Intel Announces TLC-Based 540s, 5400s SSDs

"Expect More. Do More." Intel's new SSD 540s and SSD Pro 5400s Series comes with several catchy one-liners, but the joke is on us. The two new SSD products announced for the consumer and business client markets mark Intel's first foray into the world of three-bit-per-cell (TLC) NAND flash. Intel did not leap with Micron to build 16nm flash, a move that would have guaranteed the company in-house 16nm TLC. Instead, Intel chose to skip the node entirely, leaving Micron to foot the bill. This also left Intel, a company with NAND flash manufacturing capabilities, as a customer of SK Hynix for this product cycle. We suspect Intel expected new 256Gbit die 3D flash memory to come sooner than it has from its joint venture with Micron, IMFT.

The Next Level of Consumer Computing


120 GB
180 GB
240 GB
360 GB
480 GB
1000 GB
Raw Capacity
128 GB
192 GB
256 GB
384 GB
512 GB
1,024 GB
Form Factors
2.5 Inch
M.2 2280
2.5 Inch
M.2 2280
2.5 Inch
M.2 2280
2.5 Inch
M.2 2280
2.5 Inch
M.2 2280
2.5 Inch
M.2 2280
Interface
SATA 6 Gbps
SATA 6 GbpsSATA 6 GbpsSATA 6 GbpsSATA 6 GbpsSATA 6 Gbps
Sequential Read
550 MB/s
560 MB/s560 MB/s560 MB/s560 MB/s560 MB/s
Sequential Write (Burst)
Up To 480 MB/s
Up To 480 MB/sUp To 480 MB/sUp To 480 MB/sUp To 480 MB/sUp To 480 MB/s
Sequential Write (Sustained)
70 MB/s
90 MB/s
100 MB/s
100 MB/s
125 MB/s
125 MB/s

We're surprised Intel chose to bring these new products to market under the 5-Series banner. When we first heard rumors that Intel signed with Silicon Motion for controllers over two years ago, we expected the company to utilize the 4-channel SM2246EN with MLC flash and release another entry-level product. That would have fallen under the 300-Series label, one the company hasn't updated since 2012 (SSD 335). The two new products announced today are actually slower than the SSD 335 Series from 2012 in many key categories, including sustained writes. They also employ Silicon Motion's newest controller designed for TLC flash, the SM2256 (read our preview here).


As far as we can tell from the information we have on hand today, the 540s (consumer) and 5400s (business client) products differ only in Intel's vPro capabilities. The 5400s business client-class products support remote management with Intel's vPro and AMT technologies. This allows system administrators to remotely erase the data on the drive with Intel's Remote Secure Erase software. The 540s does not have these business-focused features.

Both products include a standard 5-year warranty and support AES 256-bit hardware encryption. The two series ship in both 2.5-inch and M.2 2280 form factors. The largest-capacity M.2 drive (1 TB) uses a double-sided configuration for the surface mount components, but the smaller capacity sizes use a single-sided design that is supported by more notebooks and Ultrabooks.

The new consumer and business client SSDs replace aging products in the Intel product lineup with SandForce SF-2281 controllers and SK Hynix 20nm MLC flash. Intel didn't release any pricing details, but we suspect the new drives will cost less than the SSD 535 and Pro 2500 series. The 5-year warranty will be an advantage to similarly configured products like the Adata SP550 (our review here).

Chris Ramseyer is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.