Internals, Testing Methodology and System Setup

Intel 510 Series 250GB SATA 6G Solid State Drive Review - Storage 35

Cracked open, we can see the main board, complete with Intel flash, Hynix ram, and a Marvell controller. Wait. Marvell?!?!
Intel 510 Series 250GB SATA 6G Solid State Drive Review - Storage 36

Sure enough, the 510 series uses a non-Intel branded controller. This is a first for Intel, who had previously stuck with their own in-house designs.

Intel 510 Series 250GB SATA 6G Solid State Drive Review - Storage 37

Intel 510 Series 250GB SATA 6G Solid State Drive Review - Storage 38

You may be asking yourself why on earth would Intel go with another controller? My theory is that last year they stubbornly stuck to the theory that SATA 3Gb/sec was ‘good enough for everyone’, and with increasing pressure from the competition they had no choice but to make some last minute changes. A good example is the recent Sandy Bridge fiasco, where last minute changes resulted in some serious heartache. Now that they are shipping a SATA 6Gb/sec capable platform, the only thing missing is a product to use that throughput. I suspect the change in direction did not leave Intel’s own SSD team enough lead time to finish their 6Gb/sec part, so there was no choice but to go with another chip.

Why Marvell? Most other controllers out there can’t scale nearly as well as the original Intel controllers. The only exceptions to that are Marvell and SandForce. Between those two, SandForce would have been a better choice, but they are in direct and heavy competition with Intel. While Intel has only allowed rebranding under the Kingston name, SandForce is shipping chips to literally dozens of SSD makers. Above that, manufacturers shipping SandForce are doing quite well these days. Even if Intel came knocking, I suspect SandForce would have just politely declined at this point in the game. That leaves Marvell, who until only recently only had their chips in the Crucial C300 line. They are now branching out, and they likely see the Intel move as a necessary step to put them on the map.

Testing Methods    

Our tests are a good mix of synthetic and real-world benchmarks.  PCMark, IOMeter, HDTach, HDTune, Yapt and our custom File Copy test round out the selection to cover just about all bases.  If you have any questions about our tests just drop into the Storage Forum and we’ll help you out!        

Test System Setup     

We’re breaking in a new SandyBridge testbed. Necessary for properly testing these new drives, even with the known issues. To get around this, we are using only the Intel SATA 6Gb/sec ports, which are known to not exhibit the inconsistent performance / connectivity issues.  

PC Perspective would like to thank ASUS, Corsair, and Kingston for supplying some of the components of our test rig.

Notes specific to this review

We included data from the Micron C300 for comparison – but that data was obtained under the previous testbed’s ICH10R controller. This was done primarily due to very odd performance seen when testing under the Marvell SATA 6Gb/sec controller. We will be revisiting the C300 with newer firmware, testing it under the SandyBridge native SATA 6Gb/sec controller along with a backfill retest of our other samples. 

Hard Drive Test System Setup
CPU Intel Core i5-2500K
Motherboard Asus P8P67 Deluxe
Memory Kingston HyperX 4GB DDR3-2133 CL9
Hard Drive G.Skill 32GB SLC SSD
Sound Card N/A
Video Card BFG Geforce 8400 GS 512MB PCI
Video Drivers Geforce 181.22
Power Supply Corsair CMPSU-650TX
DirectX Version DX9.0c
Operating System Windows 7 X64

  • PCMark05
  • Yapt
  • IOMeter
  • HDTach
  • HDTune        
  • PCPer File Copy Test

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