Monday , 24 November 2014
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Intel DC S3500 Data Center SSD Review (480GB x 4) – Speed, Great Features and Rock Bottom Prices

Let’s make it clear right from the start and not mix words when we say that the Intel DC S3500 is an enterprise/data center SSD through and through.  Availability and pricing of the DC S3500 found early on the morning of release, however, is definitely going to tempt more than just the data center crowd.  After all, the Intel DC S3500 has speeds above 500MB/s, 75K IOPS, AES 256-bit encryption, power loss data protection, advanced error correction, availability in 5mm and 7mm form factors, multiple capacities, up to 450TBW and a five year warranty.

Compound this with great pricing and a controller that many have been just itching to see in a consumer SSD for some time and Intel just may have unexpectedly stumbled on a new crowd of buyers.

IntelS3500-STACK1

Our review of the Intel SSD DC S3700 last year was impressive, to say the least, and it easily walked away with our Editor’s Choice Award.  Performance consistency was excellent and it was jammed packed with enterprise features.  It was an all-in-one drive that was just as comfortable with write operations as it was with reads.  When we first caught wind that there would be an MLC version based on the S3700 architecture, we were excited.  As with Seagate and Samsung, Intel will now have a read-targeted enterprise SSD to complement its product portfolio.

From what we have observed on our test bench, SSDs in this class offer performance that is nearly identical. In one test, one SSD will edge ahead of the pack, then in the next, it will fall behind by a few percentage points.  It definitely makes our analysis, and ultimately, the customer’s decision, much harder.

IntelS3500-OPEN2

When looking specifically at Intel and Samsung, the path they took to get to the S3500 and SM843 couldn’t be more different.  Intel started with their high-end, award winning, enterprise S3700 and swapped out the expensive HET-MLC for MLC.  Samsung went in a completely opposite direction.  They started with their world-dominating 840 Pro, tweaked the firmware and pumped out the SM843.  The provenance of each drive makes some of the design decisions more understandable.  But, before we get down to this mainstream enterprise showdown, lets have a deeper look at the S3500.

INTRODUCTION

The Intel SSD DC S3500 Data Center SSD is a read-oriented, enterprise SSD that comes in both 7mm 2.5″ and 5mm 1.8″ form factors.  The former is offered in 80, 120, 160, 240, 300, 480, 600 and 800GB capacities, while the latter is offered in 80, 240, 400 and 800GB capacities and both come with a standard 5 year warranty. Most capacities will be offered at launch, while others will show up over the next few months, and an early morning check on the day of release showed absolutely great great Amazon pricing, well below that of the DC S3700 Series.  For this review, we got the chance to test out a quartet of Intel 480GB DC S3500 SSDs.

The Intel DC S3500 Data Center SSD offers all of the same enterprise protection of the S3700, including ECC protected memory, 256-bit AES encryption, power loss protection and end-to-end data protection.  This is the point where the drive’s origin come into play.  Since the DC S3500 has enterprise roots, it comes loaded with enterprise features.  The Samsung SM843 doesn’t offer power loss protection because of its consumer history.  This could be a major deal-breaker for enterprise customers.

IntelS3500-SpecRandom

IntelS3500-SpecSeq

IntelS3500-SpecPower

IntelS3500-SpecTBW

You can see the excellent read performance across the capacities.  The write performance and endurance is more of a mix bag.  The endurance numbers are actually in line with other read-oriented SSDs, but still lower than eMLC drives.  Write performance varies widely across the capacities.  With Samsung, you still get over 420MB/s even at 120GB, where you would need the 800GB S3500 to match or exceed that number.

About Ben Chase

  • dravo1

    Two things concern me with this SSD. The power protection caps look rather outdated compared to other enterprise SSDs. Secondly, the SSD label indicates a +12V line is required along with the usual +5V. My OCZ SSDs only required +5V . What’s the +12V being used for?

    • Ben Chase

      dravo1 – The S3500/S3700s can operate on both the 5 and 12V rail. 12V is useful in enterprise rack systems where it may be more readily available than 5V. All of our testing was performed in systems using only 5V, so don’t worry too much.

      • Sam Brown

        what about the SM843 with tantalum caps? or the SM843T with super caps and e-mlc?

      • Ben Chase

        We can’t say much about products that are not released, but if the 843 had power loss caps, it would be much more attractive to enterprise. If they add a high endurance option, that would put it in a difference price/performance class, so it’s hard to tell how it would stack up,

      • Sam Brown

        they are just sold through oem like samsung was before their consumer SSD. Used to be microcenter was the only place to get samsung hard drives. SM843T is the same as the 840 pro as far as they are concerned the factory OP is higher. the 840 Pro only worked after we moved to 30% OP with some megascu love to the LSI 9266

  • http://www.takeshiyashima.com/ Takeshi Yashima

    The write endurance seems to be pretty low though! 450000GB/800GB = 562 cycles. Others do something like 2-3000!

    • benjamin

      You need to the into account the WA aswell, especially becouse it uses no compression, it will always be more than 1.

      • Ben Chase

        Yes, with the JESD standard, the write amplification is 5-7X, from my experience. If you are looking at a workload where WA=~1, you are looking at slightly over 3000 PE cycles.

  • Amos

    Does it work with macbook pro early 2011, core i7, 500gb? looking to upgrade to SSD.

    • http://thessdreview.com Les@TheSSDReview

      Of course it will.

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