What Makes the Intel 330 Less Expensive?

Intel has been busy announcing SSD products these past few days. After the 910 and 313 series, the processor giant is also releasing the 330 series of SSDs – a refresh of the previous 320 brands. The SATA 3 drive is able to reach maximum sequential read/write speeds of 500 MB/s and 450 MB/s respectively. But probably the most intriguing are the prices of the drives: $89 for 60 GB, $149 for 120 GB, and $234 for 180 GB.

That may not sound that cheap but it is the cheapest among Intel SSDs. Actually, the 330 series is the cheapest SF-2281-powered SSD yet. The company has been known to release products with overwhelming price tags but with proven reliability. So how did they do it?

60-64 GB

120-128 GB

Intel 520

$110

$185

Kingston HyperX 3K

$170

Intel 330

$89

$149

Samsung SSD 830

$95

$175

OCZ Vertex 4

$180

While the 330 series still uses the newer 25nm MLC, it utilizes a lower P/E count NAND. So instead of five-year reliability with 20GB writes per day, the drive can only last for three years on the same workload.

A lower binned ONFi 2 NAND was also used on the 330 series. This is significant because less performing ONFi 1 NAND are used on cheaper SSDs. Intel managed to get away with it by employing firmware optimization and some performance limiters. This means that the 330 series has lower IOPS numbers than previous products. But the 42,000 and 52,000 read and write IOPS numbers are not that bad.

For those worried about the 330’s lifespan, Intel is popular for being conservative with their ratings. So if they are saying that their drive could last for only three years if you use it (very) heavily, it actually could be more than that. Instability issues that are known to haunt SF drives (e.g. BSOD) is hopefully addressed with Intel’s custom firmware solutions.

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