Intel DC P3520 Enterprise SSD Review

Why you can trust Tom's Hardware Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Endurance Matters And Management

There are a number of factors to consider before purchasing an SSD, and endurance is one of the most important considerations. Enterprise SSD vendors measure endurance in DWPD (Drive Writes Per Day), which denotes how many times you can write the full capacity of the SSD before it wears out, and/or TBW, which indicates how many TB you can write before the warrantied endurance expires. Unfortunately, because drives have different warranty periods and varying capacities, the equation can become a bit muddy. Vendors focus on providing two separate endurance strata; high-endurance models for write-centric workloads and low-endurance models for read-centric applications. 

We boil SSD endurance metrics down to three easily digestible values to help demystify endurance, cost, and the advantage of extra capacity. We derive pricing information from vendor-provided MSRPs for unreleased products and average the prices we find at retail for shipping products (YMMV).

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 2TB Intel DC P3520960GB SK hynix PE3100 1.6TB Intel DC P37003.2TB Memblaze PBlaze43.2TB HGST SN150
NANDIMFT 3D MLC NANDSK Hynix 3D NAND V2Intel 20nm HET MLCToshiba 15nm MLCToshiba 128Gbit A19nm eMLC NAND
Endurance PB/DWPD2.49 / 3 (5yr)1.36 / 1.3 (3yr)43.8 / 17 (5yr)17.3 / 3 (3yr)29.2 / 5 (5yr)
Dollar Per GB$0.56~$1.00$1.69~$1.00$2.74
Lifetime PBW Per TB Of Useable Capacity 1.2451.42327.3755.4069.125
Endurance (TB) Per Dollar2.191.3916.25.403.39
Cost Efficiency Index4.381.3325.9217.2810.85

Intel specifically geared the DC P3520 for the lower end of the endurance spectrum, but it also has a much lower price point than just about any competing SSD on the market. We brought in the SK hynix PE3110 to serve as a similar low-endurance comparison point, but note that it uses the M.2 connection in tandem with its PCIe interface and NVMe protocol. We do not have firm pricing details for the PE3110 or the Memblaze PBlaze4, so we are using a $1 per GB estimate as a comparison point.

We calculate the Endurance Per Dollar of the varying SSDs, and the Intel DC P3520 and the PE3110 offer the lowest amount of endurance per dollar of the test pool. We expect the lower numbers due to the value-optimized read-centric designs, while the vendors designed the other SSDs for more intense write-centric workloads. The DC P3520 also features the lowest price-per-GB measurement of the test pool by a large margin, which will certainly garner a lot of attention.

Endurance and price aren't the only facets, though, because additional capacity also holds significant business value. Our Cost Efficiency Index (CEI) ropes extra capacity into the equation. We calculate CEI with an amalgamation of capacity, cost, and endurance by multiplying capacity by the endurance-per-dollar. The SK Hynix PE3110 falls to the bottom of the pool with the lowest CEI measurement, while the DC P3700 continues to offer a beastly combination of endurance, price, and capacity. The DC P3520 offers a nice mid-point between the more endurant and higher-priced models and features a well-balanced CEI measurement. If you are seeking a great balance from a value standpoint, the DC P3520 should be at the top of the list.

System Compatibility And Management Utility

The DC P3520 enjoys the broad compatibility of the standardized NVMe interface. We list the oldest OS version that supports the interface, but OS vendors incorporate NVMe into all newer OS revisions beyond what we list. You can slot it into Windows Server 2008 R2, and it supports the desktop Windows 7, RHEL 6.5, SLES11 SP3, XenServer 6.5, VMware ESXI 5.5, CentOS 6.5, and UEFI 2.3.1.

We tested in CentOS 7.3 with kernel 4.7. The updated kernel has the newest in-box NVMe driver, and Intel provides Windows users with a newer version to use with the DC P3520.

Intel’s SSD Data Center Tool is a well-traveled CLI utility that provides a wide range of functionality, such as SMART reporting, firmware updates, secure erase functionality, thermal monitoring and logging, latency tracking logs, configurable Power Governor Modes, and so on. The tool also has an endurance analyzer feature that allows the user to predict how long the SSD will last in its current environment, which is helpful.

The CLI tool works on both Windows and Linux, and is somewhat utilitarian, and has the most Spartan of designs, which is, of course, pretty much the definition of any CLI tool. Other vendors provide slick GUIs in dedicated APIs and web-based interfaces, but the Intel SSD Data Center Tool gets the job done with a minimum of fuss and a lightweight design. The CLI, while not as pretty as other offerings, has one of the most well-rounded feature sets we’ve used, so it certainly ranks among the very best.

MORE: Best Enterprise Hard Drives
MORE: Best Enterprise SSDs

Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

Paul Alcorn is the Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech for Tom's Hardware US. He also writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage, and enterprise hardware.

  • Game256
    Paul, Chris, any updates regarding possible release dates of Samsung 960 EVO/PRO? Have you received the samples already?
  • DocBones
    Glad to see more u.2 formats, really dont like m.2 for desktops. That 2mm screw is a pain.
  • Tom Griffin
    Am I am idiot but should this be on Tom's IT Pro? Aside from that the M.2 for an enterprise drive simply does not jive on current motherboards look at PCIe lane allocation. 4x lanes one drive even the high end CPUs with 40 lanes will choke with more than 4.
  • bit_user
    18682745 said:
    this be on Tom's IT Pro?
    You might be right, but I'm glad it's not. It represents superb read-oriented SSD performance. Especially for the price.

    18682745 said:
    Aside from that the M.2 for an enterprise drive
    It's not M.2. They have PCIe add-in cards and U.2 form factors. M.2 wouldn't fly, due to the power dissipation, if not also the board area needed.

    18682745 said:
    simply does not jive on current motherboards look at PCIe lane allocation. 4x lanes one drive even the high end CPUs with 40 lanes will choke with more than 4.
    How many of these are you planning to use? This is for read-intensive workloads, so you'd hopefully just need one, which could be paired with cheaper storage for everything else. I guess at the high end, you might pack a machine full of them, but then you might have more than one CPU (which adds yet more PCIe lanes).

    BTW, did you know that M.2 is a popular form factor for high-end desktop SSDs? It supports up to 4-lanes. So, it would seem that some people think such performance is worth the resource footprint.
  • bit_user
    The P3520 actually takes a step back on the performance front in comparison to the previous-generation DC P3500, which featured up to 430,000/28,000 read/write IOPS.
    Given the deals out there to be had, the real star of the show is the DC P3500. If you can live with the lower endurance than the P3520, it offers a compelling alternative to the 750-series. Here's how they compare:,82846

    Update: snagged a 400 GB DC S3500 at $225. Price is now back up to $275. Worth keeping an eye on, if you're interested. Supposedly, a full-height bracket is included in the box. I'll update again, to confirm.
  • bit_user
    I'm just interested in the read performance, but I noticed two pairs of images that are nearly identical. I loaded them in different tabs and flipped back and forth. The only difference seems to be whether the lines from different queue depths are connected.


    Not really a complaint - just an observation. As long as the data is accurate, no harm done.

    Then, at the end of the read graphs, it seems like some AMD slides crept in? Oops?

    BTW, the Latency vs. IOPS is now officially my second favorite SSD performance graph (after IOPS vs. queue depth, of course).