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.
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.
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.
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.
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.