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Intel enters the budget Sandforce market

Intel announced a new low-end SSD today, the 330, based on a Sandforce 2281 controller. The popular 120 GB capacity will retail for $149. While not as cheap as OCZ’s entry-level SSDs, it’s within striking distance.
The main difference between the 330 and the 520 is that it uses lower-grade flash memory with a shorter life expectancy, so the drive has a 3-year warranty, compared to the 520’s 5-year warranty. The 330 is also a bit slower, but it’s unclear whether that’s due to the cheaper memory, or if Intel wants it to be a bit slower.

The 3-year life expectancy is based on the expectation of writing 20 GB per day. That’s pretty generous; with my temporary files, print spool, and browser cache redirected to a ramdisk, the only way I’d write anywhere near that would be if I hibernated more than a couple of times per day. Even then, with the Sandforce’s data compression I might be OK.

Under the right circumstances, I would consider the drive. Two months in, the Intel 520 is getting outstanding reviews. But if the price difference between a 520 and a 330 is $20, I’d probably pony up for the higher-end drive. You can’t have too much life expectancy, and even if the drive is too small or too slow by 2015 standards for use as a primary drive–unlikely, but possible–it would be nice to have a 120 GB drive with two years of life expectancy left to repurpose.

The smaller the price difference between the 330 and 520, the harder sell the 330 becomes. Then again, if the 330 regularly hits the $1 per GB mark that OCZ’s entry level drives routinely hit, it’s going to be nearly impossible to resist.

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