Intel SSD 520 Series 120GB review

Sweet-spot pricing, but slightly lacking in performance

TODO alt text

Check this out. Somewhere out there on the internet lives a species of PC hardware enthusiast that gets a kick out of endurance testing SSDs.

Among this strange breed, Intel SSDs have a very high reputation.

Intel ssd 520 series 120gb

In fact, there have been reports of a 40GB Intel SSD soaking up 700TB of writes before finally losing the will to store data. When you consider that smaller drives fail faster in such conditions, well, it's pretty impressive.

So Intel's reputation when it comes to developing SSD firmwares that deliver excellent longevity is well earned.

Intel stresses that the same applies to the new 520 Series and its widely used, and strong-performing, SandForce SF-2281 controller. The firmware has been given the full Intel treatment.

That bodes very well for the long term.

What Intel hasn't done, however, is deliver a drive that immediately takes down the opposition in terms of raw performance. Most of our benchmark results are pretty much exactly what you would expect from a 120GB SandForce drive.

That said, there are a couple of areas where Intel's work might just be visible.

The Intel SSD 520 120GB is noticeably, if not dramatically, quicker than the Corsair Force GT 120GB in our random read and file decompression tests.

Unfortunately, sequential incompressible data write performance is no better than that same Corsair drive. Which means it's slower than both larger SandForce-based drives and the competition packing Marvell and Indilinx controllers.

We liked

The combination of Intel's attention to detail when it comes to SSD firware development and the sheer speed of the latest SandForce SF-2281 controller chip is pretty compelling. We also think 120GB is probably the current sweet spot in terms of balancing price with performance and capacity.

We disliked

Much cheaper than the 240GB model this 120GB drive may be, but it's still a significant investment to make. So it's a little disappointing that you not only have to give up half the capacity but also see write performance drop off, especially when shunting incompressible data around.


SandForce performance plus Intel quality. Performance though is a little down on the 240GB version.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSolid State Drive
Product FamilyCherryville 520
Drive InterfaceSATA
Drive Width2.5"
Drive Interface StandardSATA/600
Brand NameIntel
Drive TypeInternal
Storage Capacity120 GB
Maximum Read Transfer Rate550 MBps
Maximum Write Transfer Rate520 MBps
Product Series520
ManufacturerIntel Corporation
Product NameCherryville 520 Series MLC Solid State Drive
Product LineCherryville
Manufacturer Part NumberSSDSC2CW120A3K5
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Intel Solid-State Drives represent a revolutionary breakthrough that delivers a giant leap in storage performance. Unlike hard disk drives, Intel SSDs have no moving parts, resulting in a quiet, cool, highly rugged storage solution that also offers faster system responsiveness.

Drawing from decades of memory engineering experience, and industry-leading, compute-quality NAND Flash memory manufacturing processes, Intel SSDs are designed to deliver outstanding performance for a wide range of computing applications. Intel SSDs also feature low write amplification and a unique wear-leveling design for higher reliability, meaning Intel SSDs not only perform better-they last longer.

Packaged Quantity1