Intel launches SandForce-based SSD 520 family

February 7, 2012 // 2:09 p.m.

Tags: #intel #intel-ssd-520 #intel-ssd-520-series #lsi #mlc #nand-flash #sandforce #sata-iii #solid-state-storage #ssd

Intel has officially taken the wraps off its rumoured SSD upgrade, the SandForce-equipped SATA III-powered Intel SSD 520 Series.

Built around 25nm multi-level cell (MLC) NAND flash memory, the Intel SSD 520 family is Intel's answer to the growing demand for high-performance storage from the enthusiast market. Boasting a SATA III connection for a peak transfer rate of 6Gb/s, Intel's own figures claim the drives are capable of sustained sequential read speeds of 550MB/s and sustained sequential write speeds of 520MB/s.

Using Iometer to check the Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) performance, Intel claims read of 50,000 IOPS and write of 80,000 IOPS on a virgin drive based on 4KB chunk sizes. Typical latency is given as 80μs read and 85μs write. Power draw is given as 800mW active and a surprisingly high 600mW idle. Considering the 510 Series claimed power draw of 380mW active and 100mW idle we're a little disappointed.

The drives include a range of features typical of Intel's offerings: integral encryption offers the security of 256-bit AES, while support for ACS-2 and TRIM is included as standard.

Interestingly, Intel has opted to partner with LSI for the controller this time around. Previous Intel SSDs had used Intel-branded controllers. While the hardware is straight off LSI's shelf, Intel claims to have worked with the company to produce a custom co-defined and Intel-validated firmware for the drives. While Intel is quiet on the reasons for the move, LSI is clearly pleased.

'We worked closely with Intel to leverage their deep understanding of the NAND flash, ultimately providing a unique and optimised solution for client computing applications with the LSI SandForce Flash Storage Processor,' crowed Michael Raam, vice president and general manager of LSI's Flash Components Division. 'Working through Intel's extensive validation process ensures the Intel 520 SSD will raise the bar in delivering top-tier performance and superior quality and reliability over the life of the drive.'

Intel is also making the conscious decision to target gamers with this latest release. Rather than the usual dry benchmark scores, the company has trotted out claims of 88 per cent jumps in what it chooses to call 'performance' for gamers making the move to SSD storage. It also asked John Carmack, creator of Doom and industry veteran, to provide a handy quote to help boost sales.

'Our game development workflow involves a combination of large batch process and aggressive interactive pre-visualization, all highly parallelized to the point that the storage performance becomes a major bottleneck,' Carmack claimed. 'For many of our workloads, Intel SSDs have doubled throughput, and in some cases involving mapping tens of gigabytes of image data, we have seen an honest order of magnitude performance improvement, which is a rare and wonderful thing.'

The 2.5-inch drives will be available in 60GB, 120GB, 180GB, 240GB and 480GB capacities. For laptop users, the 120GB, 180GB and 240GB models will be available in a 7mm-thick version; the remainder will be 9.5mm thick. All models will come with a five-year warranty, Intel has confirmed.

Retail pricing has yet to be confirmed. Intel has, however, offered a clue as to wholesale pricing: the 60GB model will start at $149 while the 480GB will fetch an eye-watering $999. Both figures are based on buying a tray of 1,000 units.

Tempted by Intel's latest storage offering, or do you still think SSDs need to drop in price before they'll make a real impact in the consumer market? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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