Intel kills SSD overclocking, unleashes its fastest-ever consumer drive

It's talking up RAID configurations to achieve 1Gbps+ performance

Last year, Intel talked up the prospect of bringing to market a solid-state drive (SSD) that would allow users to overclock its controller and increase performance through intuitive user interfaces.

The overclock-enabled SSD was expected to be out near the start 2014. But New Years came and went and nothing appeared.

Today, Intel announced it would not release a user-customizable SSD after all. Instead, it is opting instead to push the processor clock speed on its next-generation SSD, the 730 Series, to its limit in the factory and then offer it with its typical 5-year warranty.

The new 730 Series SSD is aimed at those who need speed for digital content creation, video capture and editing and extreme gaming.

730 Series SSD
Intel's SSD 730 Series is its new "flagship" drive with an overclocked processor offering a maximum of 550MB/s performance and 50 microseconds latency.

The reason Intel chose not to release a user-customizable SSD, executives said during a teleconference, is because the company could not offer a full warranty on a product whose performance could be manipulated by users.

Intel is now calling the 730 Series SSD its "flagship consumer drive" with a 50% increase in controller speed and a 20% increase in the NAND flash bus speed compared to its predecessor - the SSD 530 series. The new SSD will ship to distributors on March 18. Preorders are available today.

Intel increased the controller clock speed from 400MHz to 600MHz, and increased NAND bus speeds from 83MHz to 100MHz.

"We decided to push it as far as we could in the factory and then lock it down there," said Justin Whitney, an Intel marketing manager.

The 730 Series SSD comes in 240GB and 480GB capacities. The drives do not have native data encryption capability, as do some other SSD models. While pricing is not yet available, the drive will sell for "just under" $1 per gigabyte of capacity, according to Whitney. Many consumer SSDs today sell for 60 cents to 70 cents per gigabyte of capacity.

Factory overclocking and RAID

By overclocking the processor, Intel said the 730 Series SSD is now its highest performance consumer drive for uncompressible workloads, boasting up to 550MB/s sequential read and 450MB/s sequential write speeds. A 730 Series SSD can nearly saturate a SATA 3 (6Gbps or 600MB/s) interface, according to Whitney.

While the read and write performance of the new 730 Series SSD only slightly higher than of the previous 530 Series SSD, an Intel spokesman said the new drive also has more consistent performance and lower latency.

"Together with increased clock speeds, lower latency, and consistent performance across both compressible and incompressible data types, the 730 Series is an overall higher performance drive," he said in an email replay to Computerworld.

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