Recently the Intel 730 480GB has been on sale for about $199 or $0.41/GB making it relatively in-line with low-cost drives from other manufacturers. Recently in the forums there was a discussion centered around the question of whether the Intel 730 SSDs have power-loss protection. The Intel ARK spec pages clearly note this is a missing feature along with missing encryption.
One of the forum questions centered around the fact that most of the press reviews occurred using marked “Engineering Samples”. Those reviews mentioned power loss protection which contrasts to the S3500. The same reviews often had internal shots of the drives showing the same capacitors we see inside the S3500 and S3700. The question in the forums was do the 730’s indeed have power loss protection, and Intel is just removing that feature to maintain datacenter SSD pricing. Current pricing for the 730’s are around $199 each:
We decided to answer the question by purchasing a $199 Intel 730 SSD and then opening it up. We kept the skull cover intact so we did not get confused. We have stacks of S3500 and S3700’s in the lab and they all look very similar inside. Here is what we saw:
In that shot, one can clearly see the capacitors we are accustomed to inside the drive. From a physical standpoint, they are present on retail versions. Could the lack of power loss protection be a marketing designation?
We do know that the Intel 730 SSD has the same basic internal design as the more expensive S3500 and S3700 SSDs. The write endurance of the 730 is nowhere near the S3700 but it is not overly far off of a S3500, especially if the Intel 730 was over provisioned to be a similar 400GB capacity.
Like the onboard encryption, Intel could disable power loss protection in firmware (theoretically) which would lead to similar internals but different specs. A personal theory is that the higher clocked controller may consume more power making for a higher probability of data loss during an unplanned shut down. A forum member did note that “the 730 SSD SMART attributes clearly have an entry for ID AFh (Power Loss Protection Failure)” which is defined for the S3500 and S3700 but not documented for the 730.
The question remains, does the Intel 730 indeed have power loss protection as an undocumented feature to preserve data center SSD pricing, or are there other factors limiting the Intel 730 SSD? That would be a major point of differentiation between the Intel consumer drive and consumer offerings from Samsung and Crucial this holiday season.
Head on over to the forums to discuss your findings on these drives.