Lower prices define new Intel 330 Series SSD

Just over two months after introducing its 520 Series SSD, Intel is back with a new model based on the same SandForce SF-2281 controller. The 330 Series retains the 6Gbps Serial ATA interface and 25-nm NAND of its big brother but sacrifices a few perks and a little performance to hit lower price points.

As it does with CPUs, Intel sorts the NAND dies that roll off its production line. The chips that make up the 330 Series are a lower speed and endurance grade than what's used in the 520 Series. Intel says the NAND still meets its five-year endurance requirements for typical desktop workloads. However, the 330 Series gets only three years of warranty coverage, two fewer than the 520 and 320 Series.

The 330 Series has other limitations, including a range of capacities that tops out at just 180GB. Only the largest model employs SandForce's RAID-like NAND redundancy scheme, which isn't included on the 60 and 120GB drives. Here's how the three stack up against each other:

Capacity Max sequential (MB/s) Max random (IOps) Price
Read Write Read Write
60GB 500 400 12,000 20,500 $89
120GB 500 450 22,500 33,000 $149
180GB 500 450 42,000 52,000 $234

When compared to the performance specifications for the 520 Series, the new value line is 9-20% slower. However, the 330 Series represents a definite improvement over the 320 Series, which is based on Intel's 3Gbps controller technology. That family's only matching capacity is a 120GB model with much lower sequential performance ratings: 270MB/s for reads and just 130MB/s for writes. The 320 Series drive also has a lower random write rate, although its random read rate is actually higher. Interestingly, Intel says the 330 Series won't replace the 320 line; the latter is purportedly very popular in servers.

For as long as we've been talking to Intel about SSDs, the firm has discussed its plans to drive down prices. The 330 Series is the next step, and it certainly looks like a potential bargain. Those are "suggested channel" prices in the table above, so we'll have to see what happens when drives pop up at online retailers. We shouldn't have to wait long; Intel tells us the 330 Series will be available starting today.

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