The Intel SSD 660p removes most of our 4-bit per cell fears, but there are still questions around its long-term use. The performance is high enough to tempt shoppers to give the technology a chance to succeed. The low cost sweetens the deal. The Intel 660p is the NVMe most of us waited for.
The 660p's low endurance rating is the culmination of Intel's conservatism and using this series to define the entry-level NVMe SSD market for the future. Going into this review the endurance rating didn't do much to ease our QLC fears. After talking with other companies at Flash Memory Summit, we can let go of most concerns. Other companies will release consumer SSDs with similar flash but nearly double the terabytes written warranty coverage. Early 64-layer QLC from IMFT already has similar to superior endurance than first generation TLC flash. With 1,000 to 1,500 program-erase cycles, 16nm TLC memory didn't burn down the internet with negative reviews. QLC is in a better position than early TLC technology because companies now have the error correction technology based on years of use with TLC.
We chose to put the Intel SSD 660p against premium SSDs in our charts today. The 660p performance proves this series is more than an entry-level NVMe SSD. Intel did a good job with first generation QLC across the board, but advanced controller technology from Silicon Motion, Inc., and superior cache algorithms can take some credit. On paper, the SSD 660p's specifications show this series as a mainstream model at best. Under real-world use, the 660p in typical consumer applications is nearly as good as the best selling products shipping today. The performance comes from early QLC's high random readabilities that are almost as good as 64-layer TLC.
The Intel SSD 660p isn't as fast as many of the NVMe drives using the SM2262 controller, but the difference is small enough to go unnoticed by more users. The number that most shoppers will look at is the price. The SSD 660p goes on sale today at two-thirds the cost of the SM2262 drives.
The 660p is closer to SATA pricing than premium NVMe. For many shoppers, this breaking point turns the tables on SATA and makes NVMe affordable.
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