Intel aims for gamers, enthusiasts with new SSD 730 Series

Intel aims for gamers, enthusiasts with new SSD 730 Series

Summary: The company has overclocked the controller and NAND flash, slapped a skull on the new solid-state drives, and priced them from $249 when they become available next month.

TOPICS: Storage, Hardware, Intel

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.

Topics: Storage, Hardware, Intel

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  • Sweet

    Sweet drive =). SSDs are worth it, if you can afford them.
    • Sweet?

      Not in regular daily activities.. I don't see the reason for using it.
      And I fail to see what it will do for gamers, other than, maybe load the game faster?
      • Pretty sweet

        What it does for daily activities:
        - Faster boot times
        - Faster software start-up times
        - Improved performance of virtual memory
        - Faster copies, moves, etc (to the drive of course)

        What it does for gamers
        - Faster game load times
        - Faster/more fluid performance in games with dynamic loading (this is huge, as most modern games work this way; it's especially notable in games where scenery changes often, such as flight simulators)

        Granted, adding RAM and purchasing CPU/GPU upgrades will probably give more noticable improvements in most cases, but an SSD helps too.
      • Drive speed definitely matters

        Try playing open world games on both an SSD and a conventionaly magnetic HDD. The difference is dramatic. Open world games spend a lot of time loading the next area you are walking into. With a fast SSD, games with loadscreens don't even give you enough time to read the pointers on the load screens. On a 5600 HDD, you will have to wait a bit.

        This can also be felt quite a bit in games where you save and reload saves. Starting games shows the biggest difference. Playing a great game like Red Dead Redemption on a PS3 can be painful at times with the long load times for people like me who are used to almost instant area transitions due to faster storage.

        For those with budget constraints, I suppose they should prioritize meeting minimum requirements for games. For those who can easily afford $200-$300 for an SSD, it makes a very noticeable difference.
        • Darn typos

  • Overpriced and minimal performance benefit over a less-expensive SSD

    I'm puzzled by this product. Storage performance only contributes to quicker load times between levels. It does not have a significant impact on frames-per-second. For gamers, just having an SSD *of any kind* will be 99.5% of the benefit. It doesn't matter if your level loads in 8 seconds instead of 8.3 seconds.

    For the nearly same price as the 240GB Intel "gamer" SSD, you could get a 480GB Crucial M500. And you would never be able to tell the difference in performance unless you were purposely running artificial benchmarks of the drives' performance.

    Of course, that skull on the case could be worth an extra $100 to some gamer-types. They gotta have something cool to see through the clear side window of their case among the glow of all LED lights and matching colored motherboard and sticks of RAM. But more seriously, if you have a limited budget you would be better-off putting that extra $100 toward something that will actually improve gaming performance rather than buying a marginally faster "gamer" SSD.

    To clarify, I'm not against high-end, extra-fast SSDs. I just don't think they make sense in the context of gaming performance.
    • This, I can agree with.

      The SSD's performance will be most noticeable in specific games where loading is frequent (think flight simulator). However, RAM, CPU, and GPU upgrades would be far more effective.
      • Also, this drive is way overpriced

    • Agreed

      While SSDs clearly do make very noticeable improvements in performance, the differences between SSDs with very different theoretical maximum speeds is often not noticeable in normal tasks, like loading in games. I haven't done a scientific analysis, but I haven't noticed a significant difference between loading games on my OCZ Vertex 3 and my Samsung 840. If I had just bought another Vertex 3 instead of the 640, I would have saved a lot of money and probably not noticed the difference.

      On the other hand, the OCZ drive had driver issues for the first 6 months of ownership that caused a lot of blue screens while the Samsung drive has had zero problems. I also belief that the expected life of the Samsung drive is longer than the OCZ drive, which is reassuring.

      Of course, running games on my 7400 HDD is painfully slow.
  • So that should really help to improve our GNP?

    (not) It just means more time wasted on non-productive games, methinks.
  • Overclocking is a feature?

    I thought overclocking was something done by geeks to boost performance at the cost of reliability. Driving anything faster than it's supposed to run is bound to cause additional stress and wear and tear with consequent reduced reliability so why didn't Intel simply design a better controller that they could run faster reliably as it would be designed for a higher speed?
    • Agreed

      I am find with factory overclocked video cards since I have an excuse to upgrade if the video card dies an early death. I have an overclocked GTX 580 that shows no signs of dying after 2 years, but I would not shed a tear if it dies a year from now and I am forced to upgrade to an 880 or whatever nvidia will have out.

      Shortening the life on an SSD is a different story. Even if you are diligent about backing up all of your content or use predominantly cloud based solutions for storing documents, you will have the hassle of reinstalling your environment.
  • darn typos again!

    I am FINE...