Intel 520 ‘Cherryville’ Series 240GB SSD Review in RAID 0

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Final Thoughts & Conclusions

The Intel 520 Series 240GB drive has 223GB available to the user after a roughly 7% spare area is set aside, after Windows takes its cut and you do the GiB to GB shuffle.

Intel 520 240GB Properties

We opened the article talking about how Intel delayed their SandForce SF-2281 “Cherryville” launch for nearly a year to ensure that they had a rock solid custom firmware that would also yield high performance results. If you’re a company the size of Intel and SSDs aren’t your bread and butter, this isn’t a problem. Especially when you already have OEM’s signed up to use your drive in their products. Very few other SSD manufacturers could do the same. It’s interesting to note that during the conference call we attended
with Intel, they stated that 100% of Intel employees have Intel SSDs in
their systems so obviously they have confidence in their products. So how did the 520 Series fare?

Intel 520 240GB Box

From a stability standpoint, we can only judge what we’re able to see during the short time we spent with the drive. We didn’t have any issues and the Intel SSD Toolbox makes it easy to configure the drive and perform maintenance duties. So far so good. On the performance side, we saw the drive meet and exceed the read/write specifications of 550MB/s and 520MB/s on compressible sequential reads/writes respectively. On incompressible data, Intel told us we should see 550MB/s reads and 235MB/s writes and the best we saw were 491MB/s reads and 300MB/s writes. Each set of scores are on par with what we see with other SF-2281 drives with synchronous NAND. So to the question, did Intel put out the fastest SF-2281 drive? It’s among the fastest but didn’t make a clean sweep of best scores in any one test. In RAID mode, speeds definitely made a large jump and it’s certainly an attractive option for those not wanting to mess with the extra drivers and potential compatibility issues with a PCI-E based drive.

Intel 520 240GB Logo

The initial pricing Intel gave us for publication is ‘volume pricing’ based on 1000 unit quantities so it won’t accurately predict the price at retailers. Expect pricing to be higher compared to the volume pricing and retailers will do their usual price inflation until supply catches up to demand which should be strong. Many users have been wary about SSD stability and will probably jump on these drives as Intel is a brand many trust implicitly. The volume pricing shows the 60GB at $149, 120GB at $229, 180GB at $369, 240GB at $509 and 480GB at $999. Along with the drive you get the goodies mentioned on the first page of this article – SATA power and data cables, a 2.5″ to 3.5″ conversion bracket, a CD with instructions and warranty info, and your very own Intel SSD sticker.

Intel 520 240GB 5 Year Warranty

Intel also covers their workmanship on these drive with a very nice 5 year warranty. Many SSDs only carry a 2 or 3 year warranty so this is great to see. That’s one more reason why those that haven’t committed to SSDs for fear of reliability may take the plunge with the 520 Series. Competition breeds excellence and there are a handful of drives that are leading the pack with no clear cut champion. Intel has still yet to release the latest version of their own controller, Marvell controllers are decent, the new Indilinx controllers are just getting out of the gate and building a track record, and Samsung’s latest is pretty darn good as well. It will be interesting how things shake out throughout this year. Until then, the 520 Series is a strong contender and one we highly recommend!

Intel 520 240GB
LR Recommended Award

[UPDATE: Intel announced on June 11, 2012 that the 520 Series drives do not offer 256-bit AES
(Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption, but rather a less secure
128-bit AES encryption. Consumers who have purchased a 520 Series drive
prior to July 1, 2012 can contact Intel customer support (by October 1,
2012) to receive a full refund of the purchase price if they are unhappy
with the encryption performance. Note that this would mostly be laptop
users who have a much greater risk of theft/loss. Note that the impact is not limited to Intel drives.]

Legit Bottom Line: While Intel comes late to the SF-2281 party, their 520 Series SSDs bring a promise of unparalleled reliability and top notch performance that will likely see them fly off store shelves given their already solid reputation.

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