Intel 335 Series 180GB SSD Review
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Intel’s SSD 335 series is an interesting combination of new and old technology which focuses on delivering excellent performance for a relatively low cost. On paper its specifications nearly mirror those found on the 330 model it supersedes. Both drives are part of Intel’s budget orientated 3 series, they use an LSI SandForce SF2281 controller with custom firmware and boast literally the same performance numbers.
So what makes the 335 series different from its predecessor? This time around, Intel has moved from 25nm to 20nm ONFI MLC NAND in order to save cost and lower power consumption by utilizing a High-k Metal Gate fabrication process. Historically an increase in NAND density is accompanied by a reduction in lifespan but these new IMFT manufactured modules are rated for the same 3,000 erase cycles as the older 25nm NAND used in the 330 drive. Intel has been able to accomplish this seemingly impossible task by using highly sophisticated engineering.
Back when Intel was set to release their –then new- Intel 520 one key piece of information they focused on was their commitment to never change the NAND type used in a given model. They made a firm promise that when they did decide to use new NAND, the resulting drive would receive a new model name. Specifically, Intel consumers would never have to worry about playing ‘NAND roulette’ like they have to do with certain other companies. With the release of the new Intel 335 Solid State Drive they have reaffirmed this commitment to customer satisfaction.
Since Intel was able to make smaller NAND cells which are still just as durable, they are able to reap the increase in NAND production which comes alongside a die shrinkage. This in turn means even lower prices for consumers, who may be hesitant of ONFi 1 or exotic TLC NAND based drives. In this instance the 330 180GB – the largest version originally made - was released with an MSRP of $234, whereas the new 180GB version of the Intel 335 can be found for as little as $170, or a reduction in price of 27%.
While this drive does come with a much more reasonable MSRP, its exterior is actually better finished than the Intel 520 or even DC S3700 series. A lot of this perception comes from the strategically placed label on the bottom – which hides most of the machining - and a rather stylish top. It is worth noting that this series uses the standard 9.5mm height form factor and not the smaller 7mm –with 2.5mm topper - like most of Intel’s other series. This is only of minor concern for most consumers.
The internal architecture of the new 335 is very similar to that of any other LSI SandForce SF2281 based model. The only differences are the NAND used and the number of NAND IC slots that are populated. Since this is the smaller version of the 335, four of the 16 IC slots are empty while the others are populated with high density NAND chips. By opting for less ICs instead of multiple lower density modules the overall performance of the entire 335 line is more consistent and it will only be in certain scenarios – such as partial & full drive testing – that this decision may handicap the 180GB model.
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