Intel SSD 600p Series - NVMe At Entry-Level M.2 PCIe Price Points

If you are looking for a low cost M.2 NVMe drive for your desktop PC or laptop you are looking at the right review. Intel recently released the SSD 600P Series drives that use the M.2 2280 PCIe 3 x4 (single-sided) interface and is one of the very first NVMe drives to feature 3D TLC NAND Flash memory. Intel went with the Silicon Motion SM2260 controller on this particular series and pair it with Intel 384Gb 32-layer 3D TLC NAND Flash memory. The result was an affordable client storage drive series that Intel hopes will lure some people away from the high-end SATA III SSD market and over to PCIe M.2 segment. With pricing starting at just $55.99 for a 128GB drive ($0.44 per GB) and topping out at $289.99 for the 1TB drive ($0.28 per GB), the Intel SSD 600p series might do just that. The sweet spot for the SSD market would be the 256GB and 512GB capacities and the Intel SSD 600p Series has you covered as the 256GB model is priced at $79.99 ($0.31 per GB) and the 512GB model at $170.00 ($0.33 per GB) isn't too much more. [caption id="attachment_188356" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel SSD 600p Series Intel SSD 600p Series Retail Packaging[/caption] Intel SSD 600p Series Features:   The Intel SSD 600p is offered in four capacities;128GB, 256GB, 512GB and 1TB, but a 2TB version is possible if there is enough demand for Intel to bring one to market. All of the drives use the M.2 2280 (80mm) form factor and are single-sided, meaning they are able to work in desktops and laptops with ease. Like most all SSDs, performance greatly varies depending on the capacity. The Intel SSD 600p 128GB drive is the slowest with up to 770 MB/s sequential reads and 450 MB/s sequential writes, while the Intel SSD 600p 1TB drive goes up to 1,800 MB/s sequential rad and 560 MB/s sequential write. Random read and write input/output operations (IOPS) are rated at up to 155K and 128K, respectively. The SLC cache buffer is also difference for each drive with the 128GB having just 4GB of SLC buffer, while the larger 1TB drive has 32GB of SLC buffer. This is the amount of TLC NAND Flash that is operating in SLC mode and helps performance during periods of long sustained writes. If you write enough data and fill up the cache, you'll be writing data directly to the TLC NAND Flash and will take a massive performance hit. You have to throw a good bit of data at the drive to overflow the buffer though, so it doesn't happen too often in the real world doing normal mainstream computing tasks.
Capacity Sequential Read (MB/s) Sequential Write (MB/s) Random Read (IOPS) Random Write (IOPS) SLC Buffer (GB) Endurance (TBW)
128 GB 770 450 35,000 91,000 4 72
256 GB 1,570 540 71,000 112,000 8.5 144
512 GB 1,775 560 128,500 128,000 17 288
1024 GB 1,800 560 155,000 128,000 32 576
Intel has placed a solid 5-year limited warranty on the 600p series and has given them a pretty decent endurance rating. The Intel SSD 600p 128GB is rated at 72 TBW and then that goes up to 144 TBW on the 256GB drive, 288 TBW on the 512GB drive and finally 576 TBW on the 1TB model. The Intel SSD 600p Series has great TBW ratings though as the Intel 600p 1TB drive has a 576 TBW rating and that crushed the 400 TBW rating on the Samsung SSD 960 EVO 1TB drive for example.
User Capacity (GB) Raw Capacity (GB) SLC buffer
128 144 = 48x3 4GB
256 288 = 48x6 8.5GB
512 576 = 48x12 17GB
1024 1152 = 48x24 32GB
Once you've reached the drives limit you can still continue to use the drive as long as there is enough spare area left to swap out the failed cells in the NAND Flash memory. Once you run out of spare space, the 600p will switch into a locked read-only mode that will allow you to recover your data in a perfect world. Hopefully you backup you data regularly and never have to worry about that years down the road. [caption id="attachment_188354" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel SSD 600P Series 512GB M.2 Drive Intel SSD 600P Series 512GB M.2 Drive[/caption] Today, we are going to be benchmarking the Intel SSD 600p Series 512GB drive. On the top side of the 600p 512GB drive you'll find find the Nanya 512MB low-power DDR3 DRAM cache chip, SM2260 eight-channel dual-core controller and three Intel 3D TLC NAND Flash chips. [caption id="attachment_188355" align="aligncenter" width="645"]The Intel SSD 600P Series is Single-Sided The Intel SSD 600P Series is Single-Sided[/caption] Flipping the drive over you'll find no components on the back as this is a single-sided M.2 card. [caption id="attachment_188352" align="aligncenter" width="645"]SMI SM2260 Controller on the Intel SSD 600p The Silicon Motion SM2260 controller is used on the Intel SSD 600p[/caption] Here is a closer look at the SMI SM2260 controller along with NANYA LPDDR3 DRAM and partially covered Intel 384Gb 32-layer 3D TLC NAND Flash chip. We've heard rumors that Intel 'customized' the SM2260 slightly for this application and that is why the Intel logo is on the controller. Actually, that isn't the top of the controller. That is a thin copper-plate that has a shiny silver finish on the top that helps dissipate heat. Intel and Samsung are both using copper layered 'stickers' on their latest M.2 drives to help improve thermal performance. SM2260 Block Diagram The SM2260 controller was designed for client and entry level enterprise SSDs and features a PCIe Gen3 x4 (8Gbps) interface with eight NAND channels and support for up to 2TB of NAND Flash memory. This controller is PCIe 3.1 and NVMe 1.2 compliant and supports NANDXtend Technology of LDPC hard and soft decoding as well as RAID protection that together enhance the P/E cycles of 3D NAND. Intel SSD Toolbox The Intel SSD 600p Series can be used with the Intel SSD Toolbox. This utility will let you check how much of the drives endurance is left, show how much space is being use, the S.M.A.R.T. details, perform a secure erase and even update the firmware. Intel SSD Toolbox Secure Erase Unfortunately, even when using the latest Intel SSD Toolbox build (v1.3.4) we were unable to secure erase the Intel SSD 600p series and had to use 3rd party utilities to do that. Let's take a look at the test system and then jump into the benchmarks to see how the Intel 600p performs against other M.2 NVMe drives by Samsung, OCZ, Patriot and others.

