direct competitors and is hence pricing the SSD 730 accordingly.

All in all, the SSD 730 is a competitive option for users who seek maximum performance consistency but don't care about power consumption or encryption support. You'll have to sacrifice peak performance and the lack of an M.2 PCIe option may further limit the appeal in the long run. Given Intel's track record and the best-in-class endurance, the SSD 730 is best for the no-compromise enthusiasts and professionals who really need a reliable and consistent drive.

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  • gevorg - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    Whats up with the satanic skull? LOL!
  • DanNeely - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    The tacky gamer bling is intended to convince corporate purchasing to buy the more expensive S3500 instead.
  • littlebitstrouds - Thursday, February 27, 2014 - link

    Well aren't you mean today. Just because it doesn't fit your style, doesn't mean you need to be a jerk about it.
  • Homeles - Friday, February 28, 2014 - link

    I thought it was funny!
  • alyarb - Friday, February 28, 2014 - link

    and insightful! it's not like you saw skulltrail boards in 2P workstations either. you have to pay extra to get the plain green board.
  • ddriver - Friday, February 28, 2014 - link

    This hard drive is poisonous.
  • tabascosauz - Saturday, March 1, 2014 - link

    It's probably like the skull on Intel's motherboards; just a logo that's been there for so long that it's become an icon of Intel in the consumer market. I still like the old peel-up-for-silicon Intel design on my SSD 530 though, but not that it matters since there's only one case that showcases SSDs (H440).
  • Anonymous Blowhard - Friday, February 28, 2014 - link

    sarchasm (sar-kaz-im)
    1. the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it
  • DanNeely - Friday, February 28, 2014 - link

    I intended describing it as 'tacky gamer bling' as being charitable. If I felt like being mean I'd've used something like 'eye searingly hideous' instead.
  • Oxford Guy - Thursday, March 6, 2014 - link

    It's really idiotic.

    Intel looks like a foolish old man trying to be cool with that.

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