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And now Intel’s teamed up with Sandforce

Intel’s new SSD 520 uses a Sandforce controller. Very interesting. Both Tom’s Hardware and Anandtech  have reviews posted.

So you’ll have Sandforce performance, hopefully coupled with Intel reliability. That’s the theory. They aren’t shipping yet, and you’ll pay a premium for the Intel name.
The problem with Sandforce has been good performance, but occasional glitches that cause the drive to dismount unexpectedly, causing Windows blue screens and occasional data corruption. Performance doesn’t do you much good if the machine crashes a lot, and even less if you’re having to re-image or rebuild your machine every so often to recover from data corruption.

In theory, Intel has several things going for it. Intel, along with Micron, own the best foundry, so they can keep the best flash memory chips for themselves. And Intel has more years of experience making motherboard chipsets than anyone else at this point, which gives them plenty of experience dealing with the other end of the SATA connection. Even though Intel is using other companies’ controllers now, they’re still using their own firmware. And the firmware is the one thing that sets SSDs apart.

I’ve owned SSDs from OCZ, Kingston, and Intel and I’ve had good experience with all of them so far. I’ve avoided Sandforce-based drives because of reports of problems from the field.

Anandtech reports that they’re still able to cause Sandforce 2281-based drives to fail consistently, except for the Intel 520. In the same article, Anandtech even goes so far as to recommend the 520 as being suitable for use as an enterprise drive for database servers.

Anand also recommends the Samsung SSD 830 series, a drive I missed when it came on the market six months ago. Samsung has a number of things going for it as well: They make flash memory, they make the controller themselves, and they made hard drives for about 20 years too. Early Samsung drives fared poorly, but by the mid 1990s Samsung was making very good drives. And Samsung has been selling drives to Apple, who has absolutely no tolerance for the kinds of glitches you read about with enthusiast-grade SSDs.

From a price/performance perspective, the Samsung 830 looks hard to beat. The Intel 520 looks promising, but if I go through with my plans to buy another SSD next month, I’ll have to give Samsung a long look too.

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