Intel 530 Series 480GB SSD Review

Intel 530 Series 480GB SSD Review

Intel 530 SSDs never received much attention, but when you need a low cost, high capacity drive that's reliable, this one is worthy of your consideration.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Mon, Oct 27 2014 11:53 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 91%Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction & Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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VIEW GALLERY - 37 IMAGES

We published our first Intel 530 Series product review back in January, and aside from the release of the 730 Series, Intel has been fairly quiet on the consumer SSD front. The Intel 530 ships with a full accessory package that dwarfs most other company's packages, goes through extensive (and publicly documented) testing before ever coming to market, and in spite of all this, still sells at a low price point.

Today we're testing the largest capacity model in the 530 Series product family, the 480GB.

Specifications, Pricing, and Availability

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Intel released the 530 Series in several capacities and form factors. Capacity ranges from 80GB to 480GB. Three form factors came to market as well, M.2 2280 form factor, mSATA, and the more common 2.5" 7mm z-height.

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The claimed performance is 540 MB/s sequential read, 490 MB/s sequential write, 41,000 random write, and 80,000 random write IOPS (all numbers rated with 'up to'). We should see some deviation from the claimed performance today, especially in the random write category. The 530 Series uses a SandForce SF-2281 controller. In the 480GB capacity, the drives write random data at high queue depths a little slower than the 240GB models.

Intel covers the 530 Series with a solid five-year warranty. Until Samsung and SanDisk moved to ten-year warranties with flagship consumer SSDs, Intel's five-year warranty led the industry. Intel also ships the 530 Series with one of the best retail accessory packages. We'll take a closer look at the accessory package later in this review.

Last, but not least, Intel was one of the first in the industry to release a software toolkit for the company's SSDs. You can read about every software SSD toolkit in the consumer industry, including Intel's SSD Toolbox in this article.

While shopping online, we found the Intel 530 Series 480GB for as low as $239.99. The lowest priced models in this capacity are down to roughly $210, and the Crucial MX100 ($209.99) are very popular, as is the Samsung 840 EVO ($239.99). None of the ultra-low-cost 512GB capacity drives include accessory packages that equal Intel's package, or Intel's long five-year warranty.

PRICING: You can find the Intel 530 Series SSD (kit) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Intel 530 Series 480GB SSD kit retails for $253.38 at Amazon, the Intel 530 Series 240GB SSD kit retails for $129.99 at Amazon, and the Intel 530 Series 120GB SSD kit retails for $79.47 at Amazon.

Canada: The Intel 530 Series 480GB SSD kit retails for CDN$431.26 at Amazon Canada, the Intel 530 Series 240GB SSD kit retails for CDN$189.99 at Amazon Canada, and the Intel 530 Series 120GB SSD kit retails for CDN$112.55 at Amazon Canada.

Intel 530 Series 480GB SSD

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Intel's SSD packaging hasn't changed much over the years.

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The back of the package gives us a list of the box contents, and some general information about the drive.

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Just like Intel's CPUs, a sticker on the package shows the manufacture date, and a few other bits of information if you really want to dive in and research your drive.

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Intel hasn't changed much about the accessory package either. This is a good thing. I know several people who purchased a SSD in a brick and mortar store, went to install the drive, and found they didn't have an extra SATA cable to finish the job. Intel includes a SATA cable, power adapter, desktop mounting bracket, screws, and even a 7mm to 9.5mm adapter.

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Here we get our first look at the Intel 530 Series 480GB SSD. We tested the 240GB model when this series released, but wanted to get this model in our charts, along with Intel's flagship 730 Series.

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The model and serial numbers are on the back of the drive, along with the firmware shipped with your drive. You can update the firmware with Intel's SSD Toolbox software.

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The 530 Series uses a 7mm case, so you can use this drive in current and future Ultrabook designs that require the thinner z-height.

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Inside, we found sixteen Intel 20nm NAND flash packages, and an Intel labeled controller. Even though the controller is labeled Intel, this is a SandForce designed SF-2281 part.

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Intel uses Intel 20nm flash in the 530 Series. This shouldn't come as a surprise, and we wouldn't think much about it, but Intel's business SSD with the same SF-2281 controller uses SK Hynix flash.

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Both Intel and Kingston put their own labels on SF-2281 controllers these days.

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Test System Setup and ATTO Baseline Performance

Desktop Test System

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Lenovo T440 - Notebook Power Testing with DEVSLP and Windows 8.1 Pro

Nearly all of the performance tests run on the desktop system, but we use a Lenovo T440 to run the power tests. The T440 is the latest addition to our client SSD test lab, and allows us to test the notebook battery life offered by a SSD with advanced features like DEVSLP enabled.

ATTO - Baseline Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.34

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In our baseline test that shows transfers by file size, we see the Intel 530 480GB peaks at 537 MB/s read, and 486 MB/s write speeds.

