Reviews, Video

Intel 730 Series 240GB SSD is great for Atomos’ 4K video recorders

Just last week Western Digital acquired SanDisk, the household name of everything solid state storage. Every video shooter or photographer knows SanDisk from their Extreme Pro range of SD and CompactFlash cards, and now also from their SSDs. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any other manufacturers. In fact, Intel has been prominent in this market as well. The only difference has been that SanDisk’s omnipresence in the market of CompactFlash, SD and other digital photo memory cards gave it an edge in the minds of one of the fastest growing markets: video and photography. So when Intel gave me the opportunity to try out one of their SSDs, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. The 730 Series is their top-of-the-range SATA consumer product and I tested the 240GB model.

Intel SSD 730S

SanDisk may be the best known in the world of video production, but Intel may be more innovative. Their newest SSD 750 Series certainly is. This range is Intel’s first PCIe Gen3 x4 SSD, which manages four times the speed and throughput of the 730 S range. The 750 Series was developed for the client enthusiast and workstation markets. It has been architected with a new performance controller interface, called “Non-Volatile Memory Express”, claimed to deliver outstanding performance, low latency, and quality of service. The claims seem to hold true as you can read in this extensive test report.

None of the video recorder/monitors currently available deliver the power nor have the PCIe interface needed to make these ultra-fast SSDs work. For use in those devices — as well as in iMacs — Intel’s 730 Series remain top of the bill.

For 4K video recording, the 730 S SATA-based SSDs are quite fast enough. A DCI 4K 60fps ProRes 422(HQ) recording requires a 1886 Mbit/sec throughput. The 730 S can deliver up to 3760 Mbit/sec. There’s still headroom there. However, for video recording other aspects play a role as well. An important factor for video recording is reliability. With 50GB writes per day (91TB in total), the Intel 730 S does better than SanDisk’s Extreme Pro, which is rated for “only” 22GB/day (80TB in total).

Experiences with the Intel 730 S

The SSD I received was an early make, i.e. it has been used for two years and from the labels on the unit I could deduct it was probably a prototype that was sent to me for testing purposes — properly updated with the latest firmware. Consequently, the enclosure lacked the typical skull logo on top, but was made of metal as all Intel SSDs are. I like metal better than plastic, especially when using the SSD in a production environment where it might be dropped or thrown about.

I briefly tested the unit’s performance with the BlackMagic Design Speed Test app. The SSD was mounted in a RocketStor 5212 Thunderbolt disk dock. The screenshots of the speed test below speak for themselves.

Intel 730 S test

I then installed the SSD inside an Atomos Master Caddy II for use with a Ninja Assassin. Before I had the Assassin, I always found a Hitachi Travelstar or WD Scorpio Black 2.5in spinning disk to be fast enough for recording to 1080p60, but with 4K spinning disks just don’t cut it. However, there’s an additional reason why you’ll want to use SSDs only with a Ninja Assassin or a Shogun: noise.

In previous Ninja and Samurai video recorders, the disk was inserted inside the recorder. With the Assassin and Shogun, the disk sits free at the back of the unit, but not enclosed by it. The result is a very disturbingly loud noise from the disk after a couple of minutes warming up.

That is one problem you don’t have with an SSD. The Intel SSDs have the added benefit of the metal that helps at dissipating heat as well. Not that my 240GB version got hot; quite on the contrary. It stayed relatively cool.

I tested the Intel 730 S by recording to it for two hours uninterrupted and it succeeded with flying colours. Even after those two hours, it wasn’t really hot and it recorded the footage without a glitch.

At approx. €140, the Intel 730 S sits in the middle of the 240GB SSD pricing range. For this price (and probably a better one if you look around on the web) you’ll get great performance, a metal enclosure and better reliability than most of its competitors.