We were impatiently looking forward to the launch of the new generation Intel SSDs supporting 6 Gbps interface. It is, actually, not surprising at all, because all previous SSDs from this manufacturer used their own controllers of proprietary design, which were considered among the best out there before SandForce controllers arrived. However, imagine how surprised we were when it turned out that the new SSD series for computer enthusiasts aka Intel 510 was using third-party controllers! And this third-party wasn’t SandForce, but Marvell.
Moreover, the controller in Intel 510 is exactly the same as the controller in Crucial m4. However, firmware matters a lot, too, and Intel’s firmware is unique. Unlike other makers who use Marvell controllers, Intel optimized their firmware for work with large files, and it will seriously affect the results, as we will see later on.
Another interesting peculiarity of the Intel product is the use of old MLC flash-memory manufactured using 34 nm process. Theoretically, this memory is faster and more reliable than the 25 nm version, that is why Intel 510 is completely different from Crucial m4 in specifications.
Intel ships two modifications of their 510-series SSDs: with 120 GB and 250 GB storage capacities. We managed to test both of them, their formal specs are listed below. Note that Intel 510 has only half the cache-memory of Crucial SSDs:
- Controller: Marvell 88SS9174;
- Interface: SATA 6 Gbps;
- Flash-memory: 34 nm MLC NAND;
- Storage capacity: 120 and 250 GB;
- Cache-memory: 128 MB;
- Sequential read speed: 400 MB/s (120 GB), 500 MB/s (250 GB);
- Sequential write speed: 210 MB/s (120 GB), 315 MB/s (250 GB);
- Random read speed (4 KB blocks): 20,000 IOPS;
- Random write speed (4 KB blocks): 8,000 IOPS.
Judging by the numbers above, Intel didn’t really strive to regain the leadership in the SSD market at this time. It looks like the company was simply going to offer the enthusiasts a good 6 Gbps option with acceptable price-to-performance ratio. In order to check out this assumption we tested Intel 510 with 6-gigabit as well as 3-gigabit interface.
The tested Intel 510 SSDs had the following firmware versions at the time of tests:
- Intel 510 SSDSC2MH120A2 120GB – PWG4
- Intel 510 SSDSC2MH250A2 250GB – PWG4