Introduction

Every generation of new SSD’s has so far brought increased performance, higher reliability, and lower costs.  When shopping for an SSD it’s important to know what generation the model you’re looking at falls under.  If the price appears to be very attractive, chances are it’s an earlier generation.  This isn’t bad if the price vs. performance is there, but often the latest generation and all it brings with it is available for not much more.  Be wary of marketing where they’re stressing performance compared to other hard drives and not other SSD’s, or where a low price is being stressed.   You should also expect a minimum 3 year warranty.

 

Bangkok Images is a huge believer in SSD’s (solid state drives).  No single upgrade to your current computer, or part for your next computer build, is likely to have as much impact on overall performance as a proper SSD.  In the last few years SSD’s have shown incredible growth in the market where any well spec’d computer will have at least one SSD.  With some imaging and video workstations I build for clients we’ll often use three SSD’s for maximum performance.

SSD’s are coming down in price making them much more affordable than even 6-8 months ago, but they’re still priced where we best recommend them for notebooks and for the system drives on desktop workstations.  There are high capacity storage SSD’s available, but they’re priced prohibitively for the average end user.

 

Every generation of new SSD’s has so far brought increased performance, higher reliability, and lower costs.  When shopping for an SSD it’s important to know what generation the model you’re looking at falls under.  If the price appears to be very attractive, chances are it’s an earlier generation.  This isn’t bad if the price vs. performance is there, but often the latest generation and all it brings with it is available for not much more.  Be wary of marketing where they’re stressing performance compared to other hard drives and not other SSD’s, or where a low price is being stressed.   You should also expect a minimum 3 year warranty.

 

Every generation of new SSD’s has so far brought increased performance, higher reliability, and lower costs.  When shopping for an SSD it’s important to know what generation the model you’re looking at falls under.  If the price appears to be very attractive, chances are it’s an earlier generation.  This isn’t bad if the price vs. performance is there, but often the latest generation and all it brings with it is available for not much more.  Be wary of marketing where they’re stressing performance compared to other hard drives and not other SSD’s, or where a low price is being stressed.   You should also expect a minimum 3 year warranty.

In the recent past it was a rare SSD that provided great performance, high reliability, and all the desired features such as garbage collection (TRIM).  Usually the drive would suffer in one or more areas.  The latest generation utilizing Sandforce controllers have been very good performers.  Now imo, one manufacturer stands alone in bringing that great performance coupled with all the desired features and best of all, extraordinary levels of product validation.  In other words they’ve tested and refined the entire drive including the firmware to be the most reliable on the market.  This is the Intel 520 Series Cherryville SSD’s.  This is the new top dog I recommend for all my performance workstation builds.  Follow along and I’ll tell you why.

 

In the recent past it was a rare SSD that provided great performance, high reliability, and all the desired features such as garbage collection (TRIM).  Usually the drive would suffer in one or more areas.  The latest generation utilizing Sandforce controllers have been very good performers.  Now imo, one manufacturer stands alone in bringing that great performance coupled with all the desired features and best of all, extraordinary levels of product validation.  In other words they’ve tested and refined the entire drive including the firmware to be the most reliable on the market.  This is the Intel 520 Series Cherryville SSD’s.  This is the new top dog I recommend for all my performance workstation builds.  Follow along and I’ll tell you why.

 

 

Intel 520 Series 240gb SSD

The Intel 520 Series Cherryville SSD’s use Intels latest 25nm MLC Nand chips.  The smaller the process node, the less power they consume and the less heat they produce which greatly enhances their life.  They can also run faster.  25nm Nand chips are the smallest available in consumer products.  The 520 series also uses Sandforces well proven SF-2281 controller code named Cherryville which might make you wonder why this controller since others have been using it for a while?  After the small setbacks Intel experienced with the 320 series SSD’s they decided to be more cautious with the 520 series.  The firmware was refined to a very high level and as I’ve already mentioned the validation process has been extraordinary, more by far than any other competing product.  Intel SSD’s have an incidence return rate of only .1% while others hover around 5-9% as calculated by an independent review.

The SATA interface is the new SATA III/6gbps interface which is now supported by most every new motherboard and many of the newest notebooks such as Asus’s excellent Zen Ultrabook.  The case is all aluminum where plastic would be just fine, and Intel backs their 520 Series SSD’s with an industry high 5 years!  They have a very high level of confidence in their new SSD.

 

The box is well packed and includes power adapters so you can use both an SATA or Molex power source, a SATA III/6gbps rated cable, a 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch mounting plate, and the associated hardware.  A complete packaging with all the items you might need for a notebook or desktop installation.

 

The box is well packed and includes power adapters so you can use both an SATA or Molex power source, a SATA III/6gbps rated cable, a 2.5 inch to 3.5 inch mounting plate, and the associated hardware.  A complete packaging with all the items you might need for a notebook or desktop installation.

