Review Index:

Intel 520 Series SSD Full Review - SandForce on Steroids?

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Conclusion, Pricing, and Final Thoughts



  • Best performing SandForce-driven SSD we've tested to date.
  • Extensive reliability validation testing.
  • 5-year warranty.


  • Low IOPS at low Queue Depths (limitation of SandForce hardware).
  • Intro pricing on the high side.

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The pre-release sample we spotted at a vendor booth at CES.

Pricing and Availability:

First we'll get a few street prices of competitors out of the way:

Force Series 3:

  • 60G   @ $95   ($1.58 / GB) *
  • 90G   @ $120 ($1.33 / GB)
  • 120G @ $170 ($1.42 / GB)
  • 180G @ $250 ($1.39 / GB)
  • 240G @ $315 ($1.31 / GB)
  • 480G @ $680 ($1.42 / GB)

OCZ Vertex 3:

  • 60G   @ $95   ($1.58 / GB)*
  • 90G   @ $160 ($1.78 / GB)*
  • 120G @ $190 ($1.58 / GB)*
  • 240G @ $375 ($1.56 / GB)*
  • 480G @ $850 ($1.77 / GB)*

* a few models have rebates going, making them even cheaper.

...and now for the Intel 520 Series pricing (MSRP):

  • 60G   @ $149 ($2.48 / GB)
  • 120G @ $229 ($1.91 / GB)
  • 180G @ $369 ($2.05 / GB)
  • 240G @ $509 ($2.12 / GB)
  • 480G @ $999 ($2.08 / GB)

While we only have Intel's MSRP's to go on at the moment, it's clear that they have a long way to drop to compete with the likes of the OCZ Vertex 3 - a drive that nips at its heels performance-wise.

* Firmware *:

SandForce controllers had a 'BSOD bug' which would cause intermittent dropouts and in extreme cases would cause the SSD to become permanently unresponsive (i.e. brick) when used in some specific hardware configurations.

Intel was asked about this issue directly, and they stated it was found and squashed early in their rounds of validation testing.

Final Thoughts:

Intel appears to be making a habit out of adopting other SSD controllers and revamping their firmware to make them their own. From what we've seen today, they are indeed very good at it. This is the best performance we've seen out of SandForce hardware paired with IMFT Synchronous flash. Intel has also guaranteed their workmanship with a 5-year warranty - higher than the 3-year warranty provided by much of the competition. Unfortunately the delays in getting the 520 Series to market have given ample time to the competition, and newer controller tech now exists (Indilinx Everest). The only remaining chance Intel has at once again completely dominating the whole segment lies with Taylorsville, but Intel currently has that line slated for the Enterprise. Here's hoping some of that tech trickles down into their mainstream products down the line.

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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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