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Intel 520 Series SSD Full Review - SandForce on Steroids?

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Internals, Testing Methodology and System Setup

Internals:

Opening the standard Intel housing we find the guts.

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A thermal pad seems out of place, but it's necessary as the SandForce controller draws ~5x the power as compared to the super-efficient Intel controllers. Even with the added power draw, it remains lower than spinning disks. Intel claims a 5-10 minute difference in battery depletion time on a typical 15" notebook.

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Blowing up the controller side of the PCB we see Intel has went with their own PCB design.

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At the rear we see another set of 8 TSOP's.

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Comparing with the 320 Series (left) and 510 Series (right), the only thing common to these models is the Synchronous IMFT flash memory and the Intel label.

Testing Methodology

Our tests are a good mix of synthetic and real-world benchmarks. PCMark, IOMeter, HDTach, HDTune, Yapt and our custom File Copy test round out the selection to cover just about all bases. If you have any questions about our tests just drop into the Storage Forum and we'll help you out! 

Test System Setup

We're breaking in a new Sandy Bridge test bed. Necessary for properly testing these new drives, even with the known issues. To get around this, we are using only the Intel SATA 6Gb/sec ports, which are known to not exhibit the inconsistent performance / connectivity issues. 

PC Perspective would like to thank ASUS, Corsair, and Kingston for supplying some of the components of our test rig. 

Hard Drive Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i5-2500K
Motherboard Asus P8Z68-V Pro
Memory Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR3-2133 CL9
Hard Drive G.Skill 32GB SLC SSD
Sound Card N/A
Video Card Intel® HD Graphics 3000
Video Drivers Intel
Power Supply Corsair CMPSU-650TX
DirectX Version DX9.0c
Operating System Windows 7 X64
  • PCMark05
  • Yapt
  • IOMeter
  • HDTach
  • HDTune
  • PCPer File Copy Test
February 6, 2012 | 02:06 PM - Posted by Adam (not verified)

They command a 20% Price premium vs competitor's products. not a good buy in my opinion. I just upgraded my system with a 64GB OCZ synapse cache drive. And I am happy and set. BF3 level load fast!

February 6, 2012 | 05:39 PM - Posted by PCPerFan (not verified)

Is it worth upgrading from my 160GB X-25M?

February 6, 2012 | 09:31 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

hmm, i dunno. IMO, a SSD upgrade from an SSD is kind of a hard sell :P If you have the money and don't know what else to spend it on, sure it'll be faster but won't be as large of a jump in performance as the jump from a hard drive to that X-25M was.

December 1, 2012 | 12:20 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

There is a fatal flaw in these drives.

If the ATA password is lost there is NO way to reset the drive and it is bricked with no hope!

Unlike other FDE drives, you CANNOT secure erase or reset the password or drive to the factory null state. Worse yet, if you do try to secure erase these drives, the ATA password will be lost and again the drive is dead.

Nobody knows why Intel made this fatal mistake, but they did.

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