The solid state storage market continues to bristle with activity. Over the last couple of weeks, we have shown you two hot new SSDs from OCZ—the Vertex 3 and the Vertex 3 Pro--that offer stellar performance, thanks in no small part to their next-gen SandForce SF-2000 series controllers with native SATA 6Gbs support. And now, it is Intel’s turn to make a little noise in the space with new drives that boast similar SATA 6Gbps support.
To coincide with the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and the Intel Solution Summit that took place in Las Vegas this past week, Intel announced its brand new Solid State Drive 510 Series products. The new 510 Series SSDs build upon Intel’s successful X-25M series of solid state drives by offering native support for SATA 6Gbs interface speeds, with maximum reads in the 500MB/s range and write speeds of approximately 315MB/s—huge improvements over the previous generation. The features and specifications for the first two drives that will initially comprise the 510 Series line-up are as follows:
Capacity: 120 GB, 250 GB
SATA 6Gb/s Sustained Bandwidth Performance
Read and Write IOPS
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF):
The Intel Solid State Drive 510 Series will be outfitted with 34nm Intel MLC NAND flash memory when introduced, although there’s a possibility future iterations will use newer, more advanced 22nm Intel NAND flash. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the drives will not be equipped with an Intel proprietary SSD controller, but rather a controller from Marvell, the 88SS9174 to be specific. This is the same controller that will be used in Micron's upcoming C400 series of drives and it's the same one used in Corsair's Performance 3 series products too.
It was somewhat surprising to hear that Intel wouldn't be using an Intel proprietary controller in this new series of drives, but the company has an explanation. In a Q&A document provided by Intel, they had this to say regarding the choice to use a third-party controller in their latest SSDs: “When Intel introduced its breakthrough SSD product line in 2008, the SSD controllers available did not meet Intel’s requirements, therefore Intel chose to develop its own proprietary controller in order to create a world-class line of compute quality SSDs. Since that time, third-party controller technology has improved considerably. Intel will consider using a third-party controller when it meets the needs of the product and Intel specifications and validation. In this case, we chose to use a third-party controller which met our needs.”
Intel's 510 Series solid state drives will initially be available in two capacities: 120GB and 250GB. The drive you see pictured here is the 250GB model. It uses the typical 2.5" form factor that's become commonplace in the mainstream SSD space and the internals are encased in a rigid, aluminum enclosure. With the drive disassembled, you can see the 16 34nm Intel MLC NAND flash memory chips, the Marvel 88SS9174 controller, and a 128MB Hynix DDR3 SDRAM which is used for caching purposes.
Something the pictures don't convey is the firmware used on the drive. While there's nothing stopping other SSD manufacturers from using essentially the same set of components to build and SSD with similar specifications, the work Intel has done to the firmware on the 510 Series SSD will differentiate it from other drives. The 510 Series SSDs will also likely benefit from Intel's compatibility testing and qualification process. So while the 510 Series isn't rife with proprietary Intel technology from the controller on up, it will ultimately differ from other products that may use similar components.