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Intel Solid State Drive 335 Series SSD Review
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Date: Nov 07, 2012
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

The solid state storage market has rapidly evolved over the last four years or so. Whereas early drives were relatively slow and offered inconsistent performance, current high-end drives routinely approach the limits of the SATA interface and off much better performance, both in terms of sequential and random IO operations. Over the same time period, solid state drives have also gotten significantly more affordable. It wasn’t that long ago that sought-after SSDs were commanding $3-4 a gigabyte. Now though, a quality, brand name, high performance SSD can be had for less than $1 a gigabyte.

Much of the price reduction in the SSD market is due to fierce competition among companies vying for storage dollars, but it’s also due to the use of more advanced, cheaper to produce NAND flash memory. The drive we’ll be showing you here today, the recently released Intel SSD 335, supports that fact. The Intel SSD 335 is the company’s first drive to ship with NAND flash memory produced using a 20nm process. Intel claims the drive “uses the smallest, most efficient multi-level cell NAND flash on the market”. The flash memory used on the Intel SSD 335 was jointly developed my Intel’s and Micron’s IM Flash Technologies (IMFT) and was announced last April, but is now ready for prime time in a drive targeting the sweet spot of the enthusiast and DIY market.


Intel SSD 335 Series
Specifications & Features
Model Name Intel Solid-State Drive 335 Series
Capacity 240GB
NAND Flash Memory 20nm Intel NAND Flash Memory Multi-Level Cell (MLC)
Bandwidth Sustained Sequential Reads up to: 500 MB/s
Sustained Sequential Writes up to: 450 MB/s
Random IOPS (4KB) Reads up to: 42,000 IOPS
Writes up to: 52,000 IOPS
Interface SATA 6Gb/s, compatible with SATA 3Gb/s
Form Factor, Height and Weight 2.5 inch, 9.5mm, up to 78 grams
Life Expectancy 1.2 million hours Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)
Power Consumption Active: 350 mW Typical
Idle: 275 mW Typical
Operating Temperature 0°C to 70°C
RoHS Compliance Meets the requirements of European Union (EU) RoHS Compliance Directives
Software Tools Intel Solid-State Drive Toolbox with Intel SSD Optimizer at www.intel.com/go/ssdtoolbox
Intel Data Migration Software at www.intel.com/go/ssdinstallation

The Intel SSD 335 looks much like many of Intel’s current solid state drives. It conforms to the 2.5” form factor with 9.5mm Z-Height so prevalent among consumer SSDs and uses the familiar silver enclosure we’ve seen on so many other Intel-branded drives.

 

According to its specifications, the Intel 335 SSD offers up to 500MB/s sequential reads and 450 MB/s sequential writes over its SATA 6Gbps interface, with up to 42,000 4K read IOPS and 4K writes up to 52,000 IOPS. If specs like those look somewhat familiar, it’s because they’re in line with other solid state drives built around LSI's popular SandForce SF-2281 controller.

 


The Intel SSD 335's SandForce controller and 20nm IMFT MLC NAND

It’s the new NAND inside the Intel SSD 335 that’s the star of the show here. Historically, as flash memory is produced on smaller and smaller process nodes, reliability is a larger concern. According to Intel, however, the 20nm IMFT MLC NAND used in this drive has a new cell structure that enables more aggressive cell scaling than conventional architectures. The 20nm 64Gb NAND uses a new planar cell structure that results in performance and reliability that is on par with the previous 25nm generation of NAND memory. The planar cell structure reportedly overcomes the scaling constraints of the standard NAND floating gate cell by integrating the first Hi-K/metal gate stack in NAND production. We obviously won’t know what long term reliability actually looks like for a while, but the drive carries a 3 year warranty and has the same endurance specifications as the SSD 330 series, which uses 25nm NAND.

The particular drive you see pictured above is a 240GB model, but it is actually outfitted with 256GB of flash memory. The remaining 16GB is provisioned for wear leveling, garbage collection, and other proprietary features to ensure long-term reliability and more consistent performance. Like other Intel SSDs, the drive also comes bundled with a few extras, including a 2.5” to 3.5” adapter tray, power and SATA cables, mounting screws, documentation, and a “Speed Demon” decal to show your friends what your system is packing.

