Intel 335 Review – If you were wondering why SSD prices have come down so much over the last few years, a lot of credit has to be given to price wars between various manufacturers. More important than that though, is the ability to shrink flash fabrication process regularly (so far). Only taking cost into consideration, it all comes down to the ability to squeeze as many dies onto a wafer as possible.
As you can see, the move to 20nm has allowed IMFT (the joint foundation of Intel and Micron) to cram 8GB of storage onto a die that is much smaller than the previous fabrication process used in products like the Intel 520 Series and most other MLC flash based SSDs in the current generation: OCZ Vertex 4, Crucial m4, etc. Before that, two dies were used, since a single 8GB 34nm die would be enormous.
Shrinking flash storage comes with its drawbacks though. As dies are shrunk, interference is increased, and write/erase cycle endurance is lowered. For instance, the move from 50nm to 34nm brought the write/erase rate from 10,000 cycles to 3000 (then eventually up to 5000). IMFT were able to maintain that with the move to 25 nm, and they say that 20nm should actually be similar to what that was at the beginning (it’s at 3000 right now). They were able to maintain this endurance in part by improving the fabrication process. For instance, they are using a similar Hi-K dialectric/metal gate technology that allowed them to move to 45nm and beyond on the CPU side in 2008.
So if you are worried about endurance issues at 20nm, don’t. The 335 SSD as a TBW of 32 Terabytes; you would have to write 18 GB per day for 5 years before running into issues.
As for the 335 SSD itself, it is priced to compete with the typical mid-to-upper range of SSDs such as other SandForce drives, the Vertex 4, and Samsung 830. Here is a list of the drives we’re including in this review:
Intel SSD 335 Series 240GB
Intel SSD 520 Series 240GB
Samsung 830 256GB
OCZ Vertex 4 256GB
Crucial m4 256GB
|Flash Controller||SandForce SF-2281||SandForce SF-2281||Samsung S4LJ204X01||Indilinx Everest 2||Marvell 88SS9174|
|Flash Type||Intel 20nm MLC Synchronous||Intel 25nm MLC Synchronous||Samsung 2xnm MLC Toggle||OCZ 25nm MLC Synchronous (Micron)||Micron 25nm MLC Synchronous|
|# of Flash Chips||16||8||16||16|
|Interface||SATA 6 Gbps|
|Cache||N/A||N/A||256 MB||512 MB||256 MB|
|Sequential Read||500 MB/s||550 MB/s||520 MB/s||560 MB/s||500 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||450 MB/s||520 MB/s||400 MB/s||510 MB/s||260 MB/s|
|Price (Oct 29, 2012)||$209|
|MTBF||1,200,000 Hours||1,200,000 hours||1,500,000 hours||2,000,000 hours||2,000,000 hours|
|Warranty||3 Years||5 Years||3 Years||5 Years||3 Years|
As you can see, the MSRP precisely targets all three non-Intel drives. Considering this is the day of the announcement and it is only available at Newegg, the price is actually higher than the MSRP. We will assume that the price will eventually settle down to be about the same as the rest.
Paper specs are the least exciting thing ever though, so let’s take a close look at the Intel 335 SSD itself.