Under The Hood: Intel SSD 520 Series

Intel's new SSDs have just launched with an eye to taking on the high end of the SSD market. Does Intel's previous track record in SSD reliability make them a must-buy? The 520 Series SSDs -- codenamed "Cherryville", if you like that sort of thing -- are certainly packed with promise. The inclusion of Sandforce's SF-2281 controller and a SATA III interface promise read/write speeds of 550/520MB/s, although you'd need a SATA III ready system to be able to take advantage of that kind of speed; if you threw it into a SATA II system you'd understandably see performance dip.

It's claimed by Intel that firmware modifications specific to its drive should improve both performance and reliability over competing SSDs using the same controller. Reliability's a particular issue with SSDs; unlike mechanical drives if an SSD fails, there's usually not that much you can do to restore data on it, even if you do possess the necessary funds to pay someone to do so.

So how do they test? Early benchmarks at Toms Hardware and Hot Hardware show the Intel SSDs to be capable performers that, by and large, appear to match the performance of competing high-end SSD drives. Intel's edge here may be in reliability, as it's backing its SSD drives with a five year warranty. So far, unit pricing has only been released for commercial quantities of the drives at $185 for a 60GB model: $329.95 for 120GB, $449.95 for 180GB, $619.95 for 240GB. There's also a 480GB model which ships for $US999 for 480GB; all pricing is for shipments in 1,000 unit quantities. [Toms Hardware and Hot Hardware]