Intel has just announced its Intel SSD 520 Series based on a 25nm manufacturing process, and this new series targets the high-end enthusiast market. As it stands, this is the absolute best that Intel has to offer in the non-Enterprise space. We had the opportunity to take test one for a ride, so we put it thought its paces with a few synthetic benchmarks like HD Tune Pro and PCMark Vantage. The former is a pure synthetic test, while the latter tries to mimic real-world use. This SSD also brings a few new features in terms of security, and Intel is confident enough about the reliability of this product to back it with a 5-year warranty.
As I said earlier, as a product, this is mainly a speed booster both in terms of read and write performance, but also in terms of data encryption, as it has a hardware AES-256 bits capability thatthe Intel SSD 510 lacked. If pricing allows, this should be a very good follow-up to the 510, except in terms of power consumption: the active power draw of the Intel SSD 520 Series is 2X higher than the 510, and the idle power consumption is 6X as much (600mW). As it is mainly targeted at high-performance computers, this shouldn’t matter too much, but this is an interesting piece of information because the drive should also fit in laptops.
According to Gartner, in the second half of 2012, SSDs will reach $1 per GB, which is the point at which they are considered “mass market”, so it is clear that the market share of these drives will rise against traditional mechanical drives. Today, I consider SSDs to be one of the most significant upgrade that most people can get. That said, performance alone isn’t enough. As users, we are all seeking the perfect blend between performance and storage capacity.
Unlike hard disk drives (HDD) that require spinning discs at high speeds (5400rpm-15000rpm) with heads moving just above them, SSDs do not require any mechanical components and that’s key when it comes to pure performance. The lack of mechanical motion makes accessing many small files much faster. Everything happens at (almost) the speed of light. That is why operating systems boot faster etc…
But all SSDs are not equal. Some use slower or faster flash memory, and most importantly, some have smarter controllers than others. The controller is the chip that reads and write the data to/from the system memory to the SSD drive
The Intel SSD 520 Series impresses in both HD Tune Pro and PCMark Vantage. Although I have not been able to reach the 550Mbps sequential read speed from the specifications, The SSD 520 Series is still the fastest SSD that we have tried, with 390Mbps on average in HD tune Pro.
The PCMark Vantage score of 67,299 in the HDD test is also very impressive. The previous best that I had tried was the Intel SSD 510 Series (score:39,578) and the Samsung 830 Series (score:35,687). Overall, this is delivering the level of performance that I was expecting from reading the specifications. I tend to be more interested by read speeds because that’s where most of the “perceived performance” (by the user) comes from.
Unfortunately, PCMark 05 did not run properly this time, so I’m skipping that one for now as I don’t want to hold this post back until I figure out what’s going on.
The Intel SSD 520 Series is blazing fast, and right now, it is the fastest 2.5” SSD drive that we have tested. Depending on pricing, I expect it to be a very nice update to the Intel 510 Series, especially as it has hardware AES256 encryption and the warranty is 2 years longer then the SSD 510.
Now, if you are looking for something that is fast, but won’t cost you as much, you may want to look at the Samsung 830 Series. Although it can’t beat the Intel SSD 520 Series, it has an interesting performance/$ ratio.
Keep in mind that the Intel SSD 520 Series comes in different capacities (up to 480GB). If you can afford it, you’re a lucky person.