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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Most solid state drive (SSD) manufacturers make their drives with a standard set of capacities with the most popular being 64 GB, 128 GB and 256 GB. Intel is the exception to this rule, as they produce their SSDs in more varied capacities from 40 GB to 600 GB. Today we are going to look at a 320 Series 160 GB SSD from Intel which will give you a little more space than the 128 GB drives that most manufacturers offer.

Before going on, we’d highly suggest that you read our Anatomy of SSD Units tutorial which provides all the background information you need to know about SSDs. The SSDs featured in this review use MLC memory chips.

Many people would love to upgrade their laptop to a solid state drive but can’t afford one that is capacious enough for all their programs and files. With this 160 GB unit, Intel provides a solution which fits in between the standard 128 GB and 256 GB capacities. This is ideal for people who think 128 GB is a little too small for them but can’t afford the extra expense of a 256 GB unit. With desktops, the larger capacity is less significant, as the SSD can always be combined with a larger mechanical hard drive.

Because the Intel 320 Series drive is unique with its 160 GB capacity, we will be comparing it with two 128 GB drives in our tests. These will be the Patriot Torqx 2 and Kingston V100 models which we recently reviewed in detail here. In the table below, we are comparing the Intel drive with the two other drives. All three drives use a SATA-300 interface and occupy the standard 2.5” form Factor

Manufacturer Model Model # Capacity Price
Intel 320 Series SSDSA2CW160G310 160 GB USD 290
Kingston SSDNow V100 SV100S2D/128GZ 128 GB USD 226
Patriot Torqx 2 PT2128GS25SSDR 128 GB USD 225

We researched the prices at Newegg.com on the day that we published the review and noted the following observation.

The listed price for the Kingston drive is for the “Desktop Bundle” version that we have for review. The same drive is also available on its own or as part of a “Notebook Bundle” from Newegg.com. Both of these options cost USD 220.

In the table below, we provide a more in-depth technical comparison between the drives. Most chip manufacturers don’t detail the specifics of their chips on their websites, so we are only linking to those we found.

Model Controller Buffer Memory
Intel 320 Series Intel PC29AS21BA0 64 MB (Hynix H5585162EFR) Intel 29FI6B08CCMEI 
Kingston SSDNow V100 Toshiba JMF618 64 MB (Mira P3R12E4JIFF) Toshiba TH58NVG6D2FTA20 
Patriot Torqx 2 Phison PS3105-S5 128 MB (Hynix H5MS1G22AFR) Toshiba TH58NVG7D2FLA89

[nextpage title=”A Closer Look”]

Intel uses a different internal configuration than most manufacturers with the Intel 320 Series 160 GB SSD, as the controller supports ten memory channels rather than eight.

Intel 320 160 GB SSDFigure 1: Intel SSD 320 Series

The exterior casing of the 320 Series is constructed from brushed aluminium, giving it an attractive appearance. It should also provide a decent level of protection for the PCB inside and keeps weight to a minimum. On the top of the drive, there is a plastic spacer which makes the drive conform to the standard 2.5” form factor.

Intel 320 160 GB SSD PCB TopFigure 2: Intel SSD 320 Series PCB (top)

We find the Intel PC29AS21BA0 controller located on the top side of the PCB. It has maximum rated read and write speeds of 270 MB/s and 165 MB/s, respectively. The 64 MB cache chip is also located topside, right next to the controller. This is a Hynix chip with the model number H5585162EFR.

Intel 320 160 GB SSD PCB BottomFigure 3: Intel SSD 320 Series PCB (underside)

There are 12 memory chips in total: 10 located on the top of the PCB and two on the underside.  These make up the total capacity of 160 GB. They are Intel’s own 25 nm MLC chips and have the model number 29FI6B08CCMEI . When formatted, the drive has a usable capacity of about 149 GB.

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]

During our testing procedures, we used the configuration listed below. The only variable component between each benchmarking session was the SSD being tested.

Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

  • Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit using NTFS file syst
    em
  • Intel INF Driver Version: 9.2.0.1016
  • NVIDIA Video Driver Version: 270.61

Benchmarking Software

Error Margin

We adopted a 3% error margin in our tests, meaning performance differences less than 3% can’t be considered meaningful. Therefore, when the performance difference between two products is less than 3%, we consider them to have similar performance.

[nextpage title=”AS SSD”]

As you will have gathered from the previous page, we measured the performance of each drive using four different programs: CrystalDiskMark, DiskSpeed32, HD Tune and PCMark 7. We will be looking at the test results from each program in the order they appear in the list above.

