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Intel SSD 660p SSD Review - Consumer QLC Debut

By: Chris Ramseyer | SSDs in Storage | Posted: Aug 7, 2018 7:00 pm

1TB Class Performance Testing

 

Product Comparison

 

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Instead of reaching for the low-cost NVMe SSDs with 4-channel and DRAMless architectures to bore you with, we pulled out the high-performance results. The SSD 660p QLC flash uses the same interface speed as the 64-layer TLC memory. The low queue depth random read performance is similar, that makes the 660p a very fast SSD for consumer workloads. The performance is much higher than any entry-level or mainstream NVMe shipping today and leaps better than anything shipping with SATA.

 

The 660p Series is also much cheaper compared to the drives we paired it against in this review. That is something to keep in mind when we look at the synthetic performance results earlier in the review. The best comparison comes from the Intel SSD 600p, the model the 660p succeeds.

 

Sequential Read Performance

 

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The Intel SSD 660p 1TB is significantly faster at low queue depth (QD) sequential data reads than it's predecessor, the SSD 600p. The drive slightly trails the Plextor M9Pe performance at QD1 but is well off the pace set by the other drives.

 

At QD2, the 660p is actually faster than the Plextor and SanDisk Extreme PRO NVMe 3D. The 4-channel controller will mean some shoppers will sacrifice some performance over a more expensive 8-channel drive.

 

Sequential Write Performance

 

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Historically when testing low-cost SSDs the compromise comes in the form of lower sequential write performance. The two-year-old 600p shows us what we've come to expect. The new 660p reshuffles the deck and gives us new expectations for mainstream class NVMe products. The drive gives users a 3x improvement over the 600p and puts the 660p sequential write performance near the 8-channel drives in burst performance.

 

Sustained Sequential Write Performance

 

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Users receive a severe penalty for writing beyond the SLC cache. The Intel SSD 660p gives us a generous buffer before the drive falls into a lower write speed state but crossing the line impacts the transfer speed. These are not lifetime limits, though. The cache will purge the data quickly so a large file transfer does not impact another after the buffer clears the data.

 

 

Random Read Performance

 

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Random read performance has the largest impact to on the user experience in Windows. This is the type of data most often read when opening applications, opening windows in the OS, and for most of the things we do on a PC. The Intel SSD 660p delivers over 15,000 IOPS at QD1. This is around 4,000 IOPS faster than any SATA SSD we've tested and close to double what we measure on entry-level NVMe SSDs. The 1TB 660p even outperforms Samsung's 860 EVO with 3-bit per cell V-NAND.

 

Random Write Performance

 

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The SLC cache in all of these drives is very fast with consumer-level data bursts. The 660p delivers over 46,000 IOPS at QD1. It's a very impressive number even with the current crop of high-speed NVMe SSDs shipping today.

 

70% Read Sequential Performance

 

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The 4-channel controller architecture does come with some performance weak points. The 1TB SSD 660p shows weak performance in mixed workloads. This is where your drive reads and writes data at the same time.

 

70% Read Random Performance

 

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There is a smaller impact on random mixed workloads compared to sequential loads.

 

Sequential Steady-State Performance

 

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QLC flash technology brings an even larger divide between the few remaining workstation-class SSDs that utilize MLC flash. We hope Intel or another company will release a QLC memory SSD with a more powerful 8-channel controller so we can compare performance on a level field.

 

Random Steady-State Performance

 

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In our first look with QLC memory, we wanted to measure the worst-case performance scenario with random data outside of the SLC cache. The 660p always writes data to the SLC cache before passing the data to the QLC programmed area. It doesn't use direct-to-die writes like some other products.

 

Synthetic Performance Summary

 

In the areas that matter to most users, the Intel SSD 660p shows strong performance. Low-cost SSDs, a term that encompasses nearly all products shipping today other than the Samsung Pro series, balance cost and the performance areas of most consumer workloads. The drives do this by masking areas where performance would be weak with strong cache technology. The SSD 660p does an incredible job of that.

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