 

Installation and Performance

Our reviews try not to get too deep on the technical and testing processes, instead we like to focus on what the real world photography enthusiast is interested in rather than the hard core computer enthusiasts.  In this particular build we used a 2700k Intel CPU in an Asus P8Z68 Deluxe Gen 2 motherboard with 3 Sapphire 6770 Flex 4 output video cards mounted in a very clean Lian-li V1020B case which I was building for client who needed a very powerful workstation for day trading.  He needed it to support a minimum of six monitors and he wanted all the power and speed to work in real time.  Building the computer was the easy part, but since day trading is heavily dependent on a very fast broadband connection it’s usually this connection which becomes the weak leak when used from inside Thailand.

Mounted in this state of the art machine with a Western Digital Caviar Black 2tb hard drive for data storage Intel’s newest 520 series SSD is sure to perform optimally.   And of course it runs off an fully updated version of WIndows 7 Ultimate SP1.

 

Our reviews try not to get too deep on the technical and testing processes, instead we like to focus on what the real world camera enthusiast is interested in rather than the hard core computer enthusiasts.  In this particular build we used a 2700k Intel CPU in an Asus Z68 motherboard with 3 Flex 4 output video cards mounted in a very clean Lian-li V1020B case which I was building for client who needed a very powerful workstation for day trading.  He needed it to support a minimum of six monitors and he wanted all the power and speed to work in real time.  Building the computer was the easy part, but since day trading is heavily dependent on a very fast broadband connection it’s usually this connection which becomes the weak leak when used from inside Thailand.

 

Installation was straightforward.  The Lian-li case had four spaces dedicated to 2.5 inch drives and they supplied rubber vibration isolators.  I screwed in the 4 rubber isolators, mounted it in the case, and connected a SATA power connector and a SATA III/6gbps cable to the Intel SATA III/6gbps controller on the motherboard.

The newest motherboards come equipped with both a Intel and Marvell SATA III/6gbps controller.  A common question is which one should you use?  As a rule, use the Intel controller with Intel and Sandforce SSD’s, and the Marvell controller with Marvell controlled SSD’s.  Still, it pays to try both with the different versions of their drivers if you’re after the very best performance.

Out of curiosity I installed this SSD into a modern USB 3.0 case and ran the benchmarks.

 

In the USB 3.0 enclosure the drive returned a rather ordinary combined score of 246.   I use the AS SSD benchmark because I feel it more closely emulates the tasks photographers most commonly use.  246 is okay, but so last generation SSD.   Will it perform better once connected to a SATA III/6gbps controller?

 

 

In the USB 3.0 enclosure the drive returned a rather ordinary combined score of 246.   I use the AS SSD benchmark because I feel it more closely emulates the tasks photographers most commonly use.  246 is okay, but so last generation SSD.   Will it perform better once connected to a SATA III/6gbps controller?

 

WOW!  This is the fastest score I’ve recorded from a SATA based SSD.  Only the PCIe OCZ Revo drives are faster.   If you remember I tested the previous speed king the Crucial C300 during my review here.  The C300 scores a still respectable 643 even though it’s nearly 18 months old.  In my Intel 320 series review that SSD only scored a 358.  The new 520 series provides double the performance of their previous 320 series, and at least double the validation.  This is one hot SSD!

 

750 WOW!  This is the fastest score I’ve recorded from a SATA based SSD.  Only the PCIe OCZ Revo drives are faster.   If you remember I tested the previous speed king the Crucial C300 during my review here.  The C300 scores a still respectable 643 even though it’s nearly 18 months old.  In my Intel 320 series review that SSD only scored a 358.  The new 520 series provides double the performance of their previous 320 series, and at least double the validation.  This is one hot SSD!  For this test we’ll only be using the AS SSD benchmark which you can download here.

 

Summary

 

There’s not a lot to quibble about here.  As of April 2012, the Intel 520 Series 240gb SSD provides the highest level of performance and highest level of reliability validation of any SATA SSD I’m aware of.  It is boxed with all the hardware you might need for a trouble free installation and it’s durable aluminum case is sure to withstand any normal abuse you might throw at it.

 

There’s not a lot to quibble about here.  As of April 2012, the Intel 520 Series 240gb SSD provides the highest level of performance and highest level of reliability validation of any SATA SSD I’m aware of.  It is boxed with all the hardware you might need for a trouble free installation and it’s durable aluminum case is sure to withstand any normal abuse you might throw at it.

 

Intel5209

 

I’ve already installed Intel’s 520 Series 240gb SSD’s in 7 custom workstation builds and every client is thrilled with the performance.  No one has had any trouble at all.  A few clients have got curious and opened their cases to take a look at it and they’ve all said something like “it’s beautiful..”   Well, beauty is often only skin deep, but in the case of the Intel 520 Series 240gb Cherryville SSD beauty runs through and through.   I suspect it will be a good year before a SSD comes on the market which equals all this drive offers.  This is the drive to get now.