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New Intel 520 Series SSD Taps SandForce Controller 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the numbers-getting-bigger dept.
crookedvulture writes "Intel continues to partner with third-party controller makers for high-end SSDs. Its new 520 Series drives pair the latest SandForce controller with Intel's own firmware and 25-nm NAND. HotHardware, Tech Report, and PC Perspective all have reviews of the drive, and the verdict is pretty consistent. While the Intel 520 Series offers slightly better performance than competing SandForce solutions, it also costs 30-40% more. That's a steep margin even considering the Intel SSD's five-year warranty."
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New Intel 520 Series SSD Taps SandForce Controller

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  • Sometimes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gr8Apes (679165) on Monday February 06, 2012 @06:51PM (#38947323)
    Ad yet my X25M, which came at a steep price, is still performing well 1.5 years later while several others I know have gone through several competing drives in the same period. Anecdotal, I know, but when I decided on a drive, the only one without the kind of failure stories my colleagues went through was the Intel drive. Sometimes you do get what you pay for.
    • Ad yet my X25M, which came at a steep price, is still performing well 1.5 years later while several others I know have gone through several competing drives in the same period. Anecdotal, I know, but when I decided on a drive, the only one without the kind of failure stories my colleagues went through was the Intel drive.

      Sometimes you do get what you pay for.

      I went for the Crucial M4 (2x256GB in RAID 0) instead of the Vertex 3 because I just didn't want to deal with the bullshit.
      No idea why Intel went with a SandForce controller, though. They have a good reputation with their SSDs - why risk it?

    • Anandtech [anandtech.com] mentions that the 520 went through a year of testing, so it should be much more reliable than other SF-2200 SSDs. Also fixed a BSOD issue in one of their systems, which was also using SF-2281.
      • by TheLink (130905)
        Yeah seems to me that Intel is actually helping Sandforce fix the bugs in Sandforce's product. Not for free of course, but one wonders about the long term strategic reasons for this. They could have let Sandforce keep churning out SSDs with buggy firmware.

        Maybe in a world with more fast, cheap and reliable drives, Intel can sell more high power CPUs? Or this is a move against Samsung?
        • by JDG1980 (2438906)

          Yeah seems to me that Intel is actually helping Sandforce fix the bugs in Sandforce's product. Not for free of course, but one wonders about the long term strategic reasons for this. They could have let Sandforce keep churning out SSDs with buggy firmware.

          The Anandtech article indicates that the fixed firmware will be exclusive to Intel for a certain (unspecified) period of time, before being made available to other SandForce vendors. So what Intel gets for their time and effort is a period of exclusivity

          • by TheLink (130905)
            That period of exclusivity is what Intel gets out of it in the short-term and not long-term.

            Intel generally thinks longer term than most US IT companies.
    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      Yeah the x25 is a great drive, no doubt about it. It was just so expensive compared to the alternatives back then... I could have bought three competing drives for the same cost. I keep backups so drive failures aren't a huge problem (though still annoying).

      Luckily though I haven't had issues with my SSD at all. A Corsair Force drive well over a year old now and still performing great. I'd heard the stories about how most SSDs seem to die quickly so I was paranoid at first, but maybe I just got one out of t

      • I was paranoid for a while too. I got two SuperTalent drives, hooked them up in RAID0, and have been doing weekly images because of the track record they have obtained. A year and a half later, they're still surviving.
    • by hairyfeet (841228)
      The problem with SSDs was nailed by the guys at coding horror [codinghorror.com] and that is SSDs are still new enough tech it works on a "Hot/crazy" scale. Smoking hot speeds, crazy failure rates. A couple of my gamer customers have gone through like 4 of the things each in the past two years, and these ain't the cheap ones either, its whatever scored highest on the benches which is usually the top dollar stuff. They've already learned don't put anything on an SSD you give a shit about unless you have it backed up because un
      • by AHuxley (892839)
        crazy failure rates?
        3-5 year support was often on offer for consumer units, 7 years for enterprise $ now too (28% over-provisionin).
        • Re:Sometimes (Score:4, Insightful)

