There are three key areas where the new Intel 520 Series stands out. The most obvious is the performance; this is the fastest SF-2281 controlled 2.5" drive we've tested to date. The second is the Intel validation testing that went into the drive, also an area where Intel surpassed other drive makers. The third is the ease of use and features found in the Intel SSD Toolbox which is more robust than the software offered by any other drive manufacture. The real question, though, is if these are enough to justify the premium price you'll have to pay.
Let's start out with the performance. The Intel 520 Series is the fastest we've tested to date and there are only a small number of drives we've yet to see with a 2.5" form factor. Every Intel SSD on the market has been followed with a number of firmware updates, some increasing performance after purchase. With the amount of testing that Intel already has logged with the 520 Series we can't say for sure if that will happen again, but I'd bet on a slight performance improvement later down the line. Rest assured, the drive is fast out of the box, you really couldn't ask for more performance or feel let down with what you are getting.
Intel's validation testing is one area that we have to believe in on faith. Intel didn't go into a lot of detail about their testing or unique firmware shipping only with the 520 Series. In the past Intel has received an egg on their face and needed to quickly make corrections to problems missed during testing. Only time will tell if Intel missed an issue with the new SandForce controlled drive. One thing we do know is if Intel has an issue the problem will be addressed quickly. We say this based on Intel's track record of dealing with issues related to their products. The big SF-2281 issue that was widely reported took several months for SandForce to address and even users who didn't experience the problem were worried that it may affect their drives. Those issues were eventually corrected, but the several month wait was stressful for everyone. By the time a fix was released several consumer had already swore off SandForce products completely, those users can now take a serious look at the 520 Series knowing that Intel is involved and brings with them the resources needed to keep this sort of thing from happening again.
The final physical area is the accessory package that Intel ships with the 520 Series. All of your bases are covered from cables to a desktop adapter bracket. On the software side we mentioned the Intel SSD Toolbox which is one of the most robust available. It's too bad this isn't something that works with all SSDs because it is a very nice piece of software. You can chalk this one up again to Intel's resources and experience when making solid state drives.
So far Intel has impressed us with their 520 Series 240GB drive, a solid Honor Role Report Card with A+s across the board. At this time though the price of the 520 Series gets a big fat C- written in red ink. If I was a teacher the note would read, Intel, you can do better than this! At the time of writing Newegg lists the OEM 240GB model "bare drive" at 539.99 and the full kit model as 549.99 USD. As you know all new to market products carry a price premium, so we aren't too worried about these drives staying at these pricing levels for too long. What we really want to know is how low they will drop to and how fast it will happen. At nearly $200 more than an OCZ Vertex 3 240GB, I'd have to say wait and see what happens on the price. Then you have to ask yourself just how much more you will pay for Intel's unique firmware, industry leading five year warranty and extensive accessory package. Is $100 more within reason? That is something you will need to justify on your own because personal finances are out of my scope and not easily quantified by a third party.
Spending your enterprise dollars on the other hand is a lot easier for me to lay claim to. With an increasing number of servers being treated to lower cost MLC drives, Intel's extensive validation will pay off when you can't spend a day swapping drives around and require the best the market has to offer.
Intel's 520 Series is the best the market has to offer, but for consumers, the price premium will need to shrink before the extras justify the expense.
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