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Intel 520 series SSD review


Wendy Robertson
Senior Administrator and Reviewer
Article posted 24 Feb 12 21:31



Review: Intel 520 series 240GB SSD
Reviewed by: Wendy Collins Robertson
Provided by: Intel
Model: SSDSC2CW240A3
Firmware version: 400i


Back in March 2011, SandForce launched their generation 2 consumer grade SSD processor the SF-2281. Soon thereafter SSDs based on this new SSD processor found their way into the market place, some may say prematurely. Without doubt the SF-2281 was the most powerful consumer grade SSD processor, but there were some doubts over the robustness of this new platform.

Intel already had a SATA 6Gbps SSD solution in the shape of the 510 series, which is based on the popular Marvell SSD controller. The 510 was fast, but a long way behind the performance of the SF-2281 based SSDs. During the summer of 2011, a leaked Intel SSD roadmap document started to circulate around the Internet, and in that document there was reference to a new SSD codenamed Cherryville, which Intel had slated for release in Q4 2011. It was rumoured that Cherryville would be based on the SandForce SF-2281 SSD processor. The leaked specifications certainly pointed towards a SandForce SF-2281 based SSD.

In the end, 2011 came and went and there was still no sign of the Intel 520 series of SSDs. By this time it was very obvious that Cherryville would indeed be based on the SF-2281 SSD processor, and almost certainly would be using Intel’s in-house PCB design with a custom SandForce firmware. It also became obvious that Intel were taking a fair amount of time validating the 520 series of SSDs. The last thing Intel needed were any doubts of reliability for the 520 series of SSDs, and the dreaded BSOD that plagued the early SF-2281 based SSDs from other manufacturers, although to be fair, updated SandForce firmware and new SATA option ROMS and drivers seems to have sorted out those early problems.

Finally the Intel 520 series of SSDs has just become available. The 520 series is available in capacities of 60GB, 120GB, 180GB, 240GB, and finally 480GB. Intel promise excellent performance, reliability, and stability from the 520 series of SSDs. Intel must certainly be confident about the 520 series reliability, as the 520 comes with a five year warranty.

Intel was kind enough to send me a review sample of their 520 series of SSD, in actual fact the 240GB version. In this review I will be taking a look at the performance, and stability of Intel’s new range of SSDs.

So, let’s find out how this new SSD performs in our range of tests.     

Intel company information

Intel should need no introduction, but for those of you who would like to find out more about Intel, you can do so at their website.

The Intel 520 series 240GB SSD

Now it’s time to take a look at the drive itself and what it came shipped with.


Box front

Box rear

Inside the box

The package contained the Intel 520 series 240GB SSD, two packs of fixing screws, a 3.5 inch to 2.5 inch converter bracket, 4pin to SATA power connector, SATA cable, mini CD-ROM containing the instruction manual and a link to the Intel HDD to SSD migration software, quick start booklet, and finally a bragging sticker to fix somewhere prominent on the case of your PC.

Intel 520 series 240GB SSD

The casing of the Intel 520 series SSD is 7mm thick, and Intel have fitted a plastic spacer so the drive can be fitted to a standard 9.5mm 2.5 inch drive bay. The spacer can be removed if you intend to fit the SSD to a slim-line 7mm housing. The case itself is made from aluminium.

From the label on the SSD, we can see the model and serial number, the drive capacity, and also that the SSD was manufactured in China. We can also see that the SSD shipped with firmware version 400i.

Drive underside

The underside of the drive is pretty boring; we can see the SATA power and data connectors, and four drive mounting holes.

Now let’s head to the next page, where we look in more detail at the Intel 520 series SSD…..


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