Intel targets the low-cost SSD market.
Intel SSDs have become renowned for owning the performance pile, and its SATA drives have always sat at or near the top of performance charts. While we were all amazed at the performance of these drives, Intel came along and blew them out of the water with NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller), a standard designed to make the most of solid-state storage and replace the ageing AHCI specs used to control drives up until that time. For most of the last year Intel’s 750, followed by Samsung’s 950 and OCZ’s RD400 NVMe SSDs were the fastest you could buy. Intel has recently arranged a broad range of new SSDs to cover several segments of the market, and the Series 6 (which the 600p is part of), is aimed at mainstream performance users – content creators, gamers, and 4K video playback. The noteworthy thing though is the price. At just $235 for half a terabyte of high speed NVMe storage, this thing is an absolute bargain. Let’s see exactly what Intel has had to do to deliver such a product at such a low price.
Like many low-cost drives, Intel has gone with TLC memory to deliver the storage on this device. However, it has worked with Micron to deliver this in a 3D-stacked configuration, helping to keep the costs of the memory down. The 600p comes in an M.2 form factor with a length of 80mm, so you’ll need an M.2 slot to use this drive. Like all high-speed NVMe drives, it fully utilises four PCIe 3.0 lanes, so you’ll also need to check your PC has enough spare PCIe lanes to host this drive. It also utilises the NVMe specification to optimise flash memory performance.
Interestingly, performance varies massively depending on the capacity of the device, as the table shows. For instance, the cheapest 128GB drive only has a sequential read speed of 770MB/sec, while write speeds drop to 450MB/sec. Yet the 512GB version we’re reviewing is meant to hit 1775MB/sec sequential reads and 560MB/sec writes, over a doubling in read performance. The 512GB version is also rated to handle Random Read IOPS of 128,500, while the 128GB only hits 35,000. The 512GB version is also rated to hit 128,000 random write IOPs. It’s definitely something to bear in mind if you’re looking at smaller capacities of the drive. Thankfully the 512GB version’s performance is near enough to the 1TB version that you won’t need to buy the largest drive in the family to get the best performance.
As you can already see, these speeds are much slower than the likes of Samsung’s 950 Pro and Intel’s SSD 750, but that’s to be expected given the much more affordable pricing. A 2GB DDR3L-1660 DRAM cache is also included on the 512GB model, with the total capacity of the drive actually being 576GB, allowing a bit of headroom for overprovisioning (filling an SSD to its maximum capacity is a great way to kill performance, as it always requires around 10% of free space to perform well). To our surprise, Intel has outsourced the SSD controller used within, using a Silicon Motion unit.
For basic testing, we used CrystalDiskMark 3.0, and the drive recorded a sequential read speed of 1044MB/sec, while sequential write speed came in at 498MB, not quite what Intel’s numbers claim. However, a number of real world tests showed that performance really suffered when dealing with large files. 7zip’s built-in benchmark showed this to be one of the slowest drives we’ve tested, taking 349 seconds to compress a 40GB file compared to the 54 seconds of Samsung’s best. Anvil’s Storage Utilities measured a large decrease in IOPs performance compared to other drives as well, up to 30% slower than expected. It also really struggled with 4K QD16 performance, at about half the speed of Samsung’s 950.
Intel may have delivered an affordable, large-capacity drive, but it appears to struggle with larger file sizes in the real world, not to mention IOPs. We admire Intel’s attempts to break into the more affordable side of the SSD market, but there’s not quite the performance we expected from the company. It’s great value if you’re looking for a 512GB drive for everyday use, but if you’re going to be playing with large file sizes all day, we’d give it a miss.