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Intel 311 Solid State Drive SSDSA2VP020G2E E-mail
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Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Intel 311 Solid State Drive SSDSA2VP020G2E
Intel SSD Larson Creek
Features and Specifications
SSD Testing Methodology
AS-SSD Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
CrystalDiskMark 3.0 Tests
Iometer IOPS Performance
EVEREST Disk Benchmark
HDD vs Hybrid Drive vs SSD
Intel SSD Larson Creek Conclusion

Intel SSD Larson Creek Conclusion

IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.

Since many visitors tend to gloss over the review details and skip directly to the conclusion, I will take this opportunity to remind readers that the Intel 311 Series 20GB Larson Creek Solid State Drive SSDSA2VP020G2E is designed as a cache drive for Intel Smart Response Technology and not intended as a standalone storage device. Despite this intended purpose, Benchmark Reviews understands the need to answer performance questions for our curious enthusiast audience with head-to-head comparison SSD tests.

As a standalone product, our performance rating considers how effective the Intel 311 Series solid state drive performs in operations against direct competitor storage solutions. For reference, specifications for the 20GB Larson Creek model SSDSA2VP020G2E suggest 200 MB/s maximum reads and 105 MB/s writes. In our SSD benchmark tests, the Intel 311 SSD performed at or above these ratings. Our test results proved the Intel 311 was good for delivering 204/114 MBps peak read and writes speeds using ATTO Disk Benchmark SSD speed tests. Transfer speeds were generally high, but were overshadowed by some of the latest competitor SSDs such as those from SandForce.

The 20GB Intel 311 Series SSD sent us for testing is specified as capable of 37,000 maximum read and 3300 write IOPS, however it is unclear what method was used to determine these numbers. In our own Iometer operational performance tests using a queue depth of 32 outstanding I/O's per target, the Intel 311 SSD delivered IOPS performance topping 12,136 read and 12,135 write for a combined total of 24,271 IOPS. In this particular test, the Intel 311 SSD actually outperformed most other SATA 3Gb/s storage devices. In the 4K 32QD tests with AS-SSD and CrystalDiskMark, the Intel 311 Series SSD performed well enough to compete with other high-performance consumer storage devices. With the results we've received in our tests, hardware enthusiasts can expect excellent operational performance for demanding applications and extreme I/O environments.

Solid State Drives are low-visibility products: you see them just long enough to install and then they're forgotten. Like their Hard Disk Drive counterparts, Solid State Drives are meant to place function before fashion. Anything above and beyond a simple metal shell is already more than what's expected in terms of the appearance. Intel uses a textured metal finish on the Larson Creek SSD, with a branding label on the top for identification. As solid state storage controllers become faster and more advanced, heat dissipation through the enclosure walls may demand that chassis designs become more beneficial than they previously needed to be. This isn't the case yet, and a smooth metal chassis suits modern SSDs nicely.

Construction is probably the strongest feature credited to the entire SSD product segment, and Intel products have never offered any exception. Solid State Drives are by nature immune to most abuses, but add to this a hard metal shell and you have to wonder what it would take to make this drive fail. If any Intel 311 Series SSD product fails during the limited 3-year warranty period, end-users can contact customer support.

As of February 2012, Intel's 20GB Larson Creek 311-Series SSD costs $119.49 (Newegg). As soon as this SSD reaches retail shelves, we'll update this article with links to their online prices.

All on its own, the Intel 311 SSD actually performs fairly well considering it was designed to be a caching drive for Intel Smart Response Technology systems. If you're curious about the performance of this setup, we've got the results published here. Since this is a 20GB storage device, it's hard to imagine many people using it for a primary drive, but our tests show that it's certainly capable. Still, even the most storage-conservative PC user will agree that an Intel 311 SSD paired to a high-capacity hard drive using Intel SRT is the way to go. Let's hope people are willing to give it a try.

Benchmark Reviews invites you to leave constructive feedback below, or ask questions in our Discussion Forum.

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# willingRealNeil 2011-05-12 10:38
I'm willing to give this a try. I think that Intel is in the process of hitting one out of the park with this new implementation of Hybrid drives.
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# Competitors?Olle P 2011-05-12 23:21
"... our performance rating considers how effective the Intel 311 Series solid state drive performs in operations against direct competitor storage solutions."

