Intel SSD 320 Series 300GB Solid State Drive Review
Introduction and Specifications
Intel officially announced the new SSD 320 Series drives yesterday, which feature proprietary Intel SSD controllers paired to cutting edge 25nm NAND flash memory. This new family of drives, however, isn’t geared for ultra-high performance. While still fast, the overarching goals with the Intel SSD 320 series were increased reliability and security. In fact, despite being released after the SSD 510 series which we took a look at a few weeks back, these technically newer 320 series drives do not feature support for the faster SATA III 6Gbps interface and are SATA II 3Gbps only.
We’ve got an Intel SSD 320 series 300GB drive on hand and have run it through a complete suite of tests to gauge its performance versus competing solid state offerings. The full list of features and specifications of Intel’s newest drive are outlined below, along with some technical details and a few close-up shots of its internals. Take a close look at the pics and you’ll notice the new SSD 320 series drive we tested actually has something major in common with the X25-M that was first released in 2008.
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The Intel SSD 320 Series 300GB Drive
Here she is. The new Intel SSD 320 series drive in the flesh, so to speak. Externally, the drive looks very similar to the X25-M G2. The two share the same enclosure and curved decal design. Crank the drive open though and things look a little different. Inside the 300GB drive we tested were twenty NAND flash devices, for a total capacity of 320GB (the extra capacity is used for over-provisioning), along with an Intel SSD controller and some low-power Hynix DRAM. Note that the Intel controller used in this drive is actually the same one used in the G2. With the SSD 320 series though, Intel has completely re-worked the drives firmware and configured the NAND in such a way to expose all of the performance of the controller, which is now capable of up to 270MB/s reads and 220MB/s writes. That’s a huge step up from the 220MB / 100MB of the G2.
In addition to increasing the performance of the SSD 320 series over the G2, Intel has also incorporated a few new features to enhance reliability and security. Along with using the over-provisioned space to minimize write amplification and for wear-leveling and other drive maintenance, part of it is also used to store parity data to help prevent data loss in the event of a partial or full NAND device failure. The drive also has an array of capacitors that will supply a bit of power in the event of an outage so the drive can flush its cache and complete and pending write operations. The Intel SSD 320 series drive also offers AES encryption to help protect user data.
While discussing the features of the SSD 320 series, Intel was also keen to talk about the reliability of their drives and the work that was done to ensure the SSD 320 series was their most reliable drive yet. One of the slides above shows the miniscule failure rate of Intel’s solid state drive offerings in a variety of deployment scenarios. Intel hopes the SSD 320 series drives, despite the fact that they use 25nm NAND flash which is more prone to failures than 34nm NAND (as process geometries go down, NAND is more prone to errors), will be their most reliable yet. Of course, we won’t know until the drives have been shipping in volume for some time, if this turns out to be the case, but reliability was clearly a strong focus for Intel with this series of drives.