There’s plenty of SSD options out there, but Intel’s NAND drives are among the most well thought of, simply because they’re so reliable. But, with the top speed of competing SSDs spiraling higher, Intel’s rock-solid reputation may not be enough for some enthusiasts. Enter the SSD 520, with a performance SandForce SF-2281 controller and custom firmware (codenamed Cherryville) on board to ensure the 520 meets Chipzilla’s demanding standards for stability. It’s the result of a year and a half long collaboration between Intel and SandForce, and is available in both 7mm and 9.5mm thin form factors to fit any machine — Ultrabook or otherwise. Aside from the SandForce chip, the 520 packs Intel’s finest 25nm NAND Flash, a SATA 6GB/s connection and its 550MB/s reads and 520MB/s writes can be had for $149 in 60GB garb and prices escalate up to a grand for 480GB. Naturally, as this is Intel’s effort to snatch back the performance market, a raft of reviews have been written about the SSD 520.
So, how does the 520 stack up? Well, Intel’s so confident in the 520 that it’s backed the SSD with a five-year warranty. Though its performance doesn’t drastically outpace its competition, Storage Review found the drive to be on par with the current speed king, OCZ’s Vertex 3 in its benchmarks — and also found performance and stability to be quite good in both enterprise use and in RAID arrays. Meanwhile, AnandTech found that the 520′s peak random write speeds quite similar to its sequential reads during testing, which shows how well the optimized firmware works with the NAND. Hot Hardware thought the 520 to be comparable to other SandForce-equipped SSDs, but in terms of power consumption, Tom’s Hardwarefound Intel’s latest to be a power hog. Generally, all the reviewers were in agreement: the 520 is a speedy SSD, but you pay a hefty premium for Intel’s reputation for churning out reliable drives. Only time will tell if the 520 can deliver the reliability we want, but there’s plenty of performance info to be had in the reviews listed below.
It was just last week that we got to take home the Acer Aspire S3, the first Ultrabook to go on sale here in the States. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the pillars laid out by Intel: its performance trails similar machines, its battery craps out early and the design, while portable, is too chintzy to make it a bellwether for skinny Windows laptops. Our verdict, in a sentence, was that you’d be better off getting a MacBook Air, or at least considering other Ultrabooks — namely, ASUS’ line of Zenbooks.
As it turns out, one showed up on our doorstep just a few days later. In many ways, the UX31 is everything the S3 is not: it has a gorgeous all-metal design and comes standard with an SSD and 1600 x 900 display (not to mention, a case and two bundled adapters). And with a starting price of $1,099, it undercuts the entry-level (and similarly configured) MacBook Air by two hundred bucks. So is this the Ultrabook we’ve all been waiting for? We suggest pouring yourself a large beverage, settling into a comfy chair and meeting us past the break. We’ve got a lot to say on the subject.