The SSD Benchmark Test System & TRIM Support

Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (Anniversary Update build 14393) and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. This means windows defender, windows update, disk fragmentation and everything else that would interfere with testing was disabled. Windows 10 also had the power option set to high performance. We also disabled Turbo mode on the Intel Core i7-5960X to ensure our numbers are spot on and repeatable. ASUS X99 Sabertooth Motherboard The Intel X99 platform that we used to test the storage drives was based around the ASUS X99 Sabertooth motherboard with BIOS 3402 that came out on 09/23/2016. We used Intel RST storage drivers, the exact version was 14.5.0.1081. The Crucial Ballistix DDR4 32GB 2400MHz memory kit was run at 2666MHz with 15-15-15-28 1T memory timings. The Corsair Neutron XT 240GB SSD was used as the primary drive.

Intel X99 Test Bench

Intel LGA 2011v3 Test Platform
Component Brand/Model Live Pricing

Processor

Core i7 5960X

Motherboard

ASUS X99 Sabertooth

Memory

Crucial Ballistix 2400MHz 32GB

OS Drive

Corsair Neutron XT 240GB

Power Supply

Corsair AX860i

Operating System

Windows 10 64-Bit

CrystalDiskInfo 7.0.4 Readout:

The readout on CrystalDiskInfo 7.0.4 shows that the Intel SSD 600p supports S.M.A.R.T. and nothing else, but we know that TRIM is supposed to be supported. The drive we received had firmware version PSF100C installed and that is the version that we used for general testing and benchmarking. Intel SSD 600p CrystalDiskInfo The overall capacity shows up as 476 GB on the Intel SSD 600p 512GB M.2 drive in Windows 10 Anniversary Edition. Intel SSD 600p Capacity in Windows 10 Does The Intel SSD 600p Series Support Trim?  Most SSDs today support the TRIM command, but we still run a quick test to ensure that the command is being properly passed through to the SSD and being done. A great free utility called TRIMCheck can be run to ensure that TRIM is functioning properly. Intel SSD 600p TRIM Command According to TRIMCheck v0.7, the program is unable to determine if the TRIM command is being correctly executed. We can tell that it is working and when we asked Intel about this result they confirmed that TRIM is working and that the way the data is returned in this architecture results in it appearing non-deterministic. This utility hasn't been updated in 3-years, so it might be time to retire this test. Let's have a look at the performance!

