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Intel SSD DC P3700 800GB Review - Ludicrous Speed for the Masses!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: ssd, pcie, NVMe, Intel, DC P3700

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel has a nasty habit of releasing disruptive technology, especially in the area of computer storage. Among the first of those releases was the X25-M, which was groundbreaking to say the least. At a time where most other SATA SSDs were just stopgap attempts to graft flash memory to a different interface, Intel's SATA SSD was really the first true performer.

With performance in the bag, Intel shifted their attention to reducing the cost of their products. The next few generations of the Intel line was coupled with leadership in die shrinks. This all came together in the form of SSD releases of increasingly reduced cost. Sure the enterprise parts retained a premium, but the consumer parts generally remained competitive.

Now Intel appears to have once again shifted their attention to performance, and we know it has been in the works for a while now. With the SATA bottleneck becoming increasingly apparent, big changes needed to me made. First, SATA, while fine for relatively high latency HDD's, was just never meant for SSD speeds. As SSD performance increased, the latencies involved with the interface overhead (translating memory-based addresses into ATA style commands) becomes more and more of a burden.

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The solution is to not only transition to PCIe, but to do so using a completely new software and driver interface, called NVM Express. NVMe has been in the works for a while, and offers some incredible benefits in that it essentially brings the flash memory closer to the CPU. The protocol was engineered for the purpose of accessing flash memory as storage, and doing so as fast and with the least latency as possible. We hadn't seen any true NVMe products hit the market, until today, that is:

Behold the Intel SSD DC P3700!

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Read on for our initial review!

Specifications:

Straight from Intel:

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Note the segmentation going on here. 3 products ranging from P3700 to P3500, the lowest of which has the lowest grade ('Std') flash, and is therefore rated at a lower write speed and endurance. End to end data protection is no joke, and that process is detailed in my last editorial on the matter (certainly worth reading if you want to know how Intel does its validation testing). Along with the drop in flash grades comes a very welcome drop in cost, with the low end down to ~$1.50/GB. Not too shabby for a product that can handle 2.5GB/sec and 450k random read IOPS!

Packaging:

Not much to say here, as these are enterprise samples, which we get in a simple static bag. Besides, I don't think those huge specs above are going to really sink in until you see actual benches, so lets get to it!


June 3, 2014 | 03:25 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Will this have better performance than M.2 drives?

June 3, 2014 | 03:42 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

A lot better.

June 3, 2014 | 04:56 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is TRIM supported? How well does the garbage collection work?

June 3, 2014 | 08:14 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Yes, of course TRIM is supported. This time with it's own real command, not a repurposed SCSI command, either. This drive is meant for continuous IO, so the majority of GC takes place during writes. 

June 3, 2014 | 02:31 PM - Posted by Havor (not verified)

That's only partial true, and is totally depended on a high cue depth.

For desktop use the difference is mostly not that great, only during high (database) load will this SSD really shine.

Btw why dont you test with HD traces, as it gives a more realistic picture then the more or less useless synthetic benches that you now use.

At least even PCMark gives a better picture how a SSD/HDD will preform on the desktop.

June 4, 2014 | 12:39 AM - Posted by jgstew

Although it is true that this SSD is fastest at higher Queue depths, it is incorrect to say the speed of the P3700 is dependant on higher Queue depths. The speed advantage of the P3700 outperforms nearly all drives at a Queue Depth of 1 which is where most consumers will see the most benefit.

June 3, 2014 | 06:23 PM - Posted by balls (not verified)

M.2 is a form factor not an interface. It can work with SATA, or PCI express AHCI or future PCI express NVMe. I think a better rundown of exactly what the NVMe really means for computing might be in order. It is confusing the hell out of me and many others.

June 5, 2014 | 01:05 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

We are working up a longer piece on the matter, but the short version is that there is significantly less per-IO overhead when compared to AHCI, meaning SSDs that can handle high IOPS can do so with less CPU overhead required.

June 3, 2014 | 04:25 AM - Posted by Brokenstorm

Are these drives bootable?

And you should remove "As you can see, these are *really* low prices, especially for the 16nm..." from the Pricing and Availability.

