Review Index:

Intel SSD DC P3520 2TB Review - 3D NAND = $0.50/GB!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging


Intel launched their Datacenter 'P' Series parts a little over two years ago. Since then, the P3500, P3600, and P3700 lines