Taking A Look At Sustained Write Performance

[caption id="attachment_188354" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel SSD 600P Series 512GB M.2 Drive Intel SSD 600P Series 512GB M.2 Drive[/caption] Triple-Level Cell  TLC NAND based SSDs perform usually quite well, but when you copy a large amount of data to the drive without and idle time you'll often find a large drop in write speed. TLC NAND is great in applications where write operations are limited , but is usually not recommended for critical systems that have heavy write operations as they have lower endurance ratings than SLC or MLC NAND and of course sustained write performance isn't stellar. In recent years drive manufactures have been figured out that by using  SLC or TLC treated as SLC as a cache they can keep the drives overall write performance high as long as the amount of data being written to the drive fits in the cache. If you overflow the cache, you are then writing directly to the TLC NAND and the write performance will drop down to that level. It should be noted that the SLC cache will clear once the drive idles, so this only impacts long writes that are many GB in size. This might not be a typical workload scenario for this ultra-value or mainstream drives, but still something worth pointing out! Let's take a look at the Intel SSD 600p Series 512GB drive to see how it handles sustained write scenarios. 600p-sustained The 600p starts out at around 550 MB/s sequential write speeds, but after 31 seconds (17.5GB of writes) the performance dropped down to nearly 30 MB/s before recovering and then dropping again.  When you average the test results over the 45 second period that we are focusing on these are the average speeds that you come up with: The Intel SSD 600p 512GB drive performs no better than most SATA III SSDs with regards to long sustained writes as it averaged just 427 MB/s over our short 45 second long test. 600p-sustained-write When you stretch this test out for a period of six minutes you'll see a pattern develop and performance never fully recovers as the drive isn't given the opportunity to take a break for the cache to clear and to be able to run the TRIM and garbage collection algorithms. Once the SLC cache has been filled on the 600p the write performance slows to a crawl and you get spike of performance and then write latencies as the dual-core controller struggles to keep up. This is due to the fact that Intel doesn't allow the data to bypass the cache and be written directly to the TLC NAND Flash like some other solutions on the market. All the data must go must go through the cache before being written and that is too much for this controller to handle. Let's take a look at some common benchmarks!

Anvil Storage Utilities

Anvil Storage Utilities 1.1.0

Along with the move to a new platform, we decided to make a change in one of the benchmarks. There's a relatively new benchmark called Anvil Storage Utilities that is in beta but close to production. It's a very powerful tool that measures performance through a variety of tests which can be customized. Since some of the tests more or less duplicate what we get from other benchmarks we use already, we decided to use the IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) testing on 4kb file sizes at a queue depth of 1, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and 128. IOPS performance is something SSD makers tout quite a bit but we generally don't do a lot of IOPS testing because frankly a lot of users can't relate to IOPS metrics as well and it tends to be more meaningful to the enterprise/server crowd. Still, it is another performance indicator with relevance and while some drives post good MB/s numbers, their IOPS scores aren't always commensurate which this test will prove out.

Anvil SSD Benchmark with 100% Compression (incompressible data):

Intel SSD 600p Anvil Benchmark Benchmark Results: The Anvil SSD Benchmark showed that with 100% compression (incompressible data) the Intel SSD 600p 512GB SSD scored 7,356.70 points with stock Windows NVMe Driver.

Anvil SSD Applications Benchmark at 46% Compression:

Intel SSD 600p Anvil Apps SSD Benchmark Benchmark Results: With the compression at 46% to help mimic real world applications better we found the overall score dropped down to 6,272.79 points.  anvil-read Benchmark Results: We used Anvil to check the 4K QD32 Random Read performance and found we we topped out at 129,000 IOPS, which is just barely over the drives rated 4K Random Read rating of 128,500 IOPS. When it comes to Random Read IOPS at QD1 the Intel SSD 600p 512 delivered 8,500 IOPS, which is the lowest of the 8 drives we have tested. Most desktop PCs doing regular client workloads operate in the lower QD range, so that is worth noting.  anvil-writes Benchmark Results: When it came to 4K Random Write performance, the Intel SSD 600p 512GB drive topped out at 131,300 IOPS when it is rated for 128,000 IOPS. With regards to Random Write IOPS at QD1, the Intel SSD 600p 512GB managed to tie the Patriot Hellfire M.2 480GB with 33,600 IOPS. Not bad performance from a budget drive as the write performance is better than the Samsung SSD 950 PRO 512GB drive at the higher Queue Depths and that is showing as the 950 PRO was the best M.2 drive that you could get last year. 

ATTO & CrystalDiskMark

ATTO v3.05

ATTO is one of the oldest drive benchmarks still being used today and is still very relevant in the SSD world. ATTO measures transfers across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and places the data into graphs that can be very easily interpreted. The test was run with the default runs of 0.5KB through 64MB transfer sizes with the total length being 256MB.

ATTO - Intel 600p 512GB:

Intel SSD 600p ATTO Disk Benchmark Benchmark Results: ATTO showed the Intel SSD 600p 512GB NVMe drive topped out at 1,894 MB/s read and 568 MB/s write in the standard overlapped I/O benchmark. Seeing 1.9 GB/s read and 0.6 GB/s write speeds from affordable entry-level M.2 NVMe drives is great.  atto-seq-read atto-seq-write Benchmark Results: When comparing the Intel SSD 600P 512GB drive to others for sequential read/write performance you can see that it can't really compete, but it does good against the WD Blue SSD 1TB SATA drive and that is the market Intel is looking to lure people from. 

