Intel has established a strong record in the solid state storage space, dating all the way back to 2008 with its debut of the excellent X25-M series of drives. Back then, Intel upped the ante in enthusiast-targeted solid state storage, and they want to do it again with the drive we’ll be showing you here today, the upcoming Intel SSD 730.
The new Intel SSD 730 will be the company’s latest flagship consumer-targeted SSD. The drive, however, features technology gleaned from Intel’s experience in data centers, and is actually quite similar to the DC S3500 we reviewed back in June. Intel is doing a few things to set this drive apart, though. The SSD 730’s controller and NAND components are have gone through additional qualification at the factory and the drive’s firmware is tuned for high performance...
Shock (operating and non-operating):
The Intel SSD 730 series will initially be offered in 240GB and 480GB flavors, and in the common 2.5” form factor. We’ve got a couple of 480GB, 2.5” drives on deck for you here. As you can see, the SSD 730 Series’ enclosure looks much like previous Intel-built solid state drives, with the exception of the giant skull on top. The drive’s got a basic, metal case with a 7mm Z-Height, adorned with a couple of decals top and bottom detailing the drive’s capacity and a few specifications. If you’ve seen any of Intel’s recent SSD offerings, the SSD 730 series will undoubtedly look familiar, though the skull does give it a bit more attitude than its siblings.
Inside the SSD 730 series’ enclosure there are few noteworthy items worth pointing out. First, is the controller. The 3rd-gen Intel-built controller used in the drive supports 8 NAND channels and has a native SATA 6Gbps interface. The controller is paired to DDR-3 DRAM cache and there are also a couple of capacitors on-board designed to power the drive just long enough to write any unsaved data to the NAND in the event of a power failure.
The actual flash memory used in the drive is Intel 20nm MLC (Multi-Level Cell) NAND, with total capacities that vary from drive to drive. The 480GB model pictured here is outfitted with a total of 528GB of NAND, with the additional capacity used for wear leveling, bad block replacement and other proprietary and maintenance-related features.
The controller and NAND used in these drives is not new. But Intel is binning the parts used in the SSD 730 series to ensure maximum reliability, high-performance and low latency. To that end, the controller’s clock speed has been boosted by 50% and the NAND is clocked 20% higher as well. You’d think that boosting the clocks might affect the long-term reliability of the drive, but Intel is offering a full 5-year warranty and rating the drive for 70GB writes/day.