For the last year, we've talked about how amazing NVMe products are, but in the same breath, we complained about the cost. The 600p is Intel's answer to enthusiasts complaining about NVMe pricing. The drive fits well in the Intel lineup, where it slots between the 7- and 5-Series. Unlike both of those products, the new 6-Series is a compromise in performance, and that takes some of the shine away from NVMe's reputation for high performance.
|$ per TB Of Endurance||128GB||256GB||512GB||1TB|
|Intel 600p||72TB / $0.92 ||144TB / $0.76||288TB / $0.69||576TB / NA|
|Intel 750||NA||NA||350TB / $0.90||350 / $2.37|
|OCZ RD400||74TB/ $1.62 ||148TB/ $1.18||296TB/ $1.04||592TB/ $1.23|
|Patriot Hellfire||NA||115TB/ $0.78||230TB/ $0.78||NA|
|Samsung 950 Pro||NA||200TB/ $0.93||400TB/ $0.79||NA|
|Samsung 850 Pro||150TB/ $0.60 ||150TB/ $0.81||300TB/ $0.73||300TB/ $1.39|
|Samsung 850 EVO||75TB/ $1.04 ||75TB/ $1.33||150TB/ $1.05||150TB/ $2.04|
|OCZ VX500||74TB/ $0.87 ||148TB/ $0.63||296TB/ $0.52||592TB/ $0.60|
|Crucial MX300||NA||80TB/ $0.88||160TB/ $0.80||220TB/ $1.18|
(EDIT - Intel has since increased the endurance rating, as noted in the chart). Let's tackle the endurance elephant in the room first. The Intel 600p was the second SSD we've tested (the 750 Series was the first) with a blanket endurance rating that doesn't increase with capacity. We reached out to Intel and confirmed that the 72 TBW rating was accurate for all 600p SSDs, but the company increased the rating later. The 600p has a stellar low-cost pricing scheme, and after Intel's endurance specification adjustments, you pay less for each TB of endurance than you would with most competing SSDs.
Until the last few years, endurance was an overlooked specification in the consumer SSD space. The endurance rating for most SSDs was high enough that most of us didn't give it a second thought. I've only killed a single SSD due to endurance, but it took a high-speed internet connection and the desire to upgrade my movie collection to Blu-Ray ISO files. The data came in over Usenet in RAR files that expanded into ISO files, which meant a write amplification of ~2x per movie. It took roughly eight months, but the low-cost 256GB SSD wasn't designed for 24/7 data writes or the accompanying RAR and Par operations every 50 gigabytes.
Flash endurance ratings became an issue to worry about with TLC SSDs. TLC requires advanced error correction algorithms that work in both hardware and software to preserve data. 3D NAND increases endurance. Intel altered the endurance rating to scale as the capacity increases, but we feel the initial low rating was a way for Intel to reduce the cost of the drive by severely limiting the warranty.
You still get a 5-year warranty, but the endurance rating will limit your eligibility. For some users, the endurance rating will not be a factor. For others, it may change behavior. Only you can tell how much data you write per day, but I suspect most users don't know because it hasn't been an issue before. I'm more concerned with the way Intel SSDs possibly react once you pass the endurance threshold. Intel indicates that the read-only procedure is a data protection mechanism to prevent data loss, and some theorize that Intel uses the measure to prevent data centers from using low-cost consumer products. In either case, the technique seems drastic.
The Intel 600p's performance is slightly higher than premium SATA products like the Samsung 850 Series and SanDisk Extreme Pro. We shouldn’t compare the 600p to the first-generation NVMe products; it just isn’t a level playing field. SSDs like the Intel 7-Series and Samsung 950 Pro are superior in every way, but they also cost considerably more.
For most users, the Intel 600p is an easy way to get slightly better than SATA performance under real-world application workloads at a low price point. As we examined the benchmark results, I moved from not liking this product to accepting it. This is not the SSD that enthusiasts and power users are looking for. My wife, on the other hand, would find the 600p to be an excellent upgrade with a nice performance boost. More notebooks are adopting an M.2-only strategy with low-cost SATA SSDs, but the M.2 600p NVMe SSD would change the system into a powerhouse (as long as it supports NVMe). At this point, most new notebooks support both SATA and PCIe-based storage.
Intel NUC and third party NUC-like systems have also adopted M.2 for the primary storage. Intel has an interest in the seeing the tiny systems succeed, and adding a low-cost NVMe SSD to the compatibility list will certainly further those goals.
Intel is the first to market with an entry-level NVMe SSD, but in the coming days and weeks, we will see several products join the 600p. We know of at least one unannounced product that delivers higher endurance and better performance at the same general price. The company doesn't have Intel's long history of high quality and lowest return rate in the industry, but it doesn't potentially implode when you cross the endurance line, either.