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Intel SSD 730 Series: Enthusiast Class Storage
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Date: Feb 27, 2014
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

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...


Intel SSD 730 Series 480GB Drive

Intel SSD 730 Series Solid State Drives
Specifications & Features

Capacities:
  • 240GB, 480GB
Components:
  • Intel 20nm NAND Flash Memory
  • Multi-Level Cell (MLC)
Form Factors:
  • 2.5 inch
Thickness:
  • 7mm
Weight:
  • Up to 78 grams
SATA 6Gb/s Bandwidth Performance:
  • (Iometer Queue Depth 32, 128KB3 IO)
  • Sustained Seq Read: Up to 550MB/s
  • Sustained Seq Write: Up to 470MB/s
SATA 6Gb/s Read and Write IOPS:
  • (Iometer Queue Depth 32)
  • Random 4KB Reads: Up to 89,000 IOPS
  • Random 4KB Writes: Up to 74,000 IOPS
Latency (average sequential):
  • Read: 50 us (TYP)
  • Write: 60 us (TYP)
Power Management:
  • 2.5 inch: 5V or 12V SATA Supply Rail
Power (5V / 12V):
  • Active: 5.0W / 5.5W
  • Idle: 1.3W / 1.5W
Temperature:
  • Operating: 0° C to 70° C
  • Non-Operating: -55° C to 95° C
Compatibility:
  • Intel SSD Toolbox with Intel SSD Optimizer
  • Intel Data Migration Software
  • Intel Rapid Storage Technology
  • SATA Revision 3.0
  • ACS-2 (ATA/ATAPI Command Set 2)
  • SSD Enhanced SMART ATA feature set
Reliability:
  • Uncorrectable Bit Error Rate (UBER):
  • <1 sector/ 1017 bits reads
  • Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF):
  • 1 Million Hours

Shock (operating and non-operating):
  • 1,000 G/0.5 msec
Endurance:
  • Up to 70GB of writes a day
Vibration:
  • Operating: 2.17 GRMS (5-700 Hz)
  • Non-operating: 3.13 GRMS (5-800 Hz)
Certifications and Declarations:
  • UL, CE, C-Tick, BSMI, KCC, Microsoft WHCK, VCCI, SATA-IO
Product Ecological Compliance:
  • RoHS

Pricing: $239 - 240GB, $469 - 480GB Currently On Amazon


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.

 
Intel SSD 730 Series 480GB Internals

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.
 

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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 separate drive used 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 secure erased prior to testing, and left blank without partitions for some tests, while others required them to be partitioned and formatted, as is 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 -

Storage -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-4770K

Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH
(Z87 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

Intel HD 4600

8GB G.SKILL DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

Corsair Force GT (OS Drive)
AData XPG SX900 (256GB)
SanDisk Extreme II (480GB)
Samsung SSD 840 EVO (250GB)
Intel SSD 730 (480GB x 2)
OCZ Vertex 460 (240GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 8.1 Pro x64
Intel 9.4.0.1027, iRST 12.8.0.1016
DirectX 11

Intel HD 10.18.10.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v5.50
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.0.3 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2014

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 a 4K access pattern with a 4K transfer size, comprised of 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.

Across the board, save for one of the eight configurations tested, the Intel SSD 730 series drive led the pack in IOMeter, with both access patterns. In the 4K tests, specifically, the SSD 730 finished well ahead of its closest competitor.

As you'd expect looking at its IOPS performance, the Intel SSD 730 series drive led the pack in terms of total available bandwidth as well. The OCZ Vector 150 was close behind, but the SSD 730 led the pack nonetheless.
 

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SANDRA and ATTO Disk Benchmark

Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA 2014, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provide the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run on unformatted drives and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

SiSoft SANDRA 2014
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

 

We've added some RAID 0 scores to get your juices flowing a bit, in the rest of the tests you'll see here. According to SANDRA, the SSD 730 trails only the SanDisk Extreme II drive, by a few MB/s at least. The RAID 0 config, obviously blew everything else out of the water.

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

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.

In the ATTO Disk Benchmark, the Intel SSD 730 offered competitive read speeds regardless of transfer size, though it did trail slightly once the transfer size exceeded 64K. In the write test, however, the SSD 730 put up the best scores from 4K to 4K and then remained competitive with the rest of the drives throughout the rest of the tests. And yes, those are transfer speeds in excess of 1GB/s with the Intel SSD 730 RAID 0 setup.
  

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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 v5.50
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com

HD Tune did not like the Intel SSD 730 RAID 0 configuration, which put up some abysmal numbers here. The single drive setup, however, was competitive in read performance throughout and put up the best access times. In the write tests though, the Intel SSD 730 offered middling performance here.
 

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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

The Intel SSD 730 put up some very strong numbers in all of the various CrystalDiskMark tests. It led the pack in the 4K and 512K transfer tests and remained competitive in the others as well. And with the exception of the 4K transfer test, the RAID 0 scores were in a class of their own.
 

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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


The Intel SSD 730 offered the most consistent performance we've seen in this test. Regardless of the compressibility of the data, the SSD 730 offered the same performance across the board.
 
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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 SSD 730 finished right in the middle of the pack in the PCMark 7 storage benchmark, but you can consider this one a tie for all intents and purposed. The deltas separating the drives fall well within the margin of error for this test.
 

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The new Intel SSD 730 series solid state drive is an excellent performer. In most of the tests we ran, the drive put up some of the best scores we’ve seen from a SATA SSD. And in the tests where it didn’t lead the pack, the Intel SSD 730 still remained competitive. The drive offered the highest scores in IOMeter, especially with 4K random transfers. It offered class-leading sequential read speeds, and the drive’s performance remains consistent regardless of the compressibility of the data being transferred. The Intel SSD 730 also put up some of the best write scores we’ve seen with transfer sizes in the 4K – 64K range. Generally speaking, the Intel SSD 730 performs very well, across the board.


The Intel SSD 730 Series Solid State Drive

We don’t have final street pricing for the Intel SSD 730 series just yet, but we expect it to be priced along with the upper echelon of consumer-targeted, enthusiast-class solid state drives when it hits store shelves (MSRPs for the 240GB and 480GB drives are set for $249 and $489, respectively). As well it should be; this drive offers excellent performance and it build around a proven and reliable controller. We can’t realistically speak to the long-term durability of the drive—especially since we’ve only had it for two days—but Intel’s track record in the SSD space is very good, and we don’t expect any surprised with the SSD 730 series.

Intel expects the SSD 730 series drives to ship around March 18. If you’re in the market for a new, high-end solid state drive, and can wait a couple of weeks, the Intel SSD 730 should absolutely be on your short-list of potentials. The Intel SSD 730 480GB drive we tested is one heck of a nice SSD.

Update - 2/28/14: Intel's new SSD 730 Series just hit Amazon for $239 for the 240GB drive and $469 for the 480GB version drive.

 

  • Strong Performer
  • Proven Technology
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • Not Available Yet
  • Enthusiast Class Pricing



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