Intel 730 Series SSD 480 GB full review

Intel SSD 730 Series

Intel’s 730 Series is a high-performance consumer SSD, aimed at professionals. In contrast to some recent Intel SSDs that use SandForce controllers (with Intel’s custom firmware), Intel has repurposed one if its own designs, the Intel PC29AS21CA0 controller – first developed for enterprise-class flash drives such as the Intel DC S3700. Also see: What's the best SSD

The company also specifies its own NAND flash, here 20nm MLC, and is sufficiently confident of its endurance to offer a five-year warranty. Up to 70GB of writes per day is promised for the 480GB capacity model, suggesting a total writespan of 127TB.

Intel doesn’t specify any RAM cache details, although we understand the larger of the two available models at 480GB uses 512MB of DDR3 DRAM memory. Thanks to overclocking, the controller has been accelerated from 400- to 600MHz, a mighty move of 50 percent. The memory bus has also been tweaked from 83- to 100MHz.

Unfortunately, we currently don’t have the facility to measure internal power consumption, but Intel’s own figures of up to 5.5W when active and 1.5W idle suggest this SSD would not be a wise choice for laptops seeking decent battery lives. In straightforward sequential runs, the Intel 730 Series could stretch its legs to the SATA Revision 3.0 limit, hitting 559MB/s for reads and 507MB/s in writes.

Tested with both compressible and incompressible data in CrystalDiskMark the results were similar – for example, 459MB/s versus 456MB/s reads and 482MB/s versus 480MB/s writes – indicating the drive’s freedom from data bias. Intel’s specification rightly focuses on low latency, apparent in measurements as good input/output per second figures. And the 730 Series soundly met and beat its spec of up to 89- and 74k respectively for reads and writes.

In the AS SSD benchmark test, it was close to that spec at 89k reads and 72k writes IOPS, using the default queue depth of 64 threads. Presented with half as many threads in CrystalDiskMark (QD=32) with random 4kB transfers again, we saw almost 94k read IOPS and 82k write IOPS. For single-threaded 4kB operation, the 730 Series returned a good result of 35MB/s reads, one of the highest figures seen here, and a healthy 89MB/s for random writes. Overall, the 730 Series is the most expensive drive on test per gigabyte, but if you want speed at the SATA limit and a formal guarantee of endurance, the Intel SSD will deliver both.

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