Intel SSD 545s Review

512GB Performance Testing

Comparison Products

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MLC has given way to TLC for both SATA and the NVMe PCIe SSDs that dominate the enthusiast market. SATA is more or less boring at this point, but it still delivers exceptional value. If you have an older computer, an SATA SSD upgrade is the easiest path to increased performance.

New 3D flash technologies should increase bit output from the fabs and reduce retail prices in early 2018. Over the next few months, we'll see products with planar (2D) NAND slowly fade away as new 3D models emerge. We even expect Samsung to release an 800 series with new 64-layer V-NAND by the end of the year.

Most of the comparison products in our test pool should disappear by the end of the year. The Crucial MX300 with 32-layer 3D NAND is the exception. It should live into 2018 either as-is or with an update to 64-layer NAND. Intel is replacing the 540s with the 545s. The previous-generation 540s features 16nm Sk Hynix planar NAND.

The Mushkin Triactor, OCZ Trion 150, and SK Hynix SL308 are all still available but have moved off the radar due to high prices and sometimes limited availability. The Samsung 850 EVO 500GB is still the gold standard. Intel hopes to dethrone the 850 EVO with the 545s.

Sequential Read Performance

To read about our storage tests in-depth, please check out How We Test HDDs And SSDs. We cover four-corner testing on page six of our How We Test guide.

The Intel 545S starts out strong with excellent sequential read throughput that matches the Samsung 850 EVO 500GB. The 545s provides over 540 MB/s at queue depth (QD) 2.

Sequential Write Performance

The 545s's second-generation Intel 3D NAND provides a nice QD1 performance increase compared to the first-generation 3D NAND in the 540s. Both mainstream drives provide nearly identical sequential write performance as they scale beyond QD1. Both drives fall to the bottom of the QD2 chart and trail the Samsung 850 EVO 500GB by roughly 50 MB/s.

Random Read Performance

Intel increased the all-important random read performance with the new controller and NAND combination. The 545s is just under 10,000 IOPS at QD1. It also scales very well as the workload intensifies.

Random Write Performance

The Intel 545s also provides improved random write performance compared to the previous generation. Random write performance at QD1 is nearly identical, but the new flash allows the drive to scale much better as we ramp up the queue depth. The new model is also much more consistent in all of the 4-corner workloads.

80% Mixed Sequential Workload

We describe our mixed workload testing in detail here and describe our steady state tests here.

The increased consistency gives the Intel 545s a leg up in the mixed workload tests. The 545s has excellent scaling as it runs up the queue depth range during the 80% sequential read workload.

80% Mixed Random Workload

The Intel 545s starts out strong at QD2 in the mixed random test. It actually edges out all of the other drives on the chart at QD2. The Samsung 850 EVO 500GB steps out of line at QD4 and then walks away further up the queue depth range. The 545s provides a massive improvement over the older 540s.

Sequential Steady-State

The 64-layer NAND paired with the new custom controller provides impressive performance for a TLC SSD in steady state. We observed the regular downward slope on the left side of the chart as we mixed in more write traffic, but the 545s bucked the trend of reduced performance, which shows as a flat line, as we reach the left side of the chart. The IMFT TLC acts quite a bit like MLC and follows a traditional bathtub curve.

Random Steady-State

Intel still hasn't mastered making TLC as consistent as many of its previous generation products. That's always been the hallmark of Intel consumer SSDs. We wouldn't recommend the 545s for use in RAID, but nearly all consumer SSDs are moving over to TLC. This might be the best SATA has to offer for a while.

PCMark 8 Real-World Software Performance

For details on our real-world software performance testing, please click here.

The Intel 545s 512GB performed well in the lighter read-centric workloads. It couldn't outperform the Samsung 850 EVO, but it either matched it or came very close in many of the tests. The two write-intensive Photoshop tests push the 545s further down the chart. The heaviest workloads show the previous-generation 540s with planar NAND outperforming the new 545s with 3D NAND by more than 6 seconds.

Application Storage Bandwidth

The Intel 545s provides a significant performance improvement over the 540s that uses 16nm Sk Hynix planar NAND. The 545s doesn't quite outperform the MX300 525GB with first-generation 3D NAND and a Marvell 4-channel controller. That's disheartening, but if we remove the two Photoshop tests the 545s would climb up the chart and settle just under the 850 EVO 500GB.

PCMark 8 Advanced Workload Performance

To learn how we test advanced workload performance, please click here.

The PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test reveals inconsistent performance. We focus on the recovery phase that mimics mainstream user workloads by injecting ample idle time between each pass. Surprisingly, the 545s is also inconsistent in that section.