June 3, 2014 | 08:16 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Thanks for the catch! Fixed. That's what I get for writing at 3 AM :)

Oh, and yes, they are bootable!

June 3, 2014 | 01:59 PM - Posted by Bill (not verified)

Is there significant improvement in windows boot times? How's game loading and software loading?

I know these cards are beasts, but they are useless to average hobbyists unless they can really improve real life performances.

June 5, 2014 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

This 'beast' performs much more like a RAM disk than like any SSD you'd be used to, as far as what a given hobbyist would 'feel'.

June 8, 2014 | 01:36 PM - Posted by HPVD (not verified)

really nice to heat that it is bootable!!
- Thought this would be really difficult because it's now no more AHCI but NVMe.
This topic can be very sensitive regarding the environment the drive is setup in.
Could you please give some more information regarding the possibility to boot?
Did you test it on your own?
which OS?
which Driver?
which board?
which bios-version?

does it work directly "out of the box" or do you have some special tricks?

Many many thanks!!!

June 10, 2014 | 03:46 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Bootability is more of a dependency on BIOS support for NVMe communication (as opposed to SCSI / STORPORT / AHCI), so we're going to have to see how support rolls out for it.

June 10, 2014 | 04:02 PM - Posted by hpvd (not verified)

yes I thought that too. But I ask my workstation board maker (supermicro) and they told me that booting should work - the board is fine even without a brand new bios - if the ssd support that....

June 3, 2014 | 05:08 AM - Posted by Ceres (not verified)

The speed and overall performance are amazing!!!
Seeing this there is only one question; price-wise comparison to the new SF3700 PCI-e SSDs.

Pity you did not put the mainstream Samsung Evo 840 in the comparison charts; the 4-5X times performance increase would give just the needed feeling of this Intel goody.
Those that got that eye-catching Mac-Pro must be flabbergasted seeing this :))

June 3, 2014 | 08:26 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Do you mean the Samsung part that appears in Macs? That part caps out at ~50k IOPS and 800 MB/s, where this part goes 450k IOPS and 2.5 GB/s. It may be faster than SATA, but it still doesn't hold a candle to this new Intel part. 

June 3, 2014 | 08:44 AM - Posted by Ceres (not verified)

I did not write it properly, sorry :) (spacing IS important).

There were 2 different things I wanted to say.

1. The broad audience just got used to SSDs in classic (HDD) format; considering that one of the drives mass market is most aware of is Samsung 840 Pro/Evo, since featured in many build guides, I thought that it would make a big impact, for many readers, seeing it compared to this revolutionary Intel drive.

2.MacPro was another thought; considering that it's really expensive (for those of us who like to make our own PCs) and it's being marketed as a "candy", I think that even putting the most expensive version of this Intel PCIe SSD drive into a home-made PC, leaves that MacPro as a brand marketing product.

June 3, 2014 | 06:27 AM - Posted by Levalis (not verified)

Can you do a boot time and heavy application launch (games, Adobe stuff) benchmark with this puppy please ? Real world metrics are also important.

June 3, 2014 | 08:23 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

There wasn't enough time to dig into it thus far, but I will likely clone over a heavily used system to check these sorts of things out. That sort of testing takes way longer than the 14 hours we had to play with it prior to the official announcement. 

I can say that from what I've seen in the benches, especially IOMeter, this thing is going to handle any heavy IO workloads at the equivalent of anywhere from 4-8 of the best / fastest SATA parts, depending on workload. It will be to the point where the CPU becomes much more of a bottleneck during boot, etc. 

June 3, 2014 | 01:41 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It will be to the point where the CPU becomes much more of a "bottleneck during boot, etc.

Amazing. Seems like it been a long wait for NVMe. Thanks for the quick review. Looking forward to seeing more.

June 3, 2014 | 07:48 AM - Posted by remon (not verified)

"As you can see, these are *really* low prices, especially for the 16nm equipped 256GB and 512GB models. I can't wait to see what happens to holiday sale prices on these!"

The 256GB and 512GB models? Where were they in the review?

