Intel SSD 520 Series Solid State Drive Review

Introduction and Specifications

Intel is launching a brand new line of solid state drives today, built around SandForce’s popular SF-2200 family of storage processors. The new SSD 520 Series solid state drives, as they are known, will supplant the Marvell-based 510 series at the top of Intel’s consumer-targeted SSD lineup and be offered in capacities ranging from 60GB to 480GB.

Like other SandForce SF-2200-based drives, the new Intel SSD 520 series is outfitted with a SATA III interface with sequential reads and writes speeds in the 550MB/s to 520MB/s ranges, respectively. According to their specifications, 4K random reads peak at around 50K IOPS (QD32), with 4K random writes hovering around 80K IOPS for the 240GB model (lower capacity drives, offer somewhat lower performance).

In terms of their specifications and features, the Intel SSD 520 series drives should look similar to other SandForce-based counterparts. Intel has, however, worked a bit magic with the SSD 520 Series’ firmware to improve performance, reliability, and compatibility. To that end, the controller has also been paired to selectively-binned 25nm NAND flash memory which reportedly offers optimal performance and longevity as well.

Intel SSD 520 Seriess Solid State Drives
Specifications & Features
Capacity: 60/120/180/240/480 GB

Intel 25nm NAND Flash Memory
Multi-Level Cell (MLC)

Form Factor: 2.5-inch

Thickness: 7 mm and 9.5 mm
7 mm: 120/180/240 GB
9.5 mm: 60/120/180/240/480 GB

Weight: Up to 78 grams

SATA 6Gb/s Bandwidth Performance
(Iometer Queue Depth 32)
Sustained Sequential Read: Up to 550 MB/s
Sustained Sequential Write: Up to 520 MB/s
Read and Write IOPS1
(Iometer Queue Depth 32)
Random 4 KB Reads: Up to 50,000 IOPS
Random 4 KB Writes: Up to 80,000 IOPS2

Latency (average sequential)
Read: 80 ?s (TYP)
Write: 85 ?s (TYP)

Data Compression

AES 256-bit Encryption

End-to-End Data Protection

Power Management
5 V SATA Supply Rail
SATA Link Power Management (LPM)

Active (MobileMark 2007 Workload):
850 mW (TYP)
Idle: 600 mW (TYP)
Intel SSD Toolbox with Intel SSD Optimizer
Intel Data Migration Software
Intel Rapid Storage Technology
Intel 6 Series Express Chipsets (with SATA 6Gb/s)
SATA Revision 3.0
SSD-enhanced SMART ATA feature set
Native Command Queuing (NCQ) 
Data Set Management Command
Trim attribute 

Operating: 0o C to 70o C
Non-Operating: -55o C to 95o C

Uncorrectable Bit Error Rate (UBER):
< 1 sector per 1016 bits read
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF):
1,200,000 hours

Shock (operating and non-operating):
1,500 G/0.5 msec

Operating: 2.17 GRMS (5-700 Hz)
Non-operating: 3.13 GRMS (5-800 Hz)

Certifications and Declarations:
Microsoft WHQL

Product Ecological Compliance

The Intel SSD 520 series drives sport the same 2.5” form factor that’s common with other SATA solid state drives on the market. In fact, the drives look virtually identical to Intel’s older SSD 510 and 320 series products, save for the decal on top. We should also point out that SSD 520 series drives will be offered in both 7mm (120GB – 240GB) and 9.5mm z-height flavors.

Intel SSD 520 Series 240GB Solid State Drive

Crack an Intel SSD 520 series drive open by removing the four screws around its edge and the goodies that lie within are immediately visible. As we’ve mentioned, the SSD 520 series is built around one of SandForce’s popular controllers—the SF-2281 to be exact.


Paired to the SF-2281 in the 240GB drive you see pictured here are sixteen Intel 25nm synchronous NAND flash memory chips, eight on each side. The total NAND capacity on this drive is actually 256GB (16x16GB), the remaining 16GB is provisioned for wear leveling, garbage collection, and other SandForce proprietary features to ensure long-term reliability and more consistent performance.

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