          by smash (1351) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:02AM (#38949757) Homepage Journal
          Support to get a replacement drive doesn't mean dick if your data is gone. And warranty won't recover that.
          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            Exactly, thanks smash. I mean who gives a flying fuck about the drive? but if you are working on some important term paper or business proposal and the SSD decides NOW is the time its gonna crap itself? That's when you realize that hot speed isn't worth the crazy failure rates. I mean either you have every. single. change of any note backed up or you are literally rolling the dice. try contacting them and asking about your data, they'll tell you tough luck, it isn't covered.

            One of my gamers learned the har

            • by smash (1351)

              And this is where ZFS (or some other intelligent filesystem that is aware of the notion of heterogeneous storage) is going to be a win. Use spinning rust discs for the storage, and an SSD for accelerating read/write. Unfortunately neither Windows nor OS X have the facility to make use of this in most machines.

              Superfetch is all well and good, but USB flash is still slow, and RAM is limited.

              I'm keen to see the performance of the current/next generation of seagate hybrid drives. If they can get to some

              • by smash (1351)
                By "protect against drive failure" i mean keep running. I still back the stuff up manually and run snapshots for the "oh shit i deleted my stuff" event(s). The RAID is to keep running while waiting for RMA or replacement disk without needing to reinstall/restore from backup.
              • by hairyfeet (841228)

                Well as far as RAM goes with it being so cheap frankly maxing out the board is usually the best advice anyway. With my 8Gb of DDR 2 800 (which I bought when DDR 2 was as cheap as DDR 3 is now) in my desktop all but the largest games are prefetched based on my usage, for example Comodo Dragon is pretty much kept in RAM 24/7 while WMP 12 is loaded every evening. With my netbook which I strictly use for media and web that 8Gb of DDR 3 is total overkill and all the apps I use are always prefetched into RAM Most

                • by smash (1351)
                  Yup, my strategy for laptops is store anything important on a server with RAID1. :)
                  • by hairyfeet (841228)

                    But you see there is your problem smash, you are thinking like one of us geeks instead of like a normal. hell a normal if you mentioned RAID would go in their kitchen and hand you the bug spray!

                    You have to remember they have gotten pretty damned good with the failure rates of spinning rust, even in mobile. All the drives now have sensors that park the heads when its moving or jostled, sensors for heat, SMART, they are pretty damned good now. Hell the only way i was able to get folks doing regular backups wa

                    • by smash (1351)
                      Time machine for me generally "just works". Set and forget - it will do wireless backups of all my stuff to my time machine data store if it is in range (or plugged in, if i have it on an external drive). If my backup destination is not available, it will do hourly snapshots locally, and then roll them up to the backup store when it becomes available. Previous versions may have been a little flaky, but so far in Lion, it Just Works.

                      Windows really needs something similar to time machine. Windows backup

            • by JDG1980 (2438906)

              Exactly, thanks smash. I mean who gives a flying fuck about the drive? but if you are working on some important term paper or business proposal and the SSD decides NOW is the time its gonna crap itself? That's when you realize that hot speed isn't worth the crazy failure rates. I mean either you have every. single. change of any note backed up or you are literally rolling the dice. try contacting them and asking about your data, they'll tell you tough luck, it isn't covered.

              That's why you store your actua

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        A couple of my gamer customers have gone through like 4 of the things each in the past two years, and these ain't the cheap ones either, its whatever scored highest on the benches which is usually the top dollar stuff.

        That's the problem.

        If you want the new hotness in SATA3 OMGWTFBBQ speeds, you're going to risk crappy firmware. It's because the firmware writers are under pressure to deliver software so the SSD manufacturers can deliver SSDs a month earlier than the competition with their new fast SSD.

