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Intel SSD 730 480GB Full Review - Overclocked Data Center SSD for the Enthusiast

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: SSD 730, ssd, Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel launched their first consumer SSD more than five years ago. Their very first SSD, the X25-M, might have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but once the initial bugs were worked out, it proved to be an excellent example of what a 3Gb/sec SATA SSD was capable of. While the competition was using 4 or 8 flash channels, Intel ran circles around them with their 10-channel controller. It was certainly a great concept, and it most definitely had legs. The very same controller, with only minor tweaks, was able to hold its own all the way through into the enterprise sector, doing so even though the competition was moving to controllers capable of twice the throughput (SATA 6Gb/sec).

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The various iterations featuring Intel's 10-channel controller, spanning the 20GB cache SSD (left), original X25M and X25-E (center), and  finally X25-M G2, SSD 320, and SSD 710 (right).

While the older controller was extremely nimble, it was bottlenecked by a slower interface than the competition, who had all moved to the more modern SATA 6Gb/sec link. Intel also moved into this area, but not with their own native controller silicon. The SSD 510 launched in 2011 equipped with a Marvell controller, followed by the SSD 520, launched in 2012 with a SandForce controller. While Intel conjured up their own firmware for these models, their own older and slower controller was still more nimble and reliable than those other solutions, proven by the fact that the SSD 710, an enterprise-spec SSD using the older 10-channel controller, was launched in tandem with the consumer SSD 510.

Fast forward to mid-2013, where Intel finally introduced their own native SATA 6Gb/s solution. This controller dropped the channel count to a more standard figure of 8, and while it did perform well, it was only available in Intel's new enterprise 'Data Center' line of SSDs. The SSD DC S3500 and SSD DC S3700 (reviewed here) were great drives, but they were priced too high for consumers. While preparing that review, I remember saying how that controller would be a great consumer unit if they could just make it cheaper and tune it for standard workloads. It appears that wish has just been granted. behold the Intel SSD 730:

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Continue reading our review of the Intel SSD 730!!

Lets jump right into the specs:

Specifications:

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These specs look very similar to Intel's Data Center drives, and for good reason. Intel tells us the SSD 730 is based on an overclocked version of the DC S3500. Yup, you heard me correctly, I said overclocked and SSD in the same sentence. In the DC S3500, the NAND flash communicates on an 83 MHz bus. In the SSD 730, Intel has pushed that figure to 100 MHz. They've also dialed the controller itself from 400 to 600 MHz. This was accomplished with a minimal increase in power draw when compared to the Data Center units, but those units were already drawing 5W, which is extremely high for an SSD. By comparison, Intel's original 10-channel unit drew a quarter of a Watt, as does the Samsung 840 series. Marvell draws 0.5W and SandForce 0.8W.

Packaging:

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Our samples came in Intel's standard OEM brown box packaging, but we expect to see some sort of blue box package deal with bracketry and cloning software as well.

February 27, 2014 | 03:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That lel so gamer skull is killing me.

February 27, 2014 | 03:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I like the Intel Skull logo! They haven't used it on a lot of things outside their desktop boards, but I think it's awesome.

February 27, 2014 | 04:24 PM - Posted by Esso (not verified)

Allyn, your reviews are the bee's knees. <3's

February 27, 2014 | 05:52 PM - Posted by eddie (not verified)

So can I OC this drive past what intel has already done. I would like that.

February 28, 2014 | 11:15 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Nope. I wouldn't want to push this any further. Intel can guarantee no data loss due to the overclock but only at as high as they have chosen to clock it. 

February 28, 2014 | 12:28 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks Allen. Count me still in the same boat with firmware should be solid out of the box *cough* OCZ *cough* where flashing shouldn't be necessary, and overclocking storage solutions being a bad idea.

Enthusiasts may find some fun out of this, but I can't get it out of my head that its just a bad idea to do it on storage. That's taking overclocking a little too far lol.

February 28, 2014 | 11:14 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

You're right in that SSDs with user selectable over clocks are a bad idea and would be difficult to implement well / safely. As such, Intel chose to set these overclock speeds from the factory. They are not adjustable. It also means those speeds are covered by the same 5 year warranty. 

February 28, 2014 | 01:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Actually I tend to trust Intel as far as the overclocking goes. I don't mind this, no different than overclocking anything else. Then again, I may be wrong. The Intel of today is not quite in the same position as the Intel of 10 years ago. Who's to say they aren't willing to gamble a bit.

March 1, 2014 | 04:19 PM - Posted by G5 (not verified)

Crucial M500 480GB

March 1, 2014 | 10:54 PM - Posted by PhoneyVirus

Really at 122F that is kinda warm, three years from now if that the drive will be dead. That's of course depending on the amount of tear the cells go through before then.

Nevertheless nice review and still thinking about the Samsung EVO 256GB for the new system build.

Also where did you get that Digital Infrared Thermometer?

March 3, 2014 | 02:59 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Harbor Freight :)

March 2, 2014 | 02:12 AM - Posted by CrisisHawk

At 16:58 in the video, why did Ryan say the most popular SSDs are "unfortunately" the 840 evo? I was under the impression that that was a pretty good drive, what is wrong with it?

March 3, 2014 | 02:58 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Not a thing! It's 'unfortunate' for the SSD 730.

March 10, 2014 | 08:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not to be mean here ... but I am trying to decide on this vs. an 840 evo. Why would I buy this when the spec's are better on an evo and the price is much lower? It seems like such a price hike for a 730 for marginally better performance. Or am I completely missing something?

March 17, 2014 | 04:36 PM - Posted by ExploitedPixels (not verified)

So - it wouldn't advisable to put this in an Icy Dock? It would have a fan on the side of it and I had planned on getting this drive. but the heat is a little worrisome.

March 29, 2014 | 02:17 AM - Posted by sarasota (not verified)

Well it think Mobile data centers offers numerous benefits over regular data centers such as makeshift storage, disaster management, colocation alternative, and competitive costs. source .. http://www.cloudwedge.com/

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