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Intel 311 Solid State Drive SSDSA2VP020G2E E-mail
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Written by Olin Coles   
Wednesday, 11 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

It's important to note that the Intel 311 was not designed to be a stand-alone SSD, although it could certainly be used that way if the limited capacity was not an obstacle. 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 chipset: Z68, HM67, QM67. This design promotes improved performance on computer systems for casual/mainstream users, and does so without the risk of losing data to an SSD failure (although hard drive failure should still be a concern).


Because it uses SLC NAND flash construction, the Intel 311 SSD could prove useful in capacity-sensitive personal computers and SOHO computer systems where Intel Smart Response Technology hardware is available. Alternatively, the Intel 311 Series solid state drive also functions as a low-capacity SSD capable of holding the Operating System and installed applications.

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 the black plastic spacer is attached to the top side of the SSD to enable the Intel 311 Series to fit into SATA notebook computers if desired. Both halves of the enclosure are made of steel, with a textured finish on the top panel and flat finish on the bottom.


Intel has used a common-part printed circuit board to construct their Larson Creek 311-series SSD. An Intel PC29AS21BA0 SATA 3Gb/s SSD controller powers this drive, identical to Intel X25-M G2 SSDs, which means it's designed to accept 34nm NAND flash preferably of SLC design. The DRAM buffer is Integrated Silicon Solution Inc (ISSI) part IS42S16160D-7TLI, which offers 32MB at 143 MHz.


The key ingredient in all Intel 311-series Larson Creek SSDs is the 32nm SLC NAND flash, which is also produced in-house by Intel. Each module is marked 29F32G08CAND2, which references their IC part number requiring 2.7-3.6V for normal operation. Intel specifies the Larson Creek SSD to produce sequential reads up to 200 MB/s, with 4 KB reads reaching 37,000 IOPS.


In the next few sections we'll test the Intel 311 Series SSD as a stand-alone storage device, comparing this 20GB Larson Creek solid state drive to other retail products. As a final reminder, please remember that the Intel 311 Series SSD is intended to be partnered with a high-capacity hard disk drive using Intel Smart Response Technology with select Intel 6-Series chipsets.



# 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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