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Intel 600p M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD Review

Intel 600p M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD Review

Intel goes after the value segment with its 600p M.2 NVMe SSD. Just because something is cheap and has a brand name, doesn't mean you should buy it.

@JonCoulterSSD
Published Mon, Nov 28 2016 6:16 PM CST   |   Updated Thu, Oct 15 2020 1:05 PM CDT
Rating: 70%Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Drive Specifications, Pricing and Availability

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VIEW GALLERY - 64 IMAGES

Intel designed their 600p series SSDs to introduce a value segment into the consumer NVMe market. At this time, Intel's 600p is one of only two TLC-based consumer NVMe SSDs on the market. Intel's 600p series was first on the scene, and now Samsung has injected their 960 EVO into the market. Both SSDs utilize 3D TLC NAND flash arrays. TLC (3-bit) NAND flash inherently lowers the cost per bit of storage to the consumer. 3D TLC lowers it even further. TLC NAND flash is inherently cheaper, but it is at the same time inherently lower performing than 2-bit (MLC) flash.

Intel's 600p is selling like hot cakes because it is the cheapest consumer NVMe SSD on the market. Value-oriented users are willing to settle for decent sequential read performance and SATA-like sequential write performance to jump on the NVMe train. Intel didn't design their own NVMe controller for the 600p - instead, they collaborated with Silicon Motion. The 600p pairs SMI's 8-channel Gen3 x 4 SM2260 controller with Intel's own IMFT 3D 384Gbit flash. Intel utilizes their own custom firmware in conjunction with the SMI controller. Intel backs the 600p with an industry best five-year limited warranty.

Intel's 600p is a single-sided design. A 2280 single-sided design is most desirable because it will fit into just about any laptop on the market with an M.2 PCIe slot. Additionally, a single-sided design is easier to cool which allows system designers more flexibility for thinner and lighter systems or more space for other components.

As with all current TLC-based SSDs on the market today, the 600p employs a dedicated part of the drive's flash array for caching. This caching area is programmed to operate in SLC mode to help boost burst performance. As long as what you are doing fits within the cache layer, the drive will operate at advertised speeds. If the cache area is exceeded, then lower than advertised performance will be induced.

Currently, Intel does not offer a dedicated NVMe driver for their 600p series. The 600p runs on the in-box Windows NVMe driver. This is good for ease of installation, but bad for overall performance. As we've seen from numerous NVMe drives, a proprietary driver can boost overall performance significantly. On the software front, Intel's Solid-State Drive Toolbox now fully supports the 600p. With the revamped version of Intel's award winning SSD software, you can clone, update firmware, TRIM, and monitor the health of your 600p.

Intel's 600p is driving the cost of consumer NVMe SSDs down, and that's good news for consumers; however, is price alone enough to earn Intel's 600p a TweakTown recommendation? Let's take a close look.

Specifications

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Intel's 600p M.2 x 2280 NVMe SSD is available in four capacities: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB.

  • Sequential Read: up to 1,800 MB/s
  • Sequential Write: up to 560 MB/s
  • Max 4K Random Read Speed: up to 155,000 IOPS
  • Max 4K Random Write Speed: up to 128,000 IOPS
  • Endurance: 72-576 TBW
  • MTTF: 1.6 Million Hours
  • Warranty: 5-Year Limited Warranty
  • Active Power Consumption: 100mW Typical
  • DevSlp: 5mW
  • Data Security: AES 256-bit self-encryption
  • SMART
  • TRIM
  • Garbage Collection
  • Software: Intel SSD Toolbox

At time of writing, these are the lowest prices listed at Intel's product center: 128GB = $104.99, 256GB = $115.55, 512GB = $139.99, and 1TB = $269.99

The pricing of the 512GB and 1TB models are considerably lower than at launch. In fact, they are priced similarly to SATA SSDs at similar capacity points.

We believe this massive price cut is Intel's response to Samsung's 960 EVO and MDD's BPX value oriented NVMe SSDs hitting the market. This is an appropriate response because both the EVO and BPX are far better performing SSDs.

Drive Details

Intel 600P M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD

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The front side of the colorful packaging tells you nothing more than these are Intel's 6 series SSDs.

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The back of the packaging lists the details of the enclosed SSD.

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The packaging contains the SSD and installation instructions.

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The SSD is protected from shipping damage by a clear plastic clamshell container.

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All components are located on this side of the PCB, making the 600p a single-sided design.

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This side of the PCB has a manufacturer label that if removed will void the warranty.

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A close-in view of the drive's edge connector, DRAM cache package, and SM2260 NVMe controller.