Total Service Time

Intel managed to take a large chunk of latency out of the 545s compared to the older 540s (and even the Crucial MX300 525GB). I hate to say it because we've said it for years, but the 850 EVO still dominates consumer SATA SSDs in both heavy and moderate workloads.

Disk Busy Time

The disk busy time test shows how long each drive had to work to complete the workload. We again see a large improvement over the previous-generation 5-Series.

Responsiveness Test

The SYSmark 2015 SE workload is lighter than the PCMark 8 Extended Storage Test because it mimics a typical office user. It provides even more idle time, which allows the SSDs to recover. The Intel 545s 512GB surpasses the 1000 baseline mark set by BAPCo with an OEM Samsung SSD (similar to the 750 EVO).

Notebook Battery Life

We haven't tested the Intel 540s in our Lenovo Y700-17. When the drive came to market, we used a Lenovo T460 for the BAPCo MobileMark 2014.5 test. The other drives we compare to the 545s came to market later, so we have results with the new platform. The 545s performed very well in this test and allowed the notebook to stay powered on for 367 minutes. System performance also stayed high even though the buses are running at reduced clock speeds to save power.

MORE: Best SSDs

MORE: How We Test HDDs And SSDs

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  • hannibal
    Good that other makers Are gaining Samsung! Intel will newer go price war with Samsung because it does not have to. It can always sell a Little bit slover at the same price or even higher, because Intel have very good reputation among users and exspecially corporates. But this means than Sansung does not get everything too easily anymore and other ssd makers will definitely cut down under Samsung, if They just have a chance.
    So competition is coming back to SSD Also! Also in higher level not only on very low end.
  • AgentLozen
    It's a shame that a big, well known company like Intel can't develop an SSD that beats a 2 year old competitor.

    What's important to keep in mind is that all modern SSDs are pushing against the SATA bandwidth cap. The benchmarks from this review indicate that every SSD tested performs pretty much the same in real world benchmarks.

    The most important variables right now (in SATA drives) are endurance and price. 3D flash memory should provide enough endurance for any mainstream user, but I would like to see the prices go down. I know we're in the middle of a flash shortage, but I was hoping that by 2017 we would have 1TB drives that cost $200.
  • derekullo
    The Real-World Software Performance must have been exceptionally boring to benchmark.

    Wow opened in ... omg 58 seconds again.
  • nzalog
    496490 said:
    It's a shame that a big, well known company like Intel can't develop an SSD that beats a 2 year old competitor. What's important to keep in mind is that all modern SSDs are pushing against the SATA bandwidth cap. The benchmarks from this review indicate that every SSD tested performs pretty much the same in real world benchmarks. The most important variables right now (in SATA drives) are endurance and price. 3D flash memory should provide enough endurance for any mainstream user, but I would like to see the prices go down. I know we're in the middle of a flash shortage, but I was hoping that by 2017 we would have 1TB drives that cost $200.


    I don't think anyone looking for top performance is going to get a Sata SSD and intel is doing just fine in their NVME PCIE drives. I'd still buy an intel drive over Samsung even if it performed a bit slower.
  • DerekA_C
    Ya you do that support the Intel agenda that breaks laws all over the world just like Microsucks and gets a slap on the wrist and business for them continues as usual while others struggle to make even a proper market share due to their devilish practices.
  • DerekA_C
    also if manufacturers pushed for this on motherboards sata would be more then fast enough
    SATA revision 3.2 16 Gbit/s 1.97 GB/s[e]
    SATA revision 3.0 6 Gbit/s 600 MB/s[72]
  • sillynilly
    What? Borderline incoherent.
  • derekullo
    Nothing like a japanese to english google translate bashing.
  • nzalog
    2428111 said:
    Ya you do that support the Intel agenda that breaks laws all over the world just like Microsucks and gets a slap on the wrist and business for them continues as usual while others struggle to make even a proper market share due to their devilish practices.


    I'm not sure if that was directed towards me but I'm pretty sure Samsung doesn't scores much better on the ethics scale.
  • jtd871
    "2TB of flash ready to hold a Steam Library" This seems a bit overkill because 1) an Optane cache can reputedly make cheap and reliable "spinning rust" sing and 2) who keeps 2TB of games on local storage just in case they might want to play any random one of them?! (Or is that just Skyrim with all the mods? j/k)
  • Nintendork
    So the only alternative to 850 EVO is the Kingston Hyper X Savage MLC.
  • gamebrigada
    @NZALOG I wouldn't buy Intel. As someone that works in a department that has a couple thousand SSD's in service, Samsung can't be touched in reliability. I've got a bunch of dead Intel drives on my desk. I don't have any dead Samsung drives, and we have more of them in service now then any other SSD.

