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Battle of the SSDs: Intel 330 vs Samsung 830

I recently purchased an Intel 330 Series 120GB SSD in order to improve my ageing PC’s performance. My post about migrating an existing Windows 7 installation to an SSD was based on the installation of that new SSD. At the time, I mentioned some issues I was having with waking up from sleep/hibernate on the SSD. The stability issues gradually became worse, resulting in the following intermittent problems:

  • The PC would sometimes blue screen and restart during shutdown.
  • The PC would sometimes blue screen and restart following fairly long periods of usage (after 2 or 3 hours).
  • Filesystem index corruption was detected (and fixed) on C: by Windows 7 chkdsk.
  • Resuming from sleep/hibernate would sometimes result in a blue screen and restart.

Many of you will recognise these symptoms as classic signs of an SSD built with a SandForce controller chip. Some SSD manufacturers such as OCZ have been experiencing relatively high return rates (up to around 9% of all SSDs sold) due to the reported instability of the SandForce controllers. Several firmware updates have been released to supposedly address these instabilities, but there remains plenty of forum activity discussing these problems. The reason I went for an Intel SSD in the first place was their reputation for reliability. They supposedly only see return rates of around 2-3% for their SSDs, which is similar to the average return rate for old-fashioned HDDs, so I would say that is pretty good. It should be noted that these are return rates rather than failure rates, which is a weakness in the statistics.

The previous 320 Series of consumer-grade Intel SSDs used a homegrown Intel-branded controller, which was very well received and by most accounts very reliable. The new generation of 330 Series and 520 Series SSDs uses a SandForce controller, but with an Intel-customised firmware that is designed to resolve any outstanding stability issues. So if that is the case, why is my new Intel SSD not behaving itself?

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