Intel 520 Series 240GB Reviewccokeman - February 6, 2012
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Intel's 520 series drives are built to fit into the constraints of the industry standard 2.5 inch form factor. The top of the drive has a plastic spacer to allow fitment into mobile devices that need a thicker (9mm) drive in this standard, while the spacer can be removed if needed to fit into a slimmer (7mm) environment, which will most likely be used in the new Ultrabook form factor notebooks. Aesthetically, the drive is not built to look pretty but to be functional. Connectivity on the Intel 520 series drive is through a SATA 3 6Gb/s data connection that is backwards compatible to both SATA 3 Gb/s and 1.5 Gb/s. Power is supplied through a standard SATA power supply connection. Mounting the drive into either a mobile or desktop system is accomplished through standard mounting points.
Removing the four screws that hold the drive together allows the internals to be explored. The PCB that holds the Intel 25nm computer-grade NAND is held in place by the top cover. One side of the drive is populated by the 25nm NAND while the other has the NAND and the LSI Sandforce 2281 NAND controller.
The heart of the performance of the Intel 520 series drive is the LSI Sandforce 2281 NAND controller. Intel partnered with LSI to develop a robust firmware specifically for this drive. Along with the firmware are AES 256-bit encryption and end to end data protection. Specifications for the drive mirror many of the Sandforce 2281 controlled drives with 550 megabytes-per-second (MB/s) sequential reads and up to 520MB/s sequential writes and 4 KB random reads and writes up to 50,000 and 80,000 (IOPS). This drive comes equipped with a total of sixteen 16GB modules of Intel's own 25nm MLC NAND Flash memory carrying part number 29F16B08CCME2. A total of 256GB of NAND are on board with a total of 16GB used for wear leveling and cell replacement.
Based on the use of the now LSI (Sandforce 2821 NAND controller) and 25nm NAND the 520 series drive should offer pretty predictable performance across the test suite. Let's see if it is predictable or above the mean average for a drive of this type.