Test System Setup & Drive Properties

Jon's Consumer PCIe SSD Review Test System Specifications

We would like to thank ASRock, Crucial, Intel, Corsair, RamCity, IN WIN, and Seasonic for making our test system possible.

Drive Properties

Intel 600p 128GB OS Disk 75% Full

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Drive Properties

Intel 600p 256GB OS Disk 75% Full

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Drive Properties

Intel 600p 512GB OS Disk 75% Full

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The majority of our testing is performed with our test drive as our boot volume. Our boot volume is 75% full for all OS Disk "C" drive testing to replicate a typical consumer OS volume implementation. We feel that most of you will be utilizing your SSDs for your boot volume and that presenting you with results from an OS volume is more relevant than presenting you with empty secondary volume results.

System settings: Cstates and Speed stepping are both disabled in our systems BIOS. Windows High-Performance power plan is enabled. Windows write caching is enabled, and Windows buffer flushing is disabled. We are utilizing Windows 10 Pro 64-bit OS (Build 14393) for all of our testing except for our MOP (Maxed-Out Performance) benchmarks where we switch to Windows Server 2012 R2 64-bit. Empty Windows 10 benchmark screenshots will also be shown on our MOP page.

We will be charting all three capacities and provide benchmark screenshots of the 512GB model.

Synthetic Benchmarks – ATTO & Anvil Storage Utilities

ATTO

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.05

ATTO is a timeless benchmark used to provide manufacturers with data used for marketing storage products. When evaluating ATTO performance we focus on the drive's performance curve.

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Sequential read/write transfers max out at 1,894/584 MB/s exceeding Intel's factory specs. Keep in mind this is our OS volume, and it is filled to 75% of its total capacity. The highest sequential write performance is achieved at 32KB transfers. The highest sequential read performance is achieved at 1MB transfers. Performance takes a nose dive when transfers exceed 8MB.

Sequential Write

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We only chart up to 8MB transfers, so this chart does not reflect the plummeting performance shown by the above screenshot when sequential transfers exceed 8MB. This behavior is common to all three 600p capacity points we are testing.

The 512GB model is able to remain steady across our chart. The 128GB and 256GB models display exceptionally poor and choppy performance that is lower than a typical SATA SSD for some, or all of the charted transfer sizes. The 128GB model doesn't even come close to hitting its 450 MB/s factory specification for sequential writes.

Surprisingly, the 256GB and 512GB models are running with the pack at 4KB transfers, but other than that, the rest of the drives in our test pool leave the 600p's in the dust. Samsung's 960 EVO is similar to Intel's 600p in that they are both 3D TLC flash-based NVMe products.

Sequential Read

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Intel NVMe SSDs display a markedly inferior performance curve that ramps up slowly when running ATTO. Of the three capacity points we are testing, only the 512GB model is able to attain factory spec'd sequential read speeds when data is on the drive.

Anvil Storage Utilities

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0

Anvil's Storage Utilities is a storage benchmark designed to measure the storage performance of SSDs. The Standard Storage Benchmark performs a series of tests; you can run a full test or just the read or write test, or you can run a single test, i.e. 4k QD16. When evaluating performance with Anvils, we focus on total score.

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Scoring

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Anvil's scoring gives a good indication of a drive's overall performance. In terms of overall scoring, the 600p's do not deliver a score that is anywhere near what we have come to expect from NVMe SSDs. The 128GB model actually scores lower than many SATA-based SSDs.

(Anvil) Read IOPS through Queue Depth Scale

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With our configuration, we are able to attain 130K random read IOPS at QD128 with the 512GB model. This matches Intel's factory specification of 128K max random read IOPS.

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This chart leaves us with nothing nice to say about the 600p - so we will say nothing at all and just let the chart speak for itself.

(Anvil) Write IOPS through Queue Scale

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With our configuration, we are able to attain 137K random write IOPS at QD64 with the 512GB model. This exceeds Intel's factory specification of 128K max random write IOPS.

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On the write side of things, the 600p's are delivering random write performance that is more in-line with what we would expect from an entry-level NVMe SSD. The 256GB and 512GB models are exceeding factory max random write specifications. The 128GB model, although it is not performing to factory specs, is performing equally with Samsung's 256GB 950 Pro at QD2 and higher.

Synthetic Benchmarks - CrystalDiskMark & AS SSD

CrystalDiskMark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview

CrystalDiskMark is disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy. Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at QD4. When evaluating CDM results, we focus on 4K random performance at QD1 and QD4.