Benchmarks - Sequential Performance

HD Tune Pro - Sequential Performance

Version and / or Patch Used: 5.50

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Using 64KB data blocks to measure sequential performance, we scored the Intel 530 Series 480GB with an average of 418 MB/s. Compared to the other drives on the chart, the SF-2281 is starting to show it's age. However, with that age comes maturity, and the SF-2281 is a very stable drive without any major issues.

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These days you pay for write performance. As flash lithography shrank, die sizes grew larger, and write performance has suffered. The 530 Series doesn't seem to have any issue with the Intel 20nm flash when writing sequential data. This test uses compressible data, but in CrystalDiskMark we scored the sequential write speed with incompressible data at just over 330 MB/s. We'll talk more about this on the next page of this review.

HD Tach - Sequential Write Performance after Random Writes

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0.4.0

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After writing to the full span of the drive a few times with sequential data and a reasonable amount of random data, we ran HD Tach with 128KB sequential data to see how the 530 Series performs with garbage collection working. The sequential write speed dips in a few places to a bit over 200 MB/s, but we don't have any massive dips like some low-cost SSDs leave us with.

Benchmarks - Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: RC6

So what is Anvil Storage Utilities? Well, it's a storage benchmark for SSDs and HDDs where you can check and monitor your performance. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test, or just the read or the write test, or you can run a single test, i.e. 4k QD16.

Anvil Storage Utilities is not officially available yet, but we've been playing with the beta for several months now. Anvil has been updating the software steadily on several international forums, and is adding new features every couple of months.

We can use Anvil several different ways to show different aspects for each drive. We've chosen to use this software to show the performance of a drive with two different data sets. The first is with compressible data, and the second data set is incompressible data. Several users have requested this data in our SSD reviews.

0-Fill Compressible Data

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Incompressible Data

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The Intel 530 Series writes incompressible data at a lower rate than compressible data. These two images show the performance loss when moving between each type of data.

Low Queue Depth Read IOPS

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The Intel 530 Series is one of the few drives capable of achieving over 10K IOPS of random 4K data reads. The drive scales really well as the queue depth increases.

High Queue Depth Read IOPS

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Up top, the 530 Series nearly gets to 60K IOPS at QD32. This is shy of Intel's 'up to' performance, but it's expected on the 480GB capacity drives.

Low Queue Depth Write IOPS

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The low queue depth random write speeds are significantly lower than the other drives on the chart, including the Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB with the same SF-2281 controller at QD1. The performance is common on 480GB SF-2281 controlled drives, and is not something we see on the 240GB models.

High Queue Depth Write IOPS

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The 530 Series 480GB tops out at 44K random write IOPS in our test at QD32.

Benchmarks - Mixed Read / Write Workloads

Sequential Mixed Read / Write Workloads

In this series of tests, we measure mixed workload performance. We start with 100% read and then add data writes to the mix in 10% increments until we get to 100% writes. We believe this will be the next major area SSD manufacturers will address after performance consistency.

Sequential Mixed Workload Bandwidth

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The low random performance may make it sound like the SF-2281 should be retired to the dustbin of history, but that's far from the case. In this test, we uses a 50% mix of compressible and incompressible data, and measure sequential performance with a mix or reads and writes. SATA can't read and write at the same time, but when multitasking, we ask our drives to read and write many items as fast as possible. The 530 Series allows you to read and write rapidly without slowing down significantly.

Sequential 80% Read / 20% Write Bandwidth

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For consumer workloads, we use the 80% read and 20% write mark to test performance. Here we see the SF-2281 controlled drives have a significant advantage in this test.

Random Mixed Workload Response Time

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In the random test, we use 50% reads and 50% writes, and scale the drives by queue depth. The lower random speeds of the 530 Series show up here, but as you can see, the results with mixed data are not as low as they were in comparison to the other drives in our previous random data queue depth scale test.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended - Consistency Test

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.0.228

Heavy Usage Model:

Futuremark's PCMark 8 allows us to wear the test drive down to a reasonable consumer steady state, and then watch the drive recover on its own through garbage collection. To do that, the drive gets pushed down to steady state with random writes, and then idle time between a number of tests allows the drive to recover.

Precondition Phase:

1. Write the drive sequentially through, up to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).

Degradation Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for ten minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat steps one and two, eight times, and on each pass increase the duration of random writes by five minutes.

Steady state Phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat steps one and two, five times.

Recovery Phase:

1. Idle for five minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat one and two, five times.

Storage Bandwidth

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we use to judge a drive's performance. Here we see the three states of performance for the select SSDs: light use, consumer steady state, and worst case.

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In this test, we look at consumer performance consistency, and consider how long workloads effect drive performance. For most of us, the orange bar is what we should see in daily use scenarios. Heavier consumer workloads (blue bar), and less intense workloads (red bar), are also shown on this chart.

