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Intel's latest 730 Series solid-state drive (SSD) is the first from the company that comes with a factory-overclocked SSD controller and NAND bus speeds. However, performance is not its strongest suit, but rather, its endurance.
In my testing, the new SSD was fast, though far from the fastest I've seen. It supports RAID configurations, and when used in RAID 0 its performance was basically doubled. But that's true for most, if not all, RAID-enabled SSDs. The drive has about the same power consumption as a standard 2.5-inch hard drive, which means it won't help with a laptop's battery life.But the drive works with desktops, too, and will definitely increase the performance a great deal for those who are still using a hard drive as the main storage device for their computer. All things considered, at the suggested retail price of $249 for 240GB or $489 for 480GB, I find the new 730 Series worth the investment. It'll be an even better deal when the street price drops below $1 per gigabyte, which is very likely. For now, you can also find other fast and more affordable solid-state drives on this list.
Design and features
Available in the now-familiar 7mm chassis, the new 730 Series drive resembles previous Intel SSDs, such as the
|Device type||7mm, 2.5-inch SSD||same
|Interface||SATA 3, SATA 2||same
|Controller||Third-gen Intel controller||same
|NAND flash memory||20nm Intel MLC flash||same
|Random read||86,000 IOPS||89,000 IOPS|
|Random write||56,000 IOPS||74,000 IOPS|
|Sequential read||550 MB/s||550 MB/s|
|Sequential write||270 MB/s||470 MB/s|
|Mean time between failures||2 million hours||same
|Energy consumption||3.8W (1.5W idle)||5.5W (1.5W idle)|
|Endurance||70GB written daily||same
Intel says the new drive comes with a factory-overclocked SSD controller and NAND bus speeds. The controller clock is now at 600Mhz (up from 400Mhz in the previous model), and the NAND bus speed is now at 100Mhz (up from 83Mhz). It also comes with firmware optimized for clients (workstation and home PCs). In all, this is an SSD for the masses rather than for server applications. This also explains why it doesn't support hardware encryption, which requires supported motherboards -- generally available only in an enterprise environment -- to work properly.
The most impressive feature of the 730 Series is its endurance rating. All SSDs have a finite number of write, or program/erase cycles (P/E cycles), meaning you can only write so many times to them before they become unreliable. (Read more about endurance here.) Intel guarantees that you can write about 70GB on the new 730 Series per day, every day, for five years. Now, 70GB is a lot of data; most of us don't write even one-tenth of that on a given day, and definitely not every day. In short, you will likely have another reason to replace the drive well before it runs out of P/E cycles.
Cost per gigabyte
At the current cost of $249 (240GB) or $489 (480GB), the new Intel SSD 730 is slightly more than $1 per gigabyte and is one of the most expensive consumer-grade SSDs on the market. This is the suggested retail price, however, and the street price is likely lower when the drive is available for purchase next month. The drive does come with a 5-year warranty which somewhat justifies its pricing. Plus, it promises to last for a very long time.