It’s important to note that we connected the SSDs to a SATA-600 port on our motherboard rather than a SATA-300 port which could cause performance limitations. We used the default configuration in AS SSD for our tests.

Intel 320 Series SSD 160 GB Review

In the sequential read and write tests, the performance of the Intel drive is reasonably close to the claimed figures. In the read test, it performed 4.5% better than the Kingston and 5.6% better than the Patriot.

Intel 320 Series SSD 160 GB Review

In the 4K read test, the Intel 320 Series exhibited 81% better performance than the Kingston drive and 48% better than the Patriot drive. But in the 4K write test, the Intel unit performed the same as the Kingston drive and was beaten by the Patriot Torqx 2 which achieved 8.5% better performance.

Intel 320 Series SSD 160 GB Review

The Intel drive performed 75% better than the Kingston and 80% better than the Patriot in the read access time test; but in the write access time test, the Patriot drive outperformed the Intel by 21%. The Intel drive still beat the Kingston drive by 8%, though.

[nextpage title=”CrystalDiskMark”]

We used CrystalDiskMark’s default configuration for our tests which benchmarked each SSD using a file size of 1000 MB with five test runs. Please continue reading to see the results.

Intel 320 Series SSD 160 GB Review

In the CrystalDiskMark sequential tests, the Intel drive performed even closer to the manufacturer claimed figures than in AS SSD. In the read test, it performed 6.1% better than the Kingston drive and 8% better than the Patriot; but in the write test, the Kingston drive beat it by 9.5%, and the Patriot drive beat it by 11.2%. This isn’t surprising, though, as the maximum claimed read speed of the Intel drive is lower than those of both comparison drives.

Intel 320 Series SSD

The Intel drive performed 11.8% better than the Patriot drive in the read test, but was beaten by the Kingston drive which achieved 8.5% better performance. In the write test, the Intel drive performed better than both other drives, beating the Kingston by 17% and the Patriot by 39%.

Intel 320 Series SSD 160 GB Review

In the random read test using 4K blocks, the Intel unit outperformed the Kingston by 84% and the Patriot by 59%. In the write test it’s a different story, however, as the Intel drive was beaten by the Patriot by 12%. The Intel drive did beat the Kingston drive, though, by a healthy 38%.

[nextpage title=”HD Tune”]

Now we will look at the results recorded using HD Tune. Please read on to see the results.

Intel 320 Series SSD 160 GB Review

The Intel drive outperformed both the comparison drives in the minimum, maximum, and average transfer rate tests, achieving 22% better performance than the Kingston drive and 8.9% better performance than the Patriot drive on average.

In the burst transfer rate test, the Kingston drive outperformed the Intel unit by 24%. However, the Intel drive still managed to beat the Patriot drive by a massive 168% in this test.

[nextpage title=”PCMark 7″]

We decided to use PCMark 7 to test the performance of these drives because they give us a good indication of real world performance. Please continue reading to see the results.

Intel 320 Series SSD 160 GB Review

In the PCMark 7 tests, all three drives exhibited the same level of performance, as the slight variations are all within our 3% error margin.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

Overall, we would say that the Intel SSD 320 Series 160 GB performed very well in our tests, even though the comparison drives performed better in a couple of them. This surprised us a little, as the Intel unit has a significantly lower maximum write speed than the two comparison drives.

Of course, the lower maximum write speed of the Intel drive did let it down in the sequential write tests. So the comparison drives are likely to exhibit better real world performance when writing large amounts of data sequentially. In the sequential read tests, the Intel unit performed very close to the 270 MB/s maximum claimed read speed, making it faster than both the comparison drives.

The Intel drive seemed to perform significantly better than the comparison drives in the read tests using 4 KB blocks in both CrystalDiskMark and AS SSD. It also achieved a very low access time in the AS SSD read test, meaning it can start transferring data faster than the other two drives. The Patriot drive did have a slightly quicker access time in the write test, but the difference was quite small.

In the PCMark 7, the Intel drive performed the same as the two comparison drives, indicating that there won’t be large differences in the real world performance of the three drives should you use them day-to-day in your PC.

Due to the higher capacity, the Intel SSD 320 Series 160 GB is
around USD 65 more expensive than the two comparison drives. But for many people, the extra capacity of the Intel unit will outweigh the increased cost, and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it at this price.