Intel SSD 660p 1TB Review: QLC Goes Mainstream

Performance Results

Comparison Products

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Intel designed the 660p to offer the performance of blistering fast NVMe SSDs, but at SATA price points. We selected a popular SATA drive, the Crucial MX500, and a few NVMe options for our test pool. We also included the Intel 600p that comes armed with Intel's first-gen 32-layer TLC flash. Intel equipped the 760p, which is the 660p’s high-performance brother, with its current-gen 64-layer 3D TLC.

Our comparisons wouldn’t be complete without throwing Samsung’s 970 EVO and PRO into the mix. Both utilize Samsung's proprietary SSD controllers. The 970 EVO features 64-layer 3D TLC flash while the 970 PRO uses 64-layer MLC.

WD paired the Black SSD with SanDisk's 64-layer 3D TLC. The RD400 is the only SSD in the group that doesn’t have 3D NAND. Instead, it hearkens back to the good old days of 15nm planar MLC. The WD Black and Toshiba OCZ RD400 both feature proprietary SSD controllers.

Trace Testing – PCMark 8 Storage Test 2.0

PCMark 8 is a trace-based benchmark that uses Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, World of Warcraft, and Battlefield 3 to measure the performance of storage devices in real-world scenarios.

The Intel 660p trails behind the Samsung 970 series and the RD400 with a total score of 5085 and an average bandwidth of 574 MB/s. Surprisingly, it ties the WD Black with nearly identical scores and bandwidth. It beats both the 600p and the 760p, which is quite the feat considering the 760p is in a higher price tier.

Game Scene Loading - Final Fantasy XIV

The Final Fantasy XIV StormBlood benchmark is a free real-world game benchmark that easily and accurately compares game load times without the inaccuracy of using a stopwatch.

The Intel 660p matches the WD Black with a total game scene load time of 21.38 seconds. This time the 760p outperforms the 660p slightly. An SSD is much faster than an HDD, but the difference between different models is slight.

Transfer Rates – DiskBench

We use the DiskBench storage benchmarking tool to test file transfer performance with our own custom 50GB block of data. Our data set includes 31,227 files of various types, like pictures, PDFs, and videos. We copy the files to a new folder and then follow up with a read test of a newly-written 6GB file.

The 660p scores an impress average speed of 291MB/s during the file transfer. That's almost as fast as the RD400 and easily outpaces the Intel 760p, 600p, and Crucial MX500 SATA SSD. The 660p's copy performance is impressive, but the 1.2 GB/s file read speed is slower than the rest of the NVMe SSDs in our test pool.

SYSmark 2014 SE

Like PCMark, SYSmark uses real applications to measure system performance. SYSmark takes things much further, however. It utilizes fourteen different applications to run real application workloads with real data sets to measure how overall system performance impacts the user experience. BAPCo's SYSmark 2014 SE installs a full suite of applications for its tests, which includes Microsoft Office, Google Chrome, Corel WinZip, several Adobe software applications, and GIMP. That also makes it a great test to measure the amount of time it takes to install widely-used programs after you install a fresh operating system.

Installing SYSmark proved to be a challenge for the Intel SSDs. The application installed faster on competing drives, including the MX500 SATA SSD. After installation, the 660p delivered a responsiveness score of 1692. That's just seven points shy of the RD400 and two points above the WD Black.

ATTO

ATTO is a simple and free application that SSD vendors commonly use to assign sequential performance specifications to their products. It also gives us insight into how the device handles different file sizes.

The Intel SSD 660p delivers faster small file read performance than the Intel SSD 600p until the test reaches the 512KB file size. It also outperforms the 600p and even the high-performance 760p during write workloads.

Anvil's Storage Utilities

Anvil's Storage Utility is a commonly-referenced benchmark that simplifies the complex IOMETER benchmark and its underlying Dynamo engine with a one-click software wrapper.

The 660p's overall score beats the MX500 and 600p. However, it trails behind the likes of Samsung, WD, and Toshiba due to its lower read and write performance.

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark is a simple and easy to use benchmarking tool. The 660p’s read and write results match the manufacturer’s 1.8 GB/s read and write specifications. It displays impressive random read performance and strong random write performance. It even outperforms the Samsung 970 series during 4KB random read and write workloads at a queue depth of one.

Power Consumption

We use the Quarch XLC Programmable Power Module to gain a deeper understanding of power characteristics. Idle power consumption is a very important aspect to consider, especially if you're looking for a new drive for your laptop. Some SSDs can consume watts of power at idle while better-suited ones sip just milliwatts. Average workload power consumption and max consumption are two other important aspects. You might think that lower power consumption is better than high peak values, but performance-per-watt is more important. A drive might consume more power during any given workload, but accomplishing a task faster allows the drive to drop into an idle state faster, which ultimately saves power.

The Intel SSD 660p is one of the most efficient SSDs in our comparison pool. The 660p consumed just 2.31 watts of power during our 50GB file transfer. That equates to 126 MB/s of throughput per watt. Intel also keeps maximum power in check: The drive peaked at just 4 watts during the test. The more power-hungry drives consumed over 7 watts at peak utilization.

A quick glance at our power measurements indicates that manufacturers are still working out the power optimization kinks with the PCIe interface. Intel and Samsung seem to have a firm grasp on it, but WD and Toshiba have a lot of room for improvement. The 660p idles at under 700mW of power without the use of ASPM, but once it is enabled, power consumption improves to just 33mW. That makes the 660p the most power efficient NVMe drive we've tested to date.

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