Enthusiasts -- DIY types and gamers -- were the first to embrace solid-state storage, but the industry has quickly moved to reach the bigger market of more cost-conscious mainstream buyers. Those who have felt a bit neglected by SSD makers might appreciate Intel's new effort to cater to the more hardcore in the PC world.
The SSD 730 Series continues the company's on-again, off-again flirtation with gamers and tweakers. On the one hand, the factory overclocking of the drive's controller and its NAND flash memory makes it stand out from the crowd, but it's a step back from allowing users to overclock SSDs on their own, which Intel previewed last fall. For what it's worth, the chip giant says the controller in the SSD 730 is overclocked by 50 percent, while the flash is boosted by 20 percent.
Despite that, the drive's speed might not be as blistering as its backstory would lead you to believe. Our sister site CNET ran benchmarks and found that while the SSD 730 can hold its own against competition like the Samsung 840 Evo and OCZ Vector, it did not blow them away. Other sites like HotHardware and AnandTech were a little more impressed, though both note that the solid performance comes with a price premium.
That's not just because of the skull etched on the top of the drive (a remnant of its "Skulltrail" platform). Instead, you are getting enterprise-like performance consistency -- the higher capacity SSD 730 can handle up to 70GB of writes per day for up to five years compared to other drives' typical daily limits of 20GB. Intel also touts its Rapid Storage Technology that supercharges throughput when a pair of drives are set up in a RAID-0 configuration.
The SSD 730 comes in 240GB and 480GB capacities. Beyond the amount of storage and the price, the main difference between the two versions comes in the form of sustained sequential write speeds: While the 240GB drive maxes out at 270MB/s, its bigger brother can write up to 470MB/s. Either drive has sustained sequential read speeds of 550MB/s and a Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) of 1,200,000 hours.
The SSD 730 family is due in the middle of March, with a suggested price of $249 for the 240GB version and $489 for the 480GB model.