Intel launches their QLC-powered 660p series of NVMe SSDs

Intel launches their QLC-powered 660p series of NVMe SSDs

Intel launches their QLC-powered 660p series of NVMe SSDs

Intel has officially launched their new 660p series of QLC-powered SSDs, offering their customers what appears to be industry leading price/performance levels (at least for the M.2 NVMe market) while also delivering compelling performance levels.  

With pricing levels of $99 for a 512GB NVMe drive and $199 for a 1TB NVMe drive, it is natural to think that Intel’s 660p can be a little too good to be true, especially given the drive’s listed sequential read/write speeds of 1800MB/s

What’s strange about these new SSDs is exactly how Intel’s specifications are listed, with write performance stemming only from the drive’s “SLC Cache”. In these drives, some of Intel’s QLC NAND is held in reserve, switching to a single-bit SLC cache mode to act as a buffer before write operations start on QLC NAND directly. 

This SLC cache is much faster than writing directly to QLC, with the buffer replenishing over time as files are transferred to QLC NAND, and the buffer is toggled to operate in QLC mode. If Intel’s SLC buffer is filled, write operations will begin on Intel’s QLC NAND directly, starting a performance nosedive, though depending on how full Intel’s drive is, the SLC cache buffer can be as large as 76GB on the 512GB model or 280GB on the 2TB model. 

The long story short is that Intel 660p SSD has a huge shortcoming, though it will only impact those who frequently conduct massive write operations, which are not typical for general consumer workloads. Heavy SSD writers will have to consider more expensive TLC or MLC-based SSDs.   
 

  Intel 660p SSD
Capacity 512GB 1TB 2TB
Controller Silicon Motion SM2263
Form Factor Single-Sided M.2-2088 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe
DRAM 256MB of DDR3
Sequential Read Up to 1800 MB/s
Sequential Write (SLC Cache) Up to 1800MB/s
Random Read (4kB) Up to 220k IOPS
Random Write (4kB, SLC Cache) Up to 220k IOPS
Warranty Five Years
Write Endurance 100TB (0.1DWPD) 200TB (0.1 DWPD) 400TB (0.1 DWPD)
SLC Write Cache (Minimum) 6GB 12GB 24GB
SLC Write Cache (Maximum) 76GB 140GB 280GB
MSRP $99 $199

 

Intel launches their QLC-powered 660p series of NVMe SSDs

What we have here is a mixed bag, Intel’s 660p can offer users a lot of performance and storage capacity for the money, but the product is not suitable for users who conduct heavy/sustained write operations on a regular basis. This shortcoming will not be a concern for gamers or general PC users, though it is something that is worth considering if you plan to use an SSD for professional-grade workloads, especially those that require large file transfers. 

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