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Intel 320 Series SSD 300GB review

The Intel 320 Series SSD is the company's first to use 25nm NAND flash cells.

Verdict

A disappointing drive that's neither the fastest nor the cheapest SSD we've seen.

Review Date: 11 Apr 2011

Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith

Price when reviewed: £370 (£444 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
3 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
2 stars out of 6

Performance
3 stars out of 6

Last month Intel introduced its latest high-end 510 Series SSDs. Now it’s launched the new mainstream models, known as the 320 Series.

The drives break new ground in several ways. They’re Intel’s first units to use 25nm MLC flash cells, promising lower prices and potentially better performance than previous 34nm models. They’re also the first to store data in encrypted format, although that’s no obstacle to thieves, as files are automatically decrypted as you read them back.

A more useful security feature is the ability (on systems with a compatible BIOS) to lock the drive so it can’t be accessed by any device until a password is provided.

The 320 Series even ups the ante in terms of capacities, with a range that stretches from 40GB up to a huge 600GB – the largest capacity of any SSD we’ve come across.

Oddly, these up-to-date features sit behind a SATA 3Gb/s interface, rather than the 6Gb/s connector used by many modern SSDs. That means the 320 Series can’t possibly match the read speeds of premium drives.

The Intel 320 Series SSD is the company's first to use 25nm NAND flash cells.

For example, the 256MB Crucial M4 SSD managed a sequential read speed of 416MB/sec in the AS SSD benchmark, far beyond the capabilities of a 3Gb/s link. We found the 300GB 320 Series’ sequential read speeds averaged 262MB/sec, with write speeds of 220MB/sec.

The 320 Series also lagged in AS SSD’s taxing multi-threaded tests: it hit read speeds of 140MB/sec and write speeds of 62MB/sec, way behind the Crucial’s 159MB/sec and 204MB/sec. The pattern was repeated across our Windows file copy tests, with the Intel drive failing to match the Crucial in any operation.

These comparisons might seem unfair – after all, 320 Series drives are marketed as mainstream units, while the M4 is unashamedly branded as a high-performance drive. Look at the pricing, though, and there’s actually nothing in it: in their varying capacities, both drives sell for just under £1.60 inc VAT per gigabyte.

That being the case, we can only recommend the 320 Series if you need the truly exceptional 600GB model (and don’t mind paying the exceptional £800+ price). If you just want a cheap SSD, the A-Listed Kingston SSDNow V100 is better value, with the 128GB version now available for just £150. And if you’re looking for performance, the Crucial M4 is faster across the board.

Author: Darien Graham-Smith

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