        So yea

        • by cheekyboy (598084)

          unless the SSD delivers false 0x00000000000s or 0xffffffffffffffffs. it should never blue screen, normal HDs will never blue screen, even with lots of read errors, they just get super slow.

          Yes, the drivers at the OS level are probably crap.

          To deliver fast speed from one single file, is trivial, its delivering fast cached, in order, small reads queued at the rate of 50000 IOPS that can push the controller chip to its limits, and some stupid buffer overflows happen.

          This is what you get with code that has f

      • by makomk (752139)

        I think some of the SSD brands intentionally disable all access to user data once they detect a single failure, which doesn't really help. Probably very profitable for data recovery firms though.

    • It's what I call the holy SSD Trinity. NAND, Controller, and the Firmware.

      The quality of the hardware is important, but these days it's more or less commoditized across the industry anyways. So that leaves the firmware. Given the level of voodoo nessary to pull of the LBA remapping magic and garbage collection across all the cells, I would rather spend my money on a reputable company such as Intel. Especially on a new form of storage as complicated as this under the hood.

      • by Gr8Apes (679165)
        Actually, it's a combination of controller and firmware that seems important. And super fast but exploding vs a little slower but reliable wins in the long run everytime. It's why I got the Intel, it was the only "stable" one at the time.
    • I have bought six X25Ms in total; all are tremendous performers and give me no problems. The are all G2s and range in age from 1 to 2 years (except for a used 40GB one I bought a month ago).

      Unfortunately the Intel 320 series (really the X25-M G3) has had its own reliability issues with a nasty firmware bug that causes it to suddenly report its capacity as 8MB (causing complete data loss).

      http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/236468/intel_acknowledges_ssd_320_bug_working_on_firmware_upgrade.ht [pcworld.com]
      • by Bryan Ischo (893) *

        It sounds like you are trying to convince everyone, including yourself, that you were better off to choose a G2 over a G3.

        There is no merit to your argument. The G3 bug you mentioned was real but it was fixed by Intel's firmware update, which is why you haven't heard anything about it.

        There is nothing wrong with the G3 that would suggest that the G2 is a more reliable option. There is little to recommend the G3 over the G2 either, except price and availability.

        I personally own two G2's, one G3, a real old

        • ie the 120G is really a 115G as reported by windows
          formated its down to 106 Gb

          yeah 100% false fake advertising.

          How can they get away with it, a 120 is really a 115, if its 120 in hardware, but appears as 115, its still 115.

          Im sure real 128G SSDs have a few hidden Gig as reserve, but its not advertised as a 135G.

          Lucky I only used 60 out of the 120 (115) ((106))

      • 'Same bug' happened to my 16G Toshiba - generic - no fancy name. After 3 weeks of 12/24 usage, fail, no data, no files, says 8MB.

        POS CRUD

      • by makomk (752139)

        Intel has not acknowledged any problems with the fix, nor told anyone which serial numbers were affected. Nobody has reported on the bug since Intel said they fixed it, including Anand.

        Anandtech has a decidedly pro-Intel leaning in general. If memory serves me correctly they only reported on the problem at all once every other site had done so, and even then only because their readers were giving them hell for failing to report on the fact that drives Anandtech had recommended were failing en-masse and eating people's data.

    • I have been running flawlessly now for a year on a non intel drive.

  • I value warranties (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Monday February 06, 2012 @07:06PM (#38947465)
    With the concerns often expressed over SSD reliability, it's interesting that Intel's 5 year warranty now bests the other SSD's 3 year warranty, whereas hard drives are moving to 1 year warranty(!)

    .

    I get really worried when the warranty is so short, I would be extremely frustrated if the thing conked out the day after. Whereas after 5 years, I would probably be ready to move on.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/OWC/Mercury_6G/ [macsales.com] they had 3 or 5 years for some time. 7 years on their enterprise ssd's
    • by jamesh (87723)

      I think i've posted this before, but in Australia the laws have changed wrt warranty. If you purchased something of "significant value" and it broke after 18 months when you would reasonably expect it to last for longer (eg you bought a laptop for $500 and it failed after 18 months) then the fact that it only came with a 1 year warranty doesn't amount to anything from a legal point of view - the place you bought it from has to provide a repair or replacement.

