As the SSD industry continues to grow, manufactures try to maintain their consumer presence with more value oriented consumer products. Such is the case with Intel’s latest step into the TLC segment by introducing their newest 540s SATA 3 SSD a few weeks back. The Intel 540s Series is their first SSD to feature 16nm TLC NAND and first 5 series drive to deliver up to 1TB of capacity.
Much more interesting though is the fact that Intel has sought out 3rd party manufacturers for both controller and NAND flash memory, relying on more value conscious parts than their own. The TLC NAND is sourced from SK Hynix while the controller is from Silicon Motion. The controller moved to Silicon Motion is a given as SandForce was bought out by Seagate but why Intel would not be relying on their own fabs for memory is more than a bit curious.
Even more familiar is that this combination of SSD components makes this SSD the twin to the ADATA SP550 we reviewed last September, which also features a Silicon motion SM2256 controller and SK Hynix TLC NAND. Granted, the SP550 wasn’t the best performing drive we’ve reviewed, but we have to wonder if Intel has played with firmware at all and how the 540s will perform when we put it to the test. Will it stick out like a star as their top tier 750 Series NVMe PCIe SSDs we reviewed or will it just be another TLC based option that fades away in the value level segment?
Not only that, but what about price? Intel always seems to have a luxury tax on their products and that could bite them in the butt in the value segment where price is king. Read on and learn more about the Intel 540s Series and see for yourself in today’s review!
SPECIFICATIONS, PRICING, AND AVAILABILITY
The Intel 540s is a SATA 6Gb/s SSD that comes in a 7mm 2.5″ form factor as well as a single sided M.2 2280 form factor with the 1TB model being double sided. It is currently available in six capacities: 120GB ($54), 180GB ($92), 240GB ($90), 360GB ($154), 480GB ($154), and as we just stated previously, 1TB ($350). Sequential speeds are rated for up to 560MB/s read and 480MB/s write thanks to a small SLC cache buffer. Random read and write speeds are listed for up to 78K/85K IOPS. In addition, it has a MTBF rating of 1.6 million hours and an UBER rating of 1 sector per 10^16 bits read. Power consumption is rated at 90 milliwatts active and 50 milliwatts idle.
In terms of features, the Intel 540s supports TRIM and SMART monitoring. It also has full AES 256-bit encryption, unlike most of the other TLC NAND based drives out there. It is compatible with Intel’s SSD toolbox with Intel SSD optimizer, Intel Data Migration software, and Intel Rapid Storage Technology. As well, the Intel 540s is backed by a 5-year warranty.
PACKAGING AND COMPONENTS
Intel’s packaging has a warp speed type design in their iconic blue color. The front simply has their logo and “SSD5” written on it. On the backside we can see it lists their family of products with this drive on the bottom. It also states the 5-year warranty and all the certifications and declarations.
Once opened, we see the 540s does not come with any accessories. The drive itself is constructed of an all metal finish. On the front side, we can see their logo printed and on the backside is a product sticker with the drive’s certs, capacity, serial numbers and such. We can also see the finish on the backside is nowhere near the quality of the front. We’ve noticed this in the past as well and is not unlike other Intel SSDs at all.
Four screws secure the SSD enclosure and, once opened, we can see there is a thermal pad to help dissipate heat off the controller. The PCB is full sized with 16 NAND packages, one DRAM package, and one controller.
On closer inspection we can see the Silicon Motion controller is new to us, model SM2258G. Looking around their website it isn’t even listed so we can’t give any specs on it at this time. This will be interesting and might prove to provide better performance than what we have seen with the SM2256 with SK Hynix TLC NAND.
In addition, the 512MB DDR3L-1600 DRAM package is supplied by Nanya. Each NAND package is 32GB in capacity for a total RAW NAND capacity of 512GB. Since the usable capacity is 480GB, we can see that it is over provisioned by ~7%. The total usable capacity once formatted in our system is 447GB.