Admittedly, I spent more time in the review looking at how the new 335 Series compared to the 520 Series that I largely ignored the Samsung 840 250GB. The 335 is good enough to compare to Intel's flagship consumer SSD and for the most part walks away from Samsung's new mainstream SSD in this capacity size. In Samsung's marketing material, they gave us a little blurb about how some SSDs lose performance when working with incompressible data. What they failed to mention is the 250GB 840 doesn't have high compressible or incompressible performance when doing anything other than reading large amounts of sequential data.
We really like Intel's approach to the mainstream SSD market - use higher program erase cycle NAND for the flagship and deliver a high speed solution with synchronous flash to mainstream users. This is a much better option than putting out a drive with asynchronous flash and I think it works out well. The Intel 520 Series gets hammered sometimes for its price, but it's one of the most reliable SSDs on the market today and delivers the best SandForce / MLC performance. The 335 follows right along with very close to flagship performance, but uses 'regular' 3K P/E flash and is knocked down a bit with some firmware tricks. For most users, the two are indistinguishable and that makes the 335 a product that appeals to not only mainstream folks, but also enthusiasts as well.
With a price well below the $1 per GB mark and Intel's proven reliability, the 335 is a solid offering. Once you throw in the performance, the picture becomes really clear. The question isn't if this is a product you should buy, but is there another drive on the market today you should even consider buying instead.
Let's go through the list of possibilities in the 240GB/256GB capacity size. The Neutron GTX, Vector and 840 Pro all cost more to significantly more for better performance, but that performance is only realized during intense multitasking. Both the Neutron non-GTX and Samsung 840 cost about the same as the 335, but we can dismiss the 840 for lack of write performance and the Neutron takes a big hit when 50% full. The same thing comes up with the Plextor M5 and M5 Pro, low 50% full performance. The Plextor M3 Pro 256GB though didn't have the same low 50% issue, but the drive went MIA when the new M5 Series came out. Finally, that leaves us with Team SandForce, the large collection of drives that are all nearly identical and sold by companies that don't have the same level of control with firmware like Intel does. Issues with BSOD and TRIM really turned a lot of people off of SandForce and gaining their trust again is an uphill battle.
To put it bluntly, others SandForce and Intel SandForce aren't the same. We like others SandForce for their performance and price, but we don't like playing firmware shuffle. Enthusiasts don't really mind, you can give us a firmware, tell us the drive will crash if left on for three days straight, but gives a 10% performance increase and we'll run it. The 335 isn't designed for enthusiasts, it's a mainstream build with mainstream reliability. It's not going to need three firmware updates just to get the features advertised on the box to work right, it just works right from the start...except for one little issue that doesn't affect performance or reliability and Intel has already addressed the issue with the wear level counter.
With all of that worked out, is there another drive that offers what the 335 240GB does? I can think of one, but it costs $50 more - the Intel 520 Series. I don't think the 520 Series offers $50 worth of addition performance to recommend it over the 335 Series for general consumers unless you're using the drive heavily for multitasking or very heavy incompressible data use. For most of us there really isn't going to be much of a difference, and that makes the 335 Series the best price vs. performance vs. reliability SSDs on the market today.
I'm not crying tears of joy though because Intel left two features off the table that should have been included. The first is a 7mm z-height for ultrabook users. Intel is pushing ultrabooks, but they don't make 335 in an ultrabook form factor. At this point no company should release a 9.5mm z-height drive. The second is one we're still waiting to hear more about and that is SandForce's new B02 revision of the 2281. B02 is the lower power yet same performance controller. Intel made great strides in the power consumption category with 20nm flash, but they came up short to Samsung's 840. The 335 Series gave us the third best battery life test result we've recorded, but when we see a new Intel SSD, we don't expect a second or third place result in any category. When Intel says lower power consumption, we pretty much take that as a statement saying they are going to do it better than anyone else. That didn't happen this time, but the other features make up for our high expectations not being totally fulfilled.
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