June 3, 2014 | 08:18 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Sorry that was an excessive cut/paste from the Crucial MX100 review we just did.

June 3, 2014 | 10:55 AM - Posted by Polycrastinator (not verified)

So at what point are these just excessive for most users? I feel like the 180GB Intel 520 I have in my desktop is plenty fast enough for everything I do (although I'm not working with anything super high IO), are we reaching a point where only specialists really benefit from these new components? I've been wondering the same thing about m.2 and SATA Express: great to have the option, but will a normal consumer notice the difference?

June 3, 2014 | 11:34 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That is a decision that will be different for every consumer, based on what application and the mount of disposable income available.

June 3, 2014 | 11:43 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Intel went plaid with this drive.

June 3, 2014 | 03:02 PM - Posted by Mnemonicman

Someone best activate the secret hyper jets if they want to keep up with this drive.

June 5, 2014 | 08:51 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not without your Liquid Schwartz, you won't!

June 3, 2014 | 01:06 PM - Posted by HM (not verified)

outstanding performance, but for regular usage / loading programs I guess it just passes the bottleneck of loading stuff to other areas of the PC!?

June 5, 2014 | 01:07 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Right you are, but there are times where SSDs are the bottleneck, depending on what you're doing. This product makes that much less likely to happen, giving better net gains to upgrading other parts of the PC.

June 3, 2014 | 04:34 PM - Posted by Xukanik

I am disappointed for a couple reasons.
1. if it is indeed Ludicrous Speed! then why are the cards not Plad?

2. The price this should be under $1 a GB.
If we look at the 3 year old Z-Drive R4 that is used in this review we see that it is slower in most test but faster in another. (HD Tune 5.0) and under workstation loads gets decent IOPS.

256GB SATA HDTach
2011 Vertex 3 $420 Burst 365 Read 249 Write 254 IOPS <35k
2014 MX100 $110 Burst 330 Read 428 Write 248 IOPS >50k

in 3 years almost 1/4 the price, similar Burst and write speeds, 70% faster reads almost 50% more IOPS

800GB PCI-E HDTach
2011 Z-Drive R4 $5,599 Burst 886 Read 432 Write 442 IOPS >150k
2014 Intel P3700 $2,414 Burst 1670 Read 1700 Write 1675 IOPS >225k

In 3 years just under 1/2 the price, ~1/2 burst, ~1/4 the R/W, and 50% more IOPS (Actualy faster read speeds in HDTune for the Z-Drive R4)

I just feel that with how much SSDs have changed in the last 3 years this may have Ludicrous Speeds but also has a Ludicrous Price.

Edit: Should have gone with the EVO drive but it is 1 year old so hard to compare but the performance differences would be quite a bit different in the SATA category.

June 3, 2014 | 04:55 PM - Posted by Ceres (not verified)

if we change few names in your explanation, we could read that a 100$ Intel chip is the way to go and the new 350$ Devil Canyon piece is priced "ludicrous" to use your words.
actually, imagine using your way of comparing with an ARM for 20$!!! amazing value and price!

June 3, 2014 | 05:34 PM - Posted by Xukanik

How so? I am comparing 2 SATA SSD's from 2011 and 2013 and 2 PCI-E from 2011 and 2013.

You are right I could have compared it with the RevoDrive 3 X2 that is the Consumer PCI-E

PCI-E HDTach
2011 960GB Revo 3 X2 $3,200 ($3.33/GB) Burst 833 Read 438 Write 417 IOPS ~45K HDTune Read 1330MB/s
2014 800GB P3700 $2,414 ($3.02/GB) Burst 1670 Read 1700 Write 1675 IOPS >225k HDTune Read 2361

It would compare better to the p3500 at ~$1.50/GB but that is the low end,and no benchmarks to compare it to.
It Still is barely 1/2 the price.

So 10% cheaper, 2x Burst, 4x R/W, 5x IOPS, 75% faster HDTune read.

I am just comparing Price/Performance differences between SATA & PCI-E in the last 3 Years.

All I am saying is that PCI-E just has not gone down in price per performance nearly as much as SATA has even though SATA currently has a bottleneck of 6Gbps due to Sata 3.0 and could easily perform better w/o the SATA bottleneck.

