Intel SSD 335 Series (240GB) - A 20nm Refresh

Mainstream Nip/Tuck

Mainstream Nip/Tuck

Once intended only for power-hungry enthusiasts and the well-heeled, SSDs are fast becoming mainstream items these days. This is mainly because the prices of SSDs have come down to a point where they are palatable enough for mainstream users. That said, hard disks are still by far and away more affordable. Looking at the cost per gigabyte, a typical 1TB hard disk will cost roughly nine cents per gigabyte. A 240GB SSD will come in at more than a dollar per gigabyte. But where the SSD loses out in cost per gigabyte it makes up for where it comes to performance because even the fastest 10,000rpm hard disk will stand no chance against a run-of-the-mill mainstream SSD.

The new Intel SSD 335 Series sports new 20nm MLC NAND chips and is a refresh of the earlier SSD 330 Series.

Speaking of mainstream SSDs, Intel has recently refreshed their mainstream SSD offerings with the new SSD 335 Series. In terms of specifications, the new SSD 335 Series is highly similar to the older SSD 330 Series that it replaces. The new 240GB SSD 335 Series that we have here has the exact same sequential read and write speeds as the old drive - 500MB/s and 450MB/s. It also has identical random 4k write and read IOPS - 42,000 and 52,000 IOPS. Like the older SSD 330 Series, the new drive also has the same SandForce SF-2281 controller and also uses SATA 6Gbps interface for the fastest possible data transfers.

So how is it different?

It turns out that the differences are much more subtle. Since SandForce has yet to released its third generation controller, so Intel upgraded its memory instead. As a result, the MLC NAND memory that resides in the new SSD 335 Series is manufactured using a brand new 20nm process. In comparison, the memory chips in the higher-end Intel SSD 520 Series are manufactured using a 25nm process. Mainly, this new 20nm process will help IMFT (Intel’s and Micron’s joint memory chip making venture) to increase number of memory dies that can be produced on a single wafer, and this should help drive the cost of SSDs down (though whether the savings will trickle down to consumers is another question). On the performance front, the memory should theoretically be slightly faster and more power efficient.

For now, the SSD 335 Series will come only in 240GB capacity, with additional capacities (reportedly 80GB and 180GB) are due to arrive early next year. The reason for this is because of low yields due to the new 20nm manufacturing process.

Here’s a quick look at the drive and what it comes with:

Peeling the cover open reveals the new 20nm MLC NAND 16GB density memory chips. There are 16 in total (eight on each side).

A closer look at the new 20nm NAND memory chips.

Flipping the PCB over reveals another eight NAND chips and the SandForce SF-2281 controller.

The Intel SSD 335 Series comes with an installation bracket and SATA data and power cables.

The Good
Good performance for a "mainstream" SSD
Comes with installation bracket, SATA data and power cables
The Bad
Priced too high
Poor performance on PCMark Vantage
No significant updates compared to older SSD 330 Series

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