|Intel SSD 520 Series Solid State Drive|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Storage|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Monday, 06 February 2012|
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Closer Look: Intel SSD 520 Series
SSDs quickly gained popularity because they work equally well in PC, Linux, or Apple computer systems. Likewise, they easily install into both desktop and notebook platforms without modification. For this article Benchmark Reviews is testing the Intel Solid State Drive 520 Series, which is specified to reach sustained speeds of 550 MB/s for sequential reads and 520 MB/s sequential writes (for 180/240/480GB versions). The 240GB model we received for testing is built using the 25nm Intel-Micron NAND flash components.
Intel offers several capacities for their SSD 520 series of solid state drives: 60/120/180/240/480 GB. Read performance remains 550 MB/s for all capacites, but write specifications increase with capacity: 475 MB/s for 60GB, 500 MB/s for 120GB, and 520 MB/s for 180/240/480. All of the Intel SSD 520 models share the same part numbers with a capacity designator: SSDSC2CW240A3 stands for 240GB.
The Intel SSD 520 Series is best suited for performance-orientated personal computers, but could also work well for SOHO computer workstation systems. Intel 520 SSDs have been designed with a focus on high-performance operational and data transfer speeds, and includes 256-bit encrypted data protection and improved NAND wear-leveling and logevity through their NAND flash compression technology.
The Intel SSD 520 Series is finished with a subtle aluminum chassis that keeps to a minimalist approach. Once installed the SSD is usually hidden away from view, which explains why Intel has remained conservative towards the appearance of their solid state drive. Standard 2.5" drive bay mounting points are pre-drilled and threaded into the SSD chassis, and an included black plastic spacer is attached to the top side of the SSD to enable the Intel 520 Series to fit into notebook computers using SATA drive connections. Both halves of the enclosure are made of metal, with a textured finish on the top panel and flat finish on the bottom.
Standard 2.5" drive bay mounting points are pre-drilled and threaded into the Intel SSD 520 Series chassis, which allows for quick upgrade or addition into any existing notebook and other compact computer system. Using a 3.5" to 2.5" tray adapter, this SD easily installs into ATX desktop computers. The SSD mounting positions matched up to the drive bracket on my notebook computer, and after only a few minutes of upgrading I was booting from a restored Windows 7 System Backup Image with ease.
Unlike sensitive Hard Disk Drive (HDD) storage products, SSDs are nearly impervious to impact damage and do not require (or benefit from) any kind of special vibration dampening or shock-proof enclosures. Intel utilizes a standard two-piece metal enclosure for their 520-series SSDs, which reveals the internal components after removing four small counter-sunk screws located along the sides of this solid state drive. Intel offers a five-year warranty on all SSD 520 Series storage products.
The Intel SSD 520 Series draws from three generations of SSD engineering experience, and uses compute-quality Intel 25nm multi-level cell (MLC) NAND Flash memory manufacturing processes on an architecture that employs 10 parallel NAND flash channels. Native Command Queuing that enables up to 32 concurrent operations empowers the Intel SSD 520 Series to outperform traditional hard disk drives. Minimal write amplification and a unique wear-leveling design improve NAND longevity, and the Intel SSD 520 Series comes pre-configured with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption capabilities when a BIOS-level password has been configured to enable user-unique encryption.
In the next few sections we'll test the Intel SSD 520 Series storage device, comparing this solid state drive to other retail products intended for notebook and desktop installations.