Intel SSD 330 120GB Review
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After launching a very successful premium drive based on the most prolific solid state processor of all time the LSI SandForce 2281, Intel decided to launch a value oriented drive based on the same LSI SandForce 2281 processor. We have heard a lot of rumors about this drive. First we heard that this drive would follow what Kingston did with the HyperX 3k and provide the consumer a lower price point through the use of lower cost 3000k P/E NAND. Then we heard the rumor that the 330 would be using less channels of the solid state processor similar to what is done with graphics processors and cpu’s to provide the differentiation between the premium and value offerings.
Well neither of those 2 rumors have proven to be true and after kicking this drive around for a while we have come to the conclusion that the only real difference performance wise between the 520 and the 330 comes down to the Firmware. The 520 is using the Intel firmware 400i and the 330 is using the firmware 300i. The PCB’s of both drives are identical right down to the word “CHERRYVILLE” silk screened to the PCB. The only distinguishing feature seems to be a little sticker that says “Bin 2” located on the same side of the PCB as the NAND. Even the NAND appears to be the same used on the 520. Maybe this indicates a lower binning of the same NAND? I suspect this to be the case.
There is a physical difference to the drive as it only comes in a 9.5mm thickness. There is no removable spacer like the 520 where the drive height can be adjusted to a 7mm thickness to accommodate notebooks / ultrabooks that require a maximum of 7mm thickness. There is a plastic spacer located under the top of the enclosure but this spacer even when removed will not allow the 9.5mm thickness to be adjusted any lower.
The 520 turned out to be the best drive we have tested to date. Like we said in that review Intel touched it and it turned to GOLD, mainly due to Intel’s custom firmware. That brings us to the new 330. This drive uses the exact same PCB and NAND (although we suspect the NAND to be a lower bin of the same chips ie: “Bin 2”) which seems to beg the question “ Why not just lower the price of the 520 because they would appear to cost exactly the same dollar amount to produce as the 330?” This brings me to only one conclusion which is just pure speculation on my part. The difference in the warranty. You see the 520 comes with an industry leading 5 year warranty and the 330 comes with the industry standard 3 year warranty. Looks like Intel’s intention was to touch this and turn it to SILVER on purpose through using a lower binning of the same NAND than is allowed for the 520 because of its 5 year warranty. Using a lower binned NAND probably would not assure a lower performance drive so Intel wrote a slightly lower performance firmware to separate the 330 from the 520 performance wise in addition to warranty wise. What Intel has done is to be applauded in my book because they did not go the same route as most MFG’s have and use Asynchronous NAND to create a value drive. Now let’s get into the review.