    Especially with the recently released endurance test... Samsungs cheapest offering, the 750 EVO's, outlived most of the midrange and prosumer level drives. Their 850 PRO wrote 9.1 Petabytes before it gave up. That's the second wave of endurance tests where Samsung is untouchable. Yet Intel's drives are still plagued by the widely documented, yet still unfixed 8mb bug.

    Intel doesn't even make the thing, for this drive, and the 540, they just made the case, and everything else was outsourced. Why are you still loyal to a company that's claim to fame was back when it rivaled OCZ with SLC nand? They've already given up on NAND, stop giving them business and letting them throw shit products at you.
  • bit_user
    Glad to see the progress over the 540. That was shockingly bad, IMO. I've bought to prior Intel SATA drives and was about to swear off them after seeing its numbers. This has regained my interest.

    Quote:
    I would only use Intel SSDs if reliability were my main concern.

    Only the ones with end-to-end error correction, IMO.

    http://ark.intel.com/Search/FeatureFilter?productType=solidstatedrives&EndToEndDataProtection=true

    Also, the 600p seriously had me questioning my loyalty to Intel SSDs. Even just as far as reliability is concerned.
  • Co BIY
    With all the Real World Performance scores within a few percent of each other I think this chart needs a Value (performance/price) graph.
  • bit_user
    330381 said:
    @NZALOG I wouldn't buy Intel. As someone that works in a department that has a couple thousand SSD's in service, Samsung can't be touched in reliability. I've got a bunch of dead Intel drives on my desk. I don't have any dead Samsung drives, and we have more of them in service now then any other SSD.

    That's interesting, but I think it's potentially a mistake to lump together all drives from a manufacturer. Intel makes high-end/professional drives, as well as mainstream and even low-end. If the low-end drives were used where they shouldn't have been, I wouldn't blame Intel for that.

    330381 said:
    Especially with the recently released endurance test... Samsungs cheapest offering, the 750 EVO's, outlived most of the midrange and prosumer level drives. Their 850 PRO wrote 9.1 Petabytes before it gave up. That's the second wave of endurance tests where Samsung is untouchable.

    SSD endurance is a moving target. I wouldn't infer anything about the 850 Pro for drives other than the 850 Pro. It's is a nice feather in their cap.

    330381 said:
    Intel doesn't even make the thing, for this drive, and the 540, they just made the case, and everything else was outsourced.

    I don't care if they didn't design the controller - no different than most drives. They do have custom firmware, no?
  • bit_user
    2428111 said:
    also if manufacturers pushed for this on motherboards sata would be more then fast enough SATA revision 3.2 16 Gbit/s 1.97 GB/s[e] SATA revision 3.0 6 Gbit/s 600 MB/s[72]

    You'd do well to look into the details, rather than just posting up the top-line numbers. That's for SATA Express, and would require two data cables per drive.

    Not, that I'd mind the option to have 1 GB/sec per drive, with only one cable. But it hasn't caught on with motherboards (besides AMD) or SSD vendors.

    I'd be nice if they updated it for PCIe 4.0 and we got 2 GB/sec with a single cable, as I do like the ability to use a greater number of larger SSDs and mount them in my case (as opposed to having only a couple M.2 drives plugged into my motherboard).
  • bit_user
    496490 said:
    It's a shame that a big, well known company like Intel can't develop an SSD that beats a 2 year old competitor.

    You need to account for price per GB, though.

    496490 said:
    What's important to keep in mind is that all modern SSDs are pushing against the SATA bandwidth cap.

    That was true years ago. Starting with the previous generation of SATA SSDs (Crucial MX300, Intel 540, etc.), they actually had lower performance than their predacessors. It's nice to see Intel's 545 regain some ground.

    2392437 said:
    intel is doing just fine in their NVME PCIE drives. I'd still buy an intel drive over Samsung even if it performed a bit slower.

    I wouldn't touch Intel's 600p. Go checkout the review & follow-up articles, if you haven't seen them.
  • nzalog
    328798 said:
    2392437 said:
    intel is doing just fine in their NVME PCIE drives. I'd still buy an intel drive over Samsung even if it performed a bit slower.
    I wouldn't touch Intel's 600p. Go checkout the review & follow-up articles, if you haven't seen them.