      Hopefully this will stop stores selling crappy me

  • I noticed the price comparisons with other SF drives differ GREATLY depending on the capacity of the SSD you're looking at. When checking the 120GB version, the price difference isn't that bad, and if you're using it as a boot drive (as I hope you are), then the peace of mind seems well worth the extra money. Amazon has the 120GB version for around $230 or so.

  • by AaronW (33736) on Monday February 06, 2012 @07:54PM (#38947819) Homepage

    I just returned an OCZ Agility 3 due to it dying after 2 weeks of light use as my Linux root partition running XFS. Since their office was local I drove it there to save shipping charges and had to laugh in their lobby since they're touting reliability. Sadly Sandforce has gained a reputation for not being the most reliable controller out there. I have never had a hard drive fail except after years of use until this one died. Fortunately it's being replaced under warranty.

    Also, unlike other drives I've had fail, this one died suddenly and completely. Suddenly Linux couldn't access the root filesystem and after rebooting the drive could not be found by the SATA controller. Fortunately I had my old Western Digital Velociraptor drive I had replaced so I swapped that back in.

    I have another Sandforce SSD that would often not show up when my computer woke up from standby until after a firmware update. Intel might be better, having written their own firmware, but at this point I think SSDs have a way to go in terms of reliability. There's no excuse for the issues that have been reported with the various Sandforce drives. The problem is either insufficient Q/A testing of the firmware or management pushing out the firmware before it's ready. It's also possible that there might be some hardware glitch causing these drives to fail.

    -Aaron

    • by Cimexus (1355033)

      Forget OCZ, they might look like the best performers on paper but they have woeful reliabilitiy rates. Even the non-intel competitors such as Crucial, Corsair, GSkill etc. are much better than OCZ in reliability stakes.

    • The reason I always bought Intel SSDs was because they always had Intel controllers, and Intel controllers were always stellar. Intel for years prioritized random access and did it better than anyone else. The 510 series, the first to be released with a non-Intel (Marvell) controller, seemed like such a pointless drive, with worse random performance than the 2 year old X25-M.

      The problem is that sequential numbers are always faster and therefore easier to market to people who don't know any better. The
      • by Bryan Ischo (893) *

        You really should read something, anything before bothering to spend the time to post.

        The 520 is faster at every metric (random read/write and sequential read/write) than the Intel controller based drives.

        It also had a full year of vetting by Intel before being released, and they are putting the same 5 year warranty as their other drives; there is no reason to believe that it will not be as reliable as Intel controller based drives.

        The only thing that doesn't compare favorably with this drive is the price.

    • ocz agility 3 - mac osx - 5 mo. use without problem and even though i haven't passed the early failure window im tossing in the datapoint. *IF* it fails (i feel i trust it, but hey) i'll be here to bitch about it in the future :-) Rarely hear from the happy ones, i've found... i wonder what the failure rate really is?

      • by incer (1071224)
        Same as above, Agility 3, OS X on a 13" MBP, 5 months.
        Heavy usage, we're talking about 12 hours or more monday-friday. A couple of hours on Saturdays and Sundays.
        It's not my only drive though, data is stored on an HDD which replaced the DVD unit.
    • Had a Vertex 2. After 3 months it died overnight without warning, No PC I hooked it up to would even recognise the drive. Data was totally inaccessible, first time I've ever had this with a drive. Didn't appreciate having to RMA a drive with all my data left on it, appreciated even less that I had to send it recorded delivery to the Netherlands out of my own pocket.

      I love how they state on their website that the mean time for failure is something like 130 years.
      • > I love how they state on their website that the mean time for failure is something like 130 years.