Storage Bandwidth All Tests

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Here we see all of the tests, including those that took the drive down into steady state. The 530 starts off in the middle of the chart that compares several drives.

Typical Consumer Bandwidth

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Here we highlight the typical consumer light use section of the chart. In the other tests, the 530 Series 480GB delivered mediocre performance, but here the drive falls to the bottom of the group in daily use program performance. The only issue with testing SandForce based SSDs with this test is the compressible vs. incompressible factor. This series of tests uses 100% incompressible data, even though the original software wouldn't be 100% incompressible.

PCMark 8 Consistency Test - Continued

Total Access Time

The access time test measures the total latency across all 18 tests. This is one of, if not the most important of the tests we run at this time for consumer SSDs. When your latency is low, your computer feels fast; it's just that simple.

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Here we see the latency from the same tests on the previous page. This is where the 530 Series gets interesting. If you write a lot of data to the drive, you move outside of the normal consumer workload and into the prosumer steady state part of the scale. After you remove the three fastest drives on the market, SanDisk Extreme II and Extreme PRO as well as the Samsung 850 Pro, the Intel 530 Series delivers the lowest latency.

Typical Consumer Latency

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In the typical consumer side of the test, the 530 Series 480GB is on the high-end of the latency scale. If Intel were to roll in modern flash technology like using a SLC like layer, the latency would decrease significantly.

Benchmarks - Power Testing

Bapco MobileMark 2012 1.5

Version and / or Patch Used: 2012 1.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

Test Homepage: http://www.bapco.com

MobileMark 2012 1.5 is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of office productivity, media creation, and media consumption. Unlike benchmarks that only measure battery life, MobileMark 2012 measures battery life and performance simultaneously, showing how well a system design addresses the inherent tradeoffs between performance and power management.

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In our Lenovo T440 with working DEVSLP, the Intel 530 Series 480GB delivered 615 minutes of battery life.

Power Limited Performance

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With power limited to the system, the Intel 530 Series does lose a bit more performance than many of the more modern drives on the chart.

Final Thoughts

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It's difficult to believe, but we wrote our SandForce SF-2000 Series introduction article at the start of 2011. At the time, the market was ready to move from SATA 3Gb/s to SATA 6Gb/s, and SandForce was our hero. SandForce came on the scene fast, and dominated the SATA 3Gb/s market.

2010 was not only SandForce's breakout year, but it was also the year in which SandForce became an industry leader. In order to do that, SandForce needed to engineer a product that was innovative, and offered a significant increase in performance to the competitions products, while doing so at a lower cost. That is exactly what SandForce managed to do.

The transition from SF-1200 to SF-2200 was swift, unlike the current transition to third generation silicon. We've seen early demos for SF3000 series hardware, but the move from SATA 6Gb/s to NVMe hasn't been as smooth as everyone hoped.

All of this ties into the Intel 530 Series. The benchmark performance showed us that the SF-2281 controller is still competitive, but only in low-cost products. The controller's feature set is competitive though, featuring DEVSLP, encryption, and the most significant feature of all, data compression.

There was a time when Intel used the SF-2281 for flagship performance products, but the 530 Series is priced closer to value-based drives these days. There is still a gap between the Crucial MX100, Corsair Force LS, and their clones, but the 530 brings more to the table. The value SSD market products usually have a two to three-year warranty. Intel covers the 530 Series with a full five-year warranty. Normally value drives ship with the SSD, some cardboard and plastic, but the Intel 530 Series ships with a plethora of adapters, cables, and other accessories, along with Intel's SSD Toolbox that has a slew of features.

If you want a low-cost SSD with high capacity, reliability that only comes from maturity, and a bells and whistles package, the Intel 530 Series 480GB is a good choice. For light use, there are faster SSDs on the market in this capacity, but if you plan to write a lot of data while hammering the drive, the 530 Series is better than most products on the market at this price point.

PRICING: You can find the Intel 530 Series SSD (kit) for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Intel 530 Series 480GB SSD kit retails for $253.38 at Amazon, the Intel 530 Series 240GB SSD kit retails for $129.99 at Amazon, and the Intel 530 Series 120GB SSD kit retails for $79.47 at Amazon.

Canada: The Intel 530 Series 480GB SSD kit retails for CDN$431.26 at Amazon Canada, the Intel 530 Series 240GB SSD kit retails for CDN$189.99 at Amazon Canada, and the Intel 530 Series 120GB SSD kit retails for CDN$112.55 at Amazon Canada.

Performance88%
Quality including Design and Build93%
General Features90%
Bundle and Packaging93%
Value for Money89%
Overall91%

The Bottom Line: Intel's 530 Series may use older technology, but that technology is reliable, efficient and still makes for a great product at a low price point. The 530 480GB costs more than some other low-cost drives on the market, but ships with the components you need to install the drive.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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