June 3, 2014 | 05:54 PM - Posted by Xukanik

if we change few names in your explanation, we could read that a 100$ Intel chip is the way to go and the new 350$ Devil Canyon piece is priced "ludicrous" to use your words.
actually, imagine using your way of comparing with an ARM for 20$!!! amazing value and price!

No that is not at all what I am saying. In comparison to what you are saying I would compare the performance differences from a 2011 to 2013 Same Tier chip and the 2011 to 2013 -E chips LGA-2011 and see what one has improved the most per $.

Example 2011 I7 3930K VS I7 4930K to I7 2600k VS 4770K and see what one of the 2 types of Sockets LGA-2011 VS LGA-1150 has has improved the most $/Performance.

This example is really hard to do as the chips are released 6 month apart.

June 3, 2014 | 05:37 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What accounts for the really sloooooooow write specs for 0.5 to 2.0 on ATTO? http://www.pcper.com/image/view/41907?return=node%2F60378

June 5, 2014 | 01:12 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Most storage products are optimized around >=4k write blocks (i.e. advanced format HDDs do the same). Modern file systems don't access <4k blocks, so optimizing for it is not necessary.

Further, if the internal addressing is aligned to match typical OS workloads at 4k, then writing smaller than 4k would require a read/modify/write operation, which takes significantly longer to accomplish.

June 5, 2014 | 05:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks very much! I wasnt aware of that.

June 5, 2014 | 05:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So when looking at the benchmaks, if using Win7 with 4k then the only number really relevant is the 4k line? (thanks much for the detailed reply)

June 10, 2014 | 03:49 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Yeah, anything modern (7 and up) won't be doing much small <4k accesses, so it's not going to significantly impact performance.

June 3, 2014 | 05:47 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

When will these be available to purchase?
(Great review)

June 3, 2014 | 05:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Do you think the win7 drivers will slow the drives down?

June 3, 2014 | 06:09 PM - Posted by balls (not verified)

It is all clear now. Intel dropped the SATA express interface from their next gen chipsets because of NVMe. I thought they were just being chipzilla as usual and capitalizing on their command of the industry.

June 3, 2014 | 06:13 PM - Posted by balls (not verified)

foot in mouth. NMVe can work as through SATA express. So WTF Intel?

June 10, 2014 | 03:50 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The P3x00's will also be available in SATA Express, but to use full bandwidth, the motherboard is going to need to support the faster version of the spec. For desktop use, you'd likely be better off with the PCIe part.

June 3, 2014 | 06:52 PM - Posted by razor512

Can we get a 80% off coupon code :)

I want to get one so I can install and run microsoft office 97

June 5, 2014 | 01:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Does this SSD come with a Full Height bracket? I'm quite a nut when it comes to having ludicrous storage in my system (used to have an Adaptec SAS controller with 4x 15K RPM Seagate Cheetah drives ever so long ago) and this is precisely what I've been waiting for.

Can't seem to find any details anywhere however on whether or not a Full Height bracket is provided.

June 5, 2014 | 01:15 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Their prior products have shipped with full height brackets, so that should be the case for this one as well.

June 5, 2014 | 01:12 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Also... does Intel provide Windows 7 drivers for these? I did observe that the Technical Docs only specify Windows Server as supported Windows OS's.

June 5, 2014 | 01:16 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Intel has told us they intend to back fill driver support to include Windows 7.

June 5, 2014 | 08:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Absolutely fantastic! And many thanks for the time and effort to respond to my questions. Cheers!

June 6, 2014 | 09:13 PM - Posted by itisruben

Now I don't mean to interrupt important conversations about groundbreaking read/write speeds being made available to the public, but my main concern is your shirt Allyn. From behind your laptop, what I see is a Metroid.

June 10, 2014 | 03:52 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

It's a skull :)

June 5, 2014 | 06:56 PM - Posted by Jan Dijk (not verified)

Will this card also work in a pcie 2.x 4x slot? if so will it then be slower/consume more cpu cycles as the system does not have MVE..and is MVE required?

