Intel SSD 510 Sequence 120GB Evaluate

The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB blew us away when we tested it earlier this month. The high transfer speeds and application performance left the competition with no breathing space – including the once-lauded Samsung 470 series drives and the Crucial RealSSD C300. The Vertex 3 turned out to be dramatically faster than its predecessor, and perhaps just as importantly, that speed is almost the same cost.

After outperforming some of the best SSDs we tested, we had to wonder if the Vertex 3 would be left unattended for a short while. Who could rise to the challenge when the Crucial M4 becomes a mainstream powertrain? We may have an answer to that question today as we test what the closest the Vertex 3 is to the competition: Intel's new flagship SSD 510 series.

Given all of the success Intel has had with its X25-M drives, hardware enthusiasts should expect Intel to stand up to OCZ's juggernaut. The company recently launched three new lines of SSDs: the 310, 320 and 510 series.

The SSD 310 series is intended for notebooks or other devices with a small form factor and is available in 40/80 GB variants with 34 nm MLC NAND flash memory. They have the same controller as Intel's X25-M G2 (Intel PC29AS21BA0) and offer read / write speeds of 200/70 MB / s via SATA 3 Gbit / s.

The SSD 320 series is the first to incorporate Intel's new 25 nm MLC NAND flash chips. However, it also uses the PC29AS21BA0 controller, which inherently limits the drives to SATA 3 Gbps. The 310 and 320 drives should be competitive in terms of pricing and reliability, but are not intended to break performance records.

This is exactly where the SSD 510 series comes in, although to be honest, the drive is not exactly what we expected. Older 34 nm MLC NAND flash is used to start with, which is more expensive than 25 nm memory. What's even more shocking is that Intel abandoned its internal controllers for a third-party solution.

The SSD 510 series is powered by the Marvell 88SS9174-BKK2. This makes them far less unique than the previous Intel drives, considering that Crucial and Corsair use the same controller. It's believed that Intel picked the Marvell based on timing, as they simply had nothing ready to compete at the top of the chain.

Even so, Intel will handle its own firmware, so its drives will likely perform differently from other manufacturers' drives. At SATA 6 Gbps, the 250 GB SSD 510 series reportedly hits a peak of 500 MB / s, while the 120 GB we're reviewing today is a bit slower at 450 MB / s. Let's see what these numbers look like …

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