    I actually have a 250GB 600p and yeah it's not the best drive. Part of the issue was how quickly the controller gets saturated with heat and the other part was excremental write speeds. That said, I made a nice home for it in my FreeNAS box as a L2ARC (kind of like read cache). Since for that purpose the writes trickle in slowly while read are most intensive. I also slapped a nice heatsink on it and so far so good.

    Either way I'd still take that NVME drive over a sata drive. It's pretty decent for one of the slower NVME drives.
  • darth_adversor
    Nice review, but the author makes me feel like a piece of crap for still running SATA drives. My desktop is an aging, Z68-based machine that doesn't support NVMe (at least not officially). I've got a 250GB 850 EVO paired with a 1TB WD Black, and I'm pleased with its performance. Battlefront load times are a little longer than I'd prefer (off the mechanical drive), but still twice as fast as a stock PS4's. Windows flies on the SSD, I can't imagine needing anything faster.

    Same story with the laptop my wife recently surprised me with. It shipped with a Sandisk X400 128GB. I didn't feel like reinstalling Windows, so I decided to keep the Sandisk installed, and added my 500GB 850 EVO as the secondary storage drive. I'm super pleased with its performance.

    If you can afford a 960 Pro, more power to you, but in my opinion, you can still be an "enthusiast" and run SATA drives.
  • derekullo
    659338 said:
    Nice review, but the author makes me feel like a piece of crap for still running SATA drives. My desktop is an aging, Z68-based machine that doesn't support NVMe (at least not officially). I've got a 250GB 850 EVO paired with a 1TB WD Black, and I'm pleased with its performance. Battlefront load times are a little longer than I'd prefer (off the mechanical drive), but still twice as fast as a stock PS4's. Windows flies on the SSD, I can't imagine needing anything faster. Same story with the laptop my wife recently surprised me with. It shipped with a Sandisk X400 128GB. I didn't feel like reinstalling Windows, so I decided to keep the Sandisk installed, and added my 500GB 850 EVO as the secondary storage drive. I'm super pleased with its performance. If you can afford a 960 Pro, more power to you, but in my opinion, you can still be an "enthusiast" and run SATA drives.


    Your message reminded me of:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpMvS1Q1sos
    http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/weirdalyankovic/itsallaboutthepentiums.html

    On a separate note the highest capacity the Samsung 960 Pro comes in is 2 terabytes meaning that with 3 M.2 ports the most capacity your computer could have would be 6 terabytes in a raid 0, with close to 10 gigabytes a second of theoretical read throughput which is ... impressive.

    Edit: I believe 3 M.2 is the highest I have seen on any motherboard so far, correct me if I'm wrong.

    On the other hand the size of the 850 Evos go up to 4 terabytes and you aren't limited to 3.

    So SATA does have at least one advantage over NVME/M.2 if you were trying to store more than 6 terabytes of data.
  • daglesj
    Nothing wrong with running SATA SSD. I switched over to a NVMe PM961 about 10 days ago. I can't tell the difference. You are not missing ANYTHING. Especially the two hours of farting around it took to get it working properly. How in this day and age stuff still needs a high level of configuration baffles me.
  • daglesj
    Oh yeah and I was running a Sandisk Extreme Pro SATA SSD before the switch.
  • jimmysmitty
    496490 said:
    It's a shame that a big, well known company like Intel can't develop an SSD that beats a 2 year old competitor. What's important to keep in mind is that all modern SSDs are pushing against the SATA bandwidth cap. The benchmarks from this review indicate that every SSD tested performs pretty much the same in real world benchmarks. The most important variables right now (in SATA drives) are endurance and price. 3D flash memory should provide enough endurance for any mainstream user, but I would like to see the prices go down. I know we're in the middle of a flash shortage, but I was hoping that by 2017 we would have 1TB drives that cost $200.


    If what matters is endurance then Intel is one of the best, especially since their 3D NAND is no longer going to the smaller nm which causes endurance loss compared to previous versions.
    Price is relative but also a factor.

    The biggest problem for NVMe right now is density and slot availability. Once there are at least 2 slots and the density per drive increases to HDD levels we can start to push SATA to the background.
  • bit_user
    149725 said:
    If what matters is endurance then Intel is one of the best, especially since their 3D NAND is no longer going to the smaller nm which causes endurance loss compared to previous versions.

    Why are you talking in generalities?

    The spec is 144 TBW, for this drive (not sure why the article says 288, currently).

    http://ark.intel.com/products/125019/Intel-SSD-545s-Series-512GB-2_5in-SATA-6Gbs-3D2-TLC

    Endurance is also a function of over-provisioning, block size, amount of embedded DRAM & SLC for write buffering, and how conservative they choose to be, when estimating the typical workload.