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With this version of CDM, Sequential performance is measured at QD1 which is the reason sequential rates are lower than Intel's quoted numbers which are measured at QD32. We can look to our MOP testing results to see that we have no issues in meeting Intel's quoted sequential speeds at QD32 with newer versions of CDM. Focusing in on random read performance at QD1 and QD4 reveals SATA like performance that is on the low-end even for SATA-based SSDs. This indicates that for the most part, as an OS disk, the 600p will not deliver a user experience that is as good as a well performing SATA SSD.

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Overall, this chart shows that the 600p is a bit out of place at the NVMe party. However, when we focus in on random performance at QD1 and QD4, the 600p can hold its own.

AS SSD

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.8.5611.39791

AS SSD determines the performance of SSDs. The tool contains four synthetic as well as three practice tests. The synthetic tests are to determine the sequential and random read and write performance of the SSD. We evaluate AS SSD performance in terms of overall score.

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AS SSD is a demanding test which proves to be quite crippling for the 600p. The 128GB model is scoring far lower than most SATA SSDs. The 256GB model scores a few points more than top-performing SATA SSDs, and the 512GB model exceeds upper-level SATA performance by a few hundred points.

With AS SSD, we are looking for a minimum total score of about 2,400 from an NVMe SSD.

Benchmarks (OS) - PCMark Vantage, PCMark 7 & PCMark 8

Moderate Workload Model

We categorize these tests as indicative of a moderate workload environment.

PCMark Vantage - Hard Disk Tests

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.2.0.0

The reason we like PCMark Vantage is because the recorded traces are played back without system stops. What we see is the raw performance of the drive. This allows us to see a marked difference between scoring that other trace-based benchmarks do not exhibit. An example of a marked difference in scoring on the same drive would be empty vs. filled vs. steady state.

We run Vantage three ways. The first run is with the OS drive 75% full to simulate a lightly used OS volume filled with data to an amount we feel is common for most users. The second run is with the OS volume written into a "Steady State" utilizing SNIA's consumer guidelines. Steady state testing simulates a drive's performance similar to that of a drive that been subjected to consumer workloads for extensive amounts of time. The third run is a Vantage HDD test with the test drive attached as an empty, lightly used secondary device.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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OS Volume 75% Full - Steady State

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Secondary Volume Empty - FOB

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There's a big difference between an empty drive, one that's 75% full/used, and one that's in a steady state.

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The important scores to pay attention to are "OS Volume Steady State" and "OS Volume 75% full." These two categories are most important because they are indicative of typical of consumer user states. When a drive is in a steady state, it means garbage collection is running at the same time it's reading/writing. This is exactly why we focus on steady state performance.

In a steady-state or a lightly used state, the 600p delivers underwhelming performance. Focusing in on steady-state performance reveals the 600p taking a bigger hit than the other drives in our test pool. This is yet another instance where a good SATA SSD easily outperforms the 600p.

PCMark 7 - System Storage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.4.0

We will look to Raw System Storage scoring for evaluation because it's done without system stops and, therefore, allows us to see significant scoring differences between drives.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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The 256GB and 512GB models are exceeding top-flight SATA performance; the 128GB model does not. When evaluating NVMe SSDs with PCMark 7, we are looking for a minimum score of 10K. The 600p falls short of our minimum.

PCMark 8 - Storage Bandwidth

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.4.304

We use PCMark 8 Storage benchmark to test the performance of SSDs, HDDs, and hybrid drives with traces recorded from Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office, and a selection of popular games. You can test the system drive or any other recognized storage device, including local external drives. Unlike synthetic storage tests, the PCMark 8 Storage benchmark highlights real-world performance differences between storage devices.

OS Volume 75% Full - Lightly Used

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PCMark 8 is the most intensive moderate workload simulation we run. With respect to moderate consumer type workloads, this test is what we consider the best indicator of a drive's performance. We consider the results of this test conclusive proof that when running moderate workloads, the 600p is only capable of delivering SATA-level performance. The 128GB model is especially bad.

Benchmarks (Secondary) - IOPS, Response & Transfer Rate

Iometer – Maximum IOPS

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

We use Iometer to measure high queue depth performance. (No Partition)

Max IOPS Read

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Max IOPS Write

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The 512GB 600p can crank out higher write IOPS than the 256GB 950 Pro, but other than that lone "victory," there is nothing compelling to say about the 600p in terms of max IOPS output.

Iometer – Disk Response

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

We use Iometer to measure disk response times. Disk response times are measured at an industry accepted standard of 4K QD1 for both write and read. Each test runs twice for 30 seconds consecutively, with a 5-second ramp-up before each test. We partition the drive/array as a secondary device for this testing.

