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The last time we heard from Intel's SDD department it was throwing around its performance-oriented 520 Series SSD that rocked a SandForce controller and custom Intel firmware with 25nm NAND flash. That drive earned a 9 verdict from us but no Kick Ass award, as its performance was about equal to its peers’ but not better. The crux of that drive was SandForce performance with Intel reliability, and though that's a potent combo, it's one that came in the form of a higher price tag. With Intel’s new budget-oriented 335 Series SSD, that tax is gone, as this drive is priced right below $200, the current sweet spot for 240/256GB SSDs. It still has the same SandForce SF-2281 controller and the same Intel reliability, but includes new smaller-die 20nm MLC NAND flash. The smaller flash marks the industry's foray into the 20nm era, and Intel is the first manufacturer to take us there.
Intel's new 335 Series looks the same as other Intel drives on the outside but has new 20nm NAND flash innards.
We know it's hard to get excited about a smaller manufacturing process for NAND flash; the benefits are reduced power consumption, higher capacities, and lower prices at some point in the future, but it doesn’t bring an automatic performance gain so keep your hopes in check. Smaller flash aside, the SSD uses a familiar metallic 2.5-inch chassis, and it stands at 9.5mm making it too tall for Ultrabooks. It's running on a SATA 6Gb/s interface and comes with a three-year warranty, which is typical for drives in this price range.
In testing, we found the 335 Series drive to be an above-average performer, but sadly there's no improvement whatsoever from the previous generation of drives. If anything, we saw a decrease in performance in certain tests compared to the Intel 520 drive, which isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, as that drive is more tuned for performance than the 335 series. Sadly, we never received an older 330 drive (which this drive is based upon) for comparison’s sake.
Starting with sustained read and write speeds, we saw the Intel 335 hitting 462MB/s and 324MB/s, respectively, giving it mid-pack status. In our compressible-data test it rocked the hizzy, though, racking up impressive 507MB/s read and 413MB/s write speeds that were only outpaced by the mighty Samsung 840 Pro—an impressive feat indeed. When dealing with incompressible data such as JPEGs and video, the 335 drive equaled the performance of the Intel 520 Series drive in read speeds, and placed should-to-shoulder with the Corsair GTX and Samsung 840 Pro.
In our 4K random-write test with 32 commands queued up, the Intel 335 again placed well among other drives in its class, with 57,412 IOPS, but that scores is no match for its older sibling Intel 520, which hit 81,624 IOPS in the same test. In our real-world PCMark Vantage test, the 335 again scored about mid-pack, but below the Intel 520 Series drive by a considerable margin. We also noted an anomaly where the drive’s lifespan decreased faster than expected, dropping down to 93 percent after just a few terabytes had been written to it, which is puzzling.
Overall the Intel 335 series is a reasonably fast drive that matched the Intel 520 in some tests but was slower in others, making it a mixed bag. It’s priced much lower than what we’re used to seeing from Intel, however, which is a step in the right direction but ultimately not enough to move the needle too much on our verdict chart. We’re not hating on this drive, but suffice to say we’re more excited about Intel’s next drive, which will hopefully use a new iteration of its SandForce controller.
Respectable performance across the board; relatively inexpensive
Not faster than previous drives; price should be even lower to be competitive; 9.5” tall
|Corsair Neutron GTX||Intel 335 Series||Samsung 840 Pro||Crucial M4||Intel Series 520||OCZ Vertex 4|
|Controller||LAMD||SF-2281||Samsung||Marvel 9174||SF-2281||Indilinx Everest|
|Avg. Sustained Read (MB/s)||436.3||462||515.7||499||478.2||425|
|Avg. Sustained Write (MB/s)||473.5||324||499.1||277||245||383|
|4KB Read (IOPS)||6,942||5,759||6,917||5,702||5,793||6,475|
|4KB Write (IOPS)||16,722||16,719||16,582||16,858||17,213||15,997|
|64KB File Read (MB/s)||491||507||514||275||510.2||425|
|64KB File Write (MB/s)||349||413||512||436||318.1||383|
|4KB Random Write (32QD)||83,593||57,412||70,641||43,411||81,624||28,206|
|PCMark Vantage x64||72,058||43,324||56,608||40,503||66,691||38,251|
Best scores are bolded. Our current test bed is a 3.4GHz Core i5-3570K processor on an Asus P8Z77-V Premium motherboard running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. All tests used onboard 6Gb/s SATA ports with the latest Intel drivers.