This doesn't really hold true, in my opinion. Valid competitors should only be those available at $120 or less, since Larson Creek (shortened "LC" below) is designed for low price. That leaves us with the Lite-On SSD, which doesn't appear in many tests, and the HDD based storages.
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Now, if instead of looking at it as a stand-alone unit I prefer validating it as used for SRT.
- Due to the nature of SRT a minimum requirement to make SRT faster than using the HDD alone is that the SSD used is considerably faster than the HDD in reading data, and *at least* as fast in writing data.
- SRT is also supposed to be a way to improve performance at a low cost, so any SSD used should be very affordable to purchase. Total price is far more relevant than the price/storage ratio.

SSDs based on MLC follow the rule that "more is merrier", meaning that the bigger the storage the faster it becomes. (As I've understood it the theoretical bandwidth is somewhat proportional to the number of storage chips, since they to some extent work in parallel.) Therefore low capacity MLC SSDs are not only cheap, but also very slow. Depending on many factors the write speed might drop to, and possibly below, that of HDDs.
SLC, as used in LC, is considerably more expensive per storage volume, but (as shown in the tests) doesn't have it's speed depend nearly as much on the storage space compared to MLC.
I think that keeping the write speed up was the main reason Intel choose to use SLC instead of MLC for this SSD.

It would be very interesting to see performance comparisons, both as stand-alone and in use with SRT, between LC and cheap MLC drives in the about $100 and 32-64GB region. Will LC outperform a cheaper and bigger but slower(?) MLC drive in SRT use?
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# RE: Competitors?David Ramsey 2011-05-13 07:33
Um, no, Olle, the rule (at least for computer memory systems) is "the SMALLER the storage the faster it becomes." If it was true that bigger==faster, then there would be no need for any kind of caching.

As I noted in the article, it's difficult to reliably and repeatedly benchmark caching systems, especially "smart" ones whose internal algorithms are unknown. SImply running the benchmarks in a different order will affect the results.
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# Bigger = more bandwidth.Olle P 2011-05-13 12:06
I'm pretty sure about this.
Not only do several SSD tests where different storage size drives of same model show this, but also the somewhat related RAM on nVidia's graphics cards. Notice the different RAM bus width between GTX460 in the 768 vs 1024MB versions? An added RAM/NAND chip makes for more access.
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# RE: Bigger = more bandwidth.David Ramsey 2011-05-13 19:20
Well, the graphics card thing is putting memory chips together kinda like RAID 0 for hard drives. The speed of the chips isn't any faster, but you're reading from a group of chips simultaneously.
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# RE: Competitors?Olin Coles 2011-05-13 12:17
It actually depends on architecture. The SandForce SSDs generally get faster with capacity, because they reserve more NAND for the integrated buffer. Others rely on separate buffer DRAM, which can either be the same size across the series or grow with capacity. Essentially, there's no rule for size:speed.

As for Olle's remark about fairly comparing to price-similar competitors, he's dismissed that there are several SSDs that offer a better price per gigabyte than the Intel 311. In fact, the Patriot Torqx 2 (which was included in my results) offers a 32GB version for $90.
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# PricingOlle P 2011-05-16 10:38
"...several SSDs that offer a better price per gigabyte than the Intel 311. In fact, the Patriot Torqx 2 (which was included in my results) offers a 32GB version for $90."

I'm well aware that there are plenty of MLC SSDs that offer better price per GB. Most of them are also considerably more than $100 in price.
The Torqx 2 isn't listed on page 4, so it's unclear to me (and all other readers) if it's the 32GB version that's been tested, or if it's another version with different performance.
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# Typo??Sam 2011-05-13 12:32
Quote from the article on page 2 "The Intel 311 Series SSD is intended to be partnered with a high-capacity hard disk drive, using Intel Smart Response Technology with any Intel 6-Series desktop chipset: Z68, HM67, QM67."

HM67 and QM67 are notebook chipsets. Or did you mean to write H67 and Q67?
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# RE: Typo??Olin Coles 2011-05-13 12:36
The models that Intel specifies in their press document are: Z68, HM67, QM67.
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# actuallyRonob 2011-05-18 16:37
Actually SSD does get faster as it gets bigger .. simply because the smaller SSD are only reading from say four nand chips twice rather than eight nand chips once. Its the number of channels that slows the smaller SSD down. IN fact what you notice is the write speed that suffers much more so than the read speed (it does suffer, but to a much lesser extent). so olle p is right.
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# RE: actuallyOlin Coles 2011-05-18 16:40
You presume that all SSDs use the same architecture, and that all SSDs of larger capacity use more channels than models of a smaller capacity. See the recent SandForce chips for reference.
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