Avg. Write Response

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Avg. Read Response

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Random read performance at QD1 is arguably the most important performance metric. This is where we find the 600p falling woefully short of the competition. The 600p is by far the cheapest NVMe SSD on the market, and rightfully so.

DiskBench – Transfer Rate

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.6.2.0

We use DiskBench to time a 28.6GB block (9,882 files in 1,247 folders) composed primarily of incompressible sequential and random data as it's transferred from our Toshiba RD400 1TB NVME SSD to our test drive. We then read from a 6GB zip file that's part of our 28.6GB data block to determine the test drive's read transfer rate. Our system is restarted prior to the read test to clear any cached data, ensuring an accurate test result.

Write Transfer Rate

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Read Transfer Rate

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We recently upgraded our test system to Windows 10 build 14393. With that upgrade, write transfer rates almost doubled. The reason for this, as far as we know, is that CPU power switching modes have been relaxed on the latest version of Windows 10. We included the NVMe drives we've tested to date on this build of Windows 10. If you needed a good reason to upgrade to Windows 10 build 14393, this is a good reason.

At TweakTown, we have a litmus test for SATA SSDs. If a SATA SSD cannot deliver at least a 200 MB/s write transfer rate with this testing, it will not receive a TweakTown recommendation. Needless to say, if an NVMe SSD fails to do so, the same also applies.

The 128GB model manages to deliver the worst write transfer rate we've ever seen from any SSD.

Benchmarks (Secondary Volume) – PCMark 8 Extended

Futuremark PCMark 8 Extended

Heavy Workload Model

PCMark 8's consistency test simulates an extended duration heavy workload environment. PCMark 8 has built-in, command line executed storage testing. The PCMark 8 Consistency test measures the performance consistency and the degradation tendency of a storage system.

The Storage test workloads are repeated. Between each repetition, the storage system is bombarded with a usage that causes degraded drive performance. In the first part of the test, the cycle continues until a steady degraded level of performance has been reached. (Steady State)

In the second part, the recovery of the system is tested by allowing the system to idle and measuring the performance after 5-minute long intervals. (Internal drive maintenance: Garbage Collection (GC)) The test reports the performance level at the start, the degraded steady-state, and the recovered state, as well as the number of iterations required to reach the degraded state and the recovered state.

We feel Futuremark's Consistency Test is the best test ever devised to show the true performance of solid state storage in an extended duration heavy workload environment. This test takes on average 13 to 17 hours to complete and writes somewhere between 450GB and 14,000GB of test data depending on the drive. If you want to know what an SSDs steady state performance is going to look like during a heavy workload, this test will show you.

Here's a breakdown of Futuremark's Consistency Test:

Precondition phase:

1. Write to the drive sequentially through up to the reported capacity with random data.

2. Write the drive through a second time (to take care of overprovisioning).

Degradation phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 10 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 8 times, and on each pass increase the duration of random writes by 5 minutes.

Steady state phase:

1. Run writes of random size between 8*512 and 2048*512 bytes on random offsets for 50 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Recovery phase:

1. Idle for 5 minutes.

2. Run performance test (one pass only).

3. Repeat 1 and 2 for 5 times.

Storage Bandwidth

PCMark 8's Consistency test provides a ton of data output that we use to judge a drive's performance.

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We consider steady state bandwidth (the blue bar) our test that carries the most weight in ranking a drive/arrays heavy workload performance. Performance after Garbage Collection (GC) (the orange and red bars) is what we consider the second most important consideration when ranking a drive's performance. Trace-based steady state testing is where true high performing SSDs are separated from the rest of the pack.

The 600p is targeted at the entry-level user, and those users will, for the most part, never reach a steady state, so for them, recovery performance is more indicative of what they can expect when running a heavy workload.

In the recovery phases, the 600p 128GB and 256GB models deliver SATA-level performance. The 512GB model at Recovery 5 just manages to eclipse the best SATA has to offer.

Storage Bandwidth Per Phase

We chart our test subject's storage bandwidth as reported at each of the test's 18 trace iterations. This gives us a good visual perspective of how our test subjects perform as testing progresses. This chart sheds more light on how the drives perform as they progress through the testing phases.

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Total Access Time (Latency)

We chart the total time the disk is accessed as reported at each of the test's 18 trace iterations. This helps shed some light on how the drive performs at each of the 18 phases of this test.

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Disk Busy Time

Disk Busy Time is how long the disk is busy working. We chart the total time the disk is working as reported at each of the tests 18 trace iterations.