        Oh, that's because the hardware ITSELF will last for 130 years. The half-life of any data you STORE on it is about 7 weeks. If the offices of both Sandforce and OCZ were replaced by smoldering nuclear craters tomorrow morning, I'd smile and say, "at least they can't screw anybody else now" (well, once the remaining inventory stocked by Amazon & Newegg was gone).

  • by teh31337one (1590023) on Monday February 06, 2012 @07:54PM (#38947825)

    When I bought my 2nd SSD a few weeks ago (first was an M4 for my laptop, this being for my desktop), I opted for a 128GB Samsung SSD 830. It's a great little drive, and was ~30% cheaper than Intel SSD 510.

    I went for the 830 over a Sandforce-based drive because of their reliability. There's a reason why Apple use Samsung SSDs in their laptops.

    • by EjectButton (618561) on Monday February 06, 2012 @08:17PM (#38947983)

      When I bought my 2nd SSD a few weeks ago (first was an M4 for my laptop, this being for my desktop), I opted for a 128GB Samsung SSD 830. It's a great little drive, and was ~30% cheaper than Intel SSD 510.

      I went for the 830 over a Sandforce-based drive because of their reliability. There's a reason why Apple use Samsung SSDs in their laptops.

      Intel care more about reliability than anyone else in the SSD game and they are now using the exact same sandforce controller (SF-2200) in this new drive that others have been using for a while now (OCZ Vertex 3 for example). The problems in the past were more with the firmware than the controllers.

      • That's great. But when I was in the market for an SSD, their were three options: M4, Samsung or a Sandforce. Intel was more expensive, and the SandForce SSDs had reliability issues. Samsung SSDs have a great track record for reliability too

        Anandtech: [anandtech.com]

        Samsung is a dangerous competitor in the SSD space. Not only does it make its own controller, DRAM and NAND, but it also has an incredible track record in terms of reliability It's also worth pointing out that Samsung SSDs are also one of the two options Apple rebrands and delivers in its Mac lineup. To continue to hold on to Apple's business for this long is an impressive feat on Samsung's part.

        It's amazing to see Samsung come so far in the enthusiast space. From a drive that I simply wouldn't recommend to building a downright competitive solution backed by a near flawless track record.

      • by Spoke (6112)

        Implying that SSDs are equal because they use the same controller is like saying a Apple iMac and a Dell are the same because they use the same CPU.

        The firmware that runs on the SSD is highly unlikely to be the same on Intel branded drives compared to OCZ branded drives. And firmware is what is a leading cause of reliability issues on SSDs.

  • Pfft Sandforce (Score:4, Informative)

    by Vegemeister (1259976) on Monday February 06, 2012 @08:31PM (#38948069)
    The Sandforce controllers use compression to increase speeds and reduce write amplifications. Thus, they choke on encrypted (incompressible) data. They also have a horrible record of reliability. No thanks.
    • by haruchai (17472)
      The reliability is fixable but the problem with incompressible data would need a redesign unless they have a way of quickly detecting such data and transferring immediately without compression. Looking at the files I have stored on spinning disks, I estimate it to be 75% incompressible data.
  • 3 extra years warranty 2/5. So you would expect to pay 40% more.
    2 extra years warranty 3/5. So you would expect to pay 60% more.
    So if you were just buying a warranty alone the price would be worth it especially since the summary states you're only paying 30%-40% more.
    Add the fact that your buying from a top quality manufacturer is just icing on the cake.
    Note the fact that HDD manfs have cut their standard warranty to 1 year, should show you what crap they are producing these days. Swapping hardware take
  • Besides, the well known reliably issues with SF controllers, i wonder if they fixed the resume problems that seem to crop up on a regular basis. The forums are full of people (including one of my machines) reporting their machines simply blue screen with some fairly high frequency when resuming with these drives. The problems seem to cross vendors too...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, that problem has not been fixed, and won't be fixed until Sandforce learns how to design semiconductors.

      The problem is that the controller is latching up, evidenced by the fact that the supply current goes through the roof on resume.

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