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The SSD DC S3500 Review: Intel's 6 Gb/s Controller And 20 nm NAND

Inside Intel's SSD DC S3500

If you've already read Intel SSD DC S3700 Review: Benchmarking Consistency, then you might want to skip ahead. The SSD DC S3500 and S3700 don't just share a few similarities; they share almost every single component. Starting on the exterior, they employ the same aluminum enclosure, right down to the part number.  Can you tell which is which?

Intel SSD DC S3700 (left), Intel SSD DC S3500 (right)

As with the S3700, we see two through-hole 35 V 47 uF capacitors notched into the edges of the PCB.

On the inside, we see three black, plastic stand-offs covering each of the screw holes. It's easy to observe that the PCB is identical to the one found on Intel's SSD DC S3700. Even the reference designators on the silk screen match. Both SSD DC S3000 families utilize the same PC29AS21CA0 controller, too. This Intel-developed, eight-channel, 6 Gb/s processors performed well in our S3700 review, exhibiting excellent consistency.

Next, we take note of two DDR3-1600 DRAM packages from Micron (MT41K512M8RA-125). Each FBGA module hosts 512 MB of memory, totaling 1 GB of cache on the SSD.

Up until now, the only difference between both drive families was the DRAM they use for cache. But with the SSD DC S3500, Intel is replacing the 25 nm HET-MLC found in the S3700 with 20 nm MLC. This is what gives Intel the ability to hit lower price points with its SSD DC S3500. And as we'll see shortly, it's also the reason why write endurance is so much lower.

As with the SSD DC S3700, some capacities of the S3500 have an odd assortment of NAND packages. The 480 GB version we have in the lab leverages fourteen 32 GB modules, one 64 GB module, and one 16 GB module. That adds up to 528 GB, yielding 9% over-provisioning. And that's substantially less than the SSD DC S3700 at ~22%.