Intel has announced a new SSD for the Enthusiast/Gamer market. Intel’s fastest drive to date, this SSD, formerly known as “Cherryville” but now called the 520, is the first Intel SSD to use a SandForce/LSI controller and is made using Intel’s own 25nm flash.
Intel worked with SandForce for a year and a half to produce an SSD that met Intel’s rigorous standards, and made hundreds of changes to SandForce’s firmware. Users of SandForce controllers can differentiate their SSDs through the addition of features in the SSD controller’s firmware. Intel did this by tapping into its expertise in end-to-end data protection (something the company learned when working with Hitachi to introduce that company’s Intel-based enterprise SSDs) while harnessing Intel’s deep understanding of its own NAND flash and of the I/O needs of the PC.
End-to-end data protection is not a trivial feature: The Intel/Hitachi SSDs fell behind schedule while this was being worked out, and Seagate, who would not release an enterprise SSD without end-to-end data protection, came under frequent criticism for being slow to market.
Intel’s new 520 SATA 3 (6Gb/second) SSD gives very good performance. With 80k maximum random 4kB write IOPS and 50k random read IOPS it fits the high-IOPS needs of enthusiasts. Sequential read performance tops out at 550MB/s with writes at 520MB/s. The drive uses full 256-bit internal AES encryption. Capacities offered are 60, 120, 180, 240, and 480GB.
Intel’s 500 series is different from other Intel SSDs. The company uses its own controllers for other SSDs, but the 500 series uses any controller that can provide the performance currently demanded by the Gamer/Enthusiast market rapidly by tapping into externally-sourced controllers.