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Data Written

We measure the total amount of random data that our test drive/array is capable of writing during the degradation phases of the consistency test. Pre-conditioning data is not included in the total. The total combined time that degradation data is written to the drive/array is 470 minutes. This can be very telling. The better a drive/array can process a continuous stream of random data; the more data will be written.

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Overprovisioning and write latency are the biggest factors that determine the outcome of this portion of the test. Even though the 600p series appears to be non-overprovisioned based on capacity point, they are indeed over-provisioned. Overprovisioning pays dividends for the 600p in this particular portion of the test.

Benchmarks (Secondary Volume) – 70/30 Mixed Workload

70/30 Mixed Workload Test (Sledgehammer)

Version and / or Patch Used: Iometer 2014

Heavy Workload Model

This test hammers a drive so hard we've dubbed it "Sledgehammer." Our 70/30 Mixed Workload test is designed to simulate a heavy-duty enthusiast/workstation steady-state environment. We feel that a mix of 70% read/30% write, full random 4K transfers best represents this type of user environment. Our test allows us to see the drive enter into and reach a steady state as the test progresses.

Phase one of the test preconditions the drive for 1 hour with 128K sequential writes. Phase two of the test runs a 70% read/30% write, full random 4K transfer workload on the drive for 1 hour. We log and chart (phase two) IOPS data at 5-second intervals for 1 hour (720 data points). 60 data points = 5 minutes.

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What we like about this test is that it reflects reality. Everything lines up, as it should. Consumer drives don't outperform Enterprise-Class SSDs that were designed for enterprise workloads. Consumer drives based on old technology are not outperforming modern Performance-Class SSDs, etc.

We are a bit shocked that the 512GB 600p turned in a decent performance. It outperforms both the 950 Pro 256GB and the 960 EVO 250GB in this test. SMI-controlled SSDs have traditionally fared well in this test, but they always do so with massive variability.

Maxed-Out Performance (MOP)

Maxed-Out Performance

This testing is just to see what the drive is capable of in an FOB (Fresh Out of Box) state under optimal conditions. We are utilizing empty volumes of Windows 10 and Windows Server 2012 R2 64-bit for this testing.

Windows 10 MOP

Intel 600p 512GB

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Windows Server 2012 R2 MOP

Intel 600p 512GB

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Final Thoughts

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When you think of an NVMe SSD, there is a certain expected level of performance that comes to mind. Right off the bat, you know that an NVMe SSD should be faster than any SATA SSD. It is not unreasonable to assume that even an entry-level NVMe SSD will deliver performance that puts SATA to shame. After all, we've experienced nothing less to this point. We have to look no further than Samsung's 960 EVO to see that even with a TLC flash array, NVMe SSDs are capable of delivering performance that is vastly superior to that of any SATA SSD.

SSD vendors like to toss around sequential numbers as indicative of how well an SSD will perform. This is effective, because, for the most part, sequential numbers are indeed all that the consumer will see when considering making that purchase. This line of reasoning will have you thinking that the 600p is 3x faster than a SATA SSD. It will boot 3x faster etc. Except for certain corner-case scenarios, this could not be further from reality. We feel that most users will utilize their SSDs as their OS disk, which is why we focus on moderate workloads, low QD random performance, transfer rates, and overall user experience when evaluating an SSD.

If you are expecting Intel's 600p to give your PC a notable boost in user experience, that's just not going to happen, unless you are unfortunate enough to be using a mechanical disk. We will go as far as to say we would choose a good SATA SSD over the 600p any day of the week. Why would we want to waste PCIe lanes on an SSD that doesn't deliver performance that is any better than what you will get from a SATA SSD?

You want to install a game? You want to transfer large blocks of data like movies etc.? Do you want a great user experience? If your answer is yes, then there are far better options out there even when the price is factored into the equation.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Five-Year Warranty
  • Most Appealing Form Factor

Cons:

  • Overall Performance
Performance50%
Quality including Design and Build80%
General Features80%
Bundle and Packaging70%
Value for Money70%
Overall70%

The Bottom Line: Price alone isn't enough to earn a TweakTown recommendation. Performance matters and Intel's 600p fails to deliver anything compelling.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

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Jon became a computer enthusiast when Windows XP launched. He was into water cooling and benching ATI video cards with modded drivers. Jon has been building computers for others for more than 10 years. Jon became a storage enthusiast the day he first booted an Intel X25-M G1 80GB SSD. Look for Jon to bring consumer SSD reviews into the spotlight.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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