Intel Solid-State Drive 520 review: Intel Solid-State Drive 520

According to Intel, the new drive support AES 256-bit data encryption. I tried with different platforms and different RAID setups and it worked well with all of them. Like all SSDs, the 520 Series can handle shocks and uses much less energy than a traditional hard drive. The drive is available in 60GB, 120GB, 180GB (unusual), 240GB, and 480GB capacities.

Cost per gigabyte
On average, all capacities of the 520 Series cost around $2 per gigabyte, similar to the recently reviewed RunCore Pro V Max. This is comparatively expensive among SSDs currently on the market. The OCZ Octane, for example, costs around $1.50 per gigabyte, while the Samsung 830 Series, which offers slightly better performance, costs just around $1.70 per gigabyte. To be fair, the 520 Series offers more with its 7mm thickness option and all the accessories as well as utility software. Still it'd be ideal if the drive cost $1.50 per gigabyte or less. Hopefully its price will get lowered.

Cost per gigabyte (in U.S. dollars, based on current street pricing)
Intel 520 Series SSD (480GB)
$2.25 
Intel 520 Series SSD (180GB)
$2.21 
Intel 520 Series SSD (240GB)
$2.08 
Intel 520 Series SSD (120GB)
$1.92 

Performance
Though not the fastest I've seen, the Intel 520 Series SSD did well in my testing, helping the host computer take just 12 seconds to boot and about 6 seconds to shut down. These numbers are on par with other SSDs I've seen.

While it's hard to put this in numbers, the drive also helps boosts application performance a great deal. This means an application that would normally take a while to load from a hard drive loads much more quickly from an SSD. With the 520 Series, this was especially true for games. StarCraft 2, for example, took just a few seconds to load in my trials, an improvement I personally really appreciated.

The Intel 520 Series SSD also showed some impressive numbers for sequential writing and reading. When used as a secondary drive, where the 520 Series performed only the writing, it managed about 230MBps, putting it among the top four on the chart. When used as the main drive hosting the operating system and thus both writing and reading at the same time, it still scored 154MBps, among the top three.

Internal hard drive performance (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Shutdown  
Boot time  
Intel 520 Series
6 
12 
OCZ Octane
6.3 
12 
Patriot Pyro
6 
12.5 
Samsung 830 Series
6 
13.3 
Plextor PX-256M2S
6 
13.5 
SanDisk Ultra
7.2 
13.5 
Crucial M4
6.8 
13.7 
OCZ Vertex 3
5.8 
14.1 
OCZ Agility 3
6.7 
14.7 
WD VelociRaptor 600GB
7.9 
45.4 
WD VelociRaptor 300GB
12.2 
56.2 

CNET Labs data transfer performance (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
As secondary drive  
As OS drive  
Samsung 830 Series
261.63 
172.88 
Plextor PX-256M2S
261 
162.03 
Intel 520 series
230.01 
154.01 
OCZ Vertex 3
260.71 
150.01 
OCZ Octane
183.41 
135.43 
Crucial M4
235.51 
117.99 
OCZ Agility 3
207.75 
101.67 
RunCore Pro V Max
186.78 
92.55 
Patriot Pyro
190.01 
76.44 
SanDisk Ultra
96.4 
65.6 
WD VelociRaptor 600GB
126.33 
58.05 
Seagate Barracuda XT
115.71 
51.1 
WD VelociRaptor 300GB
112.59 
47.12 

Service and support
Intel backs the 520 Series with a serious five-year warranty. This is the top warranty that you can expect, since most SSDs come with just a three-year warranty or less. On Intel's Web site, you'll find a section dedicated to the drive, where you can find more information and download software for it.

Conclusions:
Despite the hefty price tag, the Intel 520 Series SSD makes an excellent hard-drive replacement for any computer on any platform.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Form Factor 2.5" x 1/8H
  • Hard Drive Type internal hard drive
  • Capacity 240 GB
About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.