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC

Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a standard spinning hard disk for the OS and benchmark installations. Out testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI (or RAID) mode was enabled. The SSDs were left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-2600K

Asus P8Z6-V Pro
(Z68 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

4GB Kingston DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

WD Raptor 150GB (OS Drive)
Samsung SSD 830 (256GB)
OCZ Vertex 3 (480GB)
Corsair Force GT (240GB)
Crucial M4 (256GB)
OCZ Octane (512GB)
Intel SSD 335 (240GB)
OCZ Vertex 4 (256GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 x64
Intel 9.2.0.1030, iRST 10.5.1027
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 275.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v4.61
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.01 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2011

IOMeter
I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

As we've noted in previous SSD articles, though IOMeter is clearly a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real-world performance for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a reliable gauge for relative available throughput within a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you can't with most other storage benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our custom Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and IOMeter's default access pattern of 2K transfers, 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.

The Intel SSD 335 put up some very good scores in our IOMeter tests. The Intel 335  performed similarly to other SandForce-based solid state drives, including Intel's own 520 series product.

In terms of bandwidth, IOMeter had the new Intel 335 series SSD outpacing the Intel 520 series drive by a couple of megabytes per second with both access patterns, putting the drive near the top of the charts.

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SiSoft SANDRA 2012
Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

SiSoft SANDRA 2012
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

The new Intel 335 series solid state drive also performed very well in the SiSoft SANDRA physical disk benchmark. In this test, the Intel 335 finished right on top of the Corsair Force GT, but bested every other drive we tested.

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ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w


According to the ATTO Disk Benchmark, the Intel 335 series SSD is a middling performing with transfer sizes below the 64K mark, but once the transfer sizes increase past that point, the drive's performance improves significantly and it finishes tightly grouped with the others in its class.

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HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v4.61
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com





The Intel 335 series SSD's performance in the HD Tune benchmark is somewhat of a mixed bag. The bandwidth offered by the drive trails other SandForce-based products in terms of peak bandwidth, but access times and utilization are down slightly.

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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests







Our CrystalDiskMark scores look much like the HD Tune results from the previous page. The Intel 335 series SSD offers very good performance but trails the highest-performing drives by a couple of percentage points here. Performance at the higher queue depth, however, is the best of the SandForce-based drives; only the Vertex 4 and Samsung products performed better in the QD32 test.

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AS-SSD Compression Test

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD, an SSD specific benchmark being developed by Alex Intelligent Software. This test is interesting because it uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive. We only graphed a small fraction of the data (1% compressible, 50% compressible, and 100% compressible), but the trend is representative of the benchmark’s complete results.

AS SSD Compression Benchmark
Bring Your Translator: http://bit.ly/aRx11n

Like all SandForce-based solid state drives, performance will vary with the compressibility of the data being transferred to and from the drive due to the controller's architecture. In the read test, all of the drives are bunched very close together. In the write test, however, the SandForce-based drives trail when incompressible data is used.  As the compressibility of the data increases though, so too does performance, and they finish at the top of the charts.

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PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage
http://www.futuremark.com

The Intel 335 series solid state drive offered very good performance in the PCMark 7 secondary storage benchmark, but it trailed overall versus some of the competing drives we tested. The deltas separating the higher-performing drives in this benchmark are quite small, however, especially when you tunnel down and look at the individual test results.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The new Intel SSD 335 series drive is an excellent performer. Like other SandForce-based solid state drives, the Intel SSD 335's performance does vary with the compressibility of the data being transferred, but overall the drive's performance is very good, especially in regard to large sequential transfers and random IO operations are higher queue depths.


 The Intel 335 Series Solid State Drive

Many of Intel’s solid state drive offerings have traditionally been priced at the upper-end of the spectrum. But with the SSD 335 series, pricing is much more competitive. In the lead up to the launch, Intel informed us that they were targeting a price in the $184 range for the 240GB drive we covered here, which puts it at about $0.77 a gigabyte. Actual street pricing at the moment is somewhat higher, however. The Intel SSD 335 is currently priced at about $209, which is still well below a buck a gigabyte and competitive with other drives in its class, but not quite as enticing as their target $184 price.

Regardless, the Intel SSD 335 series drive is an excellent product. Performance was great, it employs some cutting edge technology, and pricing is competitive. Back that up with a 3-year warranty and support from a company like Intel and it’s easy to recommend the Intel SSD 335.

  • Good Performance
  • 3-Year warranty
  • Competitive Pricing

 

  • Not quite as fast as some other SandForce-Based Drives

 



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