I got a couple of nice servers that i would like test this card in with vmware vsan ;)

June 7, 2014 | 07:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'd like to know the answer to this too. Here I thought I was bullet proof with an X79 Ivybridge-E system.

June 10, 2014 | 03:55 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

The controller should step down / negotiate at PCIe 2.0 just fine. Older boards might have a harder time with bootability, but if used as a data drive for VMs, it should be fine. Expect a slight increase in latency / slight reduction in ultimate throughput over the slower PCIe bandwidth available. NVMe will function over *any* PCIe interface.

July 15, 2014 | 03:47 PM - Posted by Glimpse (not verified)

thanks for this answer =) got curious to try it!

June 8, 2014 | 02:38 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Allyn is the God of SSD's

June 12, 2014 | 11:21 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Where to buy these?

June 13, 2014 | 12:36 AM - Posted by Dutch (not verified)

Can't wait to see the 3500's at play.

June 13, 2014 | 12:26 PM - Posted by Airbrushkid (not verified)

I just got done searching Intel's website for the SSD DC P3500 and it is gone no sign of it at all. Maybe they decided to get rid of the DC P3500 series.

June 16, 2014 | 10:54 AM - Posted by HPVD (not verified)

the P3500 will arrive Q3/2014 e.g see here: http://www.pcgameshardware.de/SSD-Hardware-255552/News/Intel-SSD-Roadmap...

June 16, 2014 | 01:28 PM - Posted by Airbrushkid (not verified)

Thank you. I never that on intels site. Now I have plenty on time to save up for it. $600.00 yippee.

June 16, 2014 | 01:29 PM - Posted by Airbrushkid (not verified)

Thank you. I never that on intels site. Now I have plenty on time to save up for it. $600.00 yippee.

June 18, 2014 | 10:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

These are meant for enterprise. For those asking about a desktop get real. This is for business application use such as VDI or DB, not gaming and booting. Do you not get it really, $6k this is way more than your desktop.

June 18, 2014 | 10:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

$6k for a 2TB. You are getting overkill if you get this for a desktop plain and simple.

June 23, 2014 | 02:28 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Anyone selling these?

July 4, 2014 | 05:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have been having problems with the P3700 being compatible with 2 of my asus boards a Maximus Extreme VI and a Z97 Deluxe, I cant get them to work with the P3700 no matter what I do. It works just fine with my ASRock Extreme 11 a/c but not my ASUS boards. I notice that you used an ASUS board for your review and was wondering if you had any compatibility issues that you had to deal with?

July 16, 2014 | 12:46 AM - Posted by Airbrushkid (not verified)

Did you check to see if there is a BIO's update for Asus boards?

July 14, 2014 | 05:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Will there be a review for the P3600? Would be interesting to see how that and the 3700 compare..

July 15, 2014 | 03:43 PM - Posted by Glimpse (not verified)

I got curious...

What if, theoretically, I'd hook p3500 on four lanes but not PCIe gen3 but gen2?
(that as I unhesitant is twice slower)
Would drive work? (maybe there are some issues)
What about bottle-necks? (in theory)

This is a very interesting product!

July 16, 2014 | 12:48 AM - Posted by Airbrushkid (not verified)

Did you check to see if there is a BIO's update for Asus boards?

[quote]
July 4, 2014 | 05:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have been having problems with the P3700 being compatible with 2 of my asus boards a Maximus Extreme VI and a Z97 Deluxe, I cant get them to work with the P3700 no matter what I do. It works just fine with my ASRock Extreme 11 a/c but not my ASUS boards. I notice that you used an ASUS board for your review and was wondering if you had any compatibility issues that you had to deal with?
[/quote]

October 31, 2014 | 07:33 AM - Posted by altus wells (not verified)

will the Intel SSD DC P3700 800GB work on my z87 pro i5 and windows 8.1

October 31, 2014 | 07:33 AM - Posted by altus wells (not verified)

will the Intel SSD DC P3700 800GB work on my z87 pro i5 and windows 8.1

April 2, 2015 | 02:09 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How many volumes contains that device? It's one 800 Gb volume or something like intel 910 series - 4x200Gb?

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