CrystalDiskMark 5.2.0 x64

CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.

CystalDiskmark -Intel 600p 512GB:

Intel SSD 600p CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Results: The Intel SSD 600p 512GB M.2 SSD reached 1,182 MB/s read and 566 MB/s write in the standard sequential write test and Random 4K performance was 37 MB/s read and 180 MB/s write. When we ran the test again set to 0Fill mode the sequential scores remained basically the same.  Let's look at some other benchmarks!

AS SSD Benchmark

AS-SSD (1.9.5986.35387) Benchmark:

We have been running the AS-SSD Benchmark app for over some time now and found that it gives a broad result set. The programmer has worked very hard on this software and continues to make updates often so if you use it, show him some love and send him a donation. There are now three tests that are found within the tool and we'll show the results from all three of them.

AS SSD - Intel 600p 512GB:

Intel SSD 600p AS SSD Benchmark Results: AS SSD showed the Intel SSD 600p 512GB drive had an overall score of 1,663 points with sequential read speeds of 1,625 MB/s and 544 MB/s write. 

AS SSD  Copy - Intel 600p 512GB:

Intel SSD 600p AS SSD Copy Benchmark Benchmark Results: The copy benchmark test results are pretty impressive with speeds ranging from 616.48 MB/s to 1,100.83 MB/s.

AS SSD  Compression - Intel 600p 512GB:

Intel SSD 600p AS SSD Compression Benchmark Results: For this benchmark chart you would ideally want to see a straight line as you don’t want any compression performance loss as the test goes from 0% compressible to 100% compressible data during the benchmark test period. The Intel SSD 600p 512GB drive had a number of performance dips on read operations, but everything is pretty flat.

PCMark 8 Storage Test

pcmark8 logo PCMark 8 might have come out in 2013, but it is still Futuremark's most recent version of their industry standard PC benchmarking tool. PCMark 8 allows you to test the performance of all types of PC, from tablets to desktops. With five separate benchmark tests plus battery life testing, PCMark 8 helps you find the devices that offer the perfect combination of efficiency and performance. PCMark 8 is recognized by many as being the complete PC benchmark for home and business. We ran the Storage 2.0 benchmark test suite on PCMark 8 v2.7.613 that came out in April 2016. This is a major update accommodates a change in the latest version of Adobe After Effects and provides better support for NVMe SSDs. The changes affect the workloads in the Adobe Applications benchmark and the Storage 2.0 benchmark. Scores from the new versions of these tests should not be compared with older versions, so just a heads up if you wanted to compare scores. Version 2.0 of the Storage benchmark includes two changes to the storage playback engine:
  1. Write I/Os sent to the storage device no longer have the Force Unit Access flag enabled. This flag did not usually matter to older storage devices but could lead to reduced performance on some modern NVMe drives.
  2. The playback engine now aligns all I/Os on 4096 byte boundaries. This change improves test compatibility across modern devices.
The primary result of each storage test is the total time elapsed while playing back the trace. The primary result is used to calculate Storage score. The secondary result of the test is bandwidth, which is the total amount of bytes read and written during the test divided by busy time (in other words, the time when the depth of the queue of pending I/O operations was at least 1). The bandwidth result is used to calculate Storage bandwidth, which is reported along with Storage score and we are most interested in this score.

PCMark 8: Intel 600p 512GB SSD:

600p-pcmark8 Benchmark Results: When it comes to PCMark 8 performance you are looking at an overall score of 5,009 on the Intel 600p 512GB drive with a bandwidth score of 329.11 MB/s. pcmark8-overall Benchmark Results: This score puts the Intel 600P in last place of the eight M.2 drives we tested it against, but it was ahead of the one SATA III drive in the chart! pcmark8-bandwidth Benchmark Results: We like the bandwidth test results as it shows the total amount of bytes read and written during the test divided by the time the test took. The Intel SSD 600p 512GB drive does okay, but is nothing to write home about as the two year old Intel XP941 OEM M.2 SSD that doesn't feature NVMe still managed to beat it.

IOMeter Sequential and 4K Random Performance

IOMeter Sequential Performance

Legit Reviews is once again adding IOMeter v1.1.0 testing to ourSolid-State Drive reviews as we feel that the canned benchmarks no longer show enough of the performance picture nor do they expose many of the heat issues that we are starting to encounter on M.2 PCIe SSDs and sustained write issues on TLC NAND based drives. We start out testing each drive with IOMeter, but first we prepare the drive. This is done by using Parted Magic to complete a full Secure Erase each and every drive. Next we use IOMeter to prefill the drive by performing the industry standard 128KB, aligned, sequential write workload across the entire drive for a period of 30 minutes. Once the drive is conditioned we run our saved sequential test profile that runs our 128KB test for one minute without any idle time in between the tests. The queue depth is set to 32 as we feel with NVMe drives starting to come out that we need to increase our IO depth. iometer-sequential-benchmark The 128KB Sequential Read/Write test is done primarily to make sure the drives we are testing meet or surpass the manufacturer specifications for sequential Read/Write performance. The Intel SSD 600p drive is rated at 1775 MB/s read and 560 MB/s write and we were able to get 1913 MB/s read and 509 MB/s write when performing each test for a period of 1 minute. We filled up the SLC cache, which is why the write performance test is lower than one might expect.

IOMeter 4K Random Performance

iometer-randoml-benchmark When it comes to 4K Random Read/Write IOPS, the Intel SSD 600P 512GB PCIe SSD is rated at 128,000 IOPS for Random Write and 128,500 IOPS for Random Read. We got just over 100,000 IOPs for both tests.  The 80/20 mixed workload test that we ran dropped the performance down to 133,000 IOPS, but  it was still a very solid score.

Intel SSD 600p Temperatures

[caption id="attachment_188352" align="aligncenter" width="645"]SMI SM2260 Controller on the Intel SSD 600p SMI SM2260 Controller on the Intel SSD 600p[/caption] Temperatures have always played a critical role on storage drives and in recent years we've seen it cause drives to fail prematurely and we've even seen some SSD performance results change for the worse if components were too hot or too cold. Since temperature is an important thing to keep an eye on we check the idle and load temperatures on all of the drives that we review. To get the idle temperature results we leave the drive sitting on an open air test bench in a room that is 19C. For the load numbers we use IOMeter to write 128KB to the drive sequentially for 10 minutes and record the top temperature. Intel SSD 600p CrystalDiskInfo 600p-temp-load The Intel 600p 512GB drive had an idle temperature of 30C and we found that it topped out at 59C after doing 10 minutes of straight 128KB sequential writes across the entire drive with IOMeter. This heavy workload isn't normal, but when doing writes to the drive we saw the temperature rise modestly. Not a bad temperature as we've seen some M.2 drives reach 80C or higher in the same test. Let's wrap this up!

Final Thoughts & Conclusions

[caption id="attachment_188354" align="aligncenter" width="645"]Intel SSD 600P Series 512GB M.2 Drive Intel SSD 600P Series 512GB M.2 Drive[/caption]   So, is the Intel SSD 600p series just another budget priced TLC drive that enthusiasts will hate due to poor heavy workload performance? Unfortunately it most certainly is, but it does perform relatively well for how it is priced and you have to keep in mind that your typical consumer isn't going to be doing crazy workloads like that. If you are wanting a low-cost M.2 PCIe NVMe solution that performs decently with an above average 5-year warranty with a high TBW endurance rating this drive might be worth taking a closer look at. The Intel SSD 600p series isn't going to be the fastest drive around, but it really does offer a good value for mainstream desktops or laptop use. We just hope that Intel updated their toolbox to fully support the 600p as the drive has been out for months and the toolbox has been updated since, but some features are still not enabled for this series. Intel SSD 600p Series Street Pricing: With pricing starting at just $55.99 for a 128GB drive ($0.44 per GB) and topping out at $289.99 for the 1TB drive ($0.28 per GB), the Intel SSD 600p series is very affordable and some of these prices are likely holiday specials since we are posting this on Thanksgiving. If you've ever complained about how expensive NVMe produces are, you no longer have a case. Here we have a drive that performs slightly better than premium SATA III products and is more affordable. We see these being a popular drive for the Intel NUC series that now features a M.2 slot and doesn't come with a drive. You can get a budget friendly Intel NUC system and pop in an Intel SSD 600p Series drive to have a nice little system with some of the latest technologies around. It's been some time since we've given out the value award, but at under $0.30 per GB for an M.2 PCIe NVMe the Intel SSD 600p series easily gets the award. You might not be jumping up and down about the drives performance, but this will help drive prices down and you will end up winning. Legit Reviews Value Award   Legit Bottom Line: The Intel SSD 600p Series isn't for everyone, but is the first entry-level NVMe device and is a triple threat with decent performance, a long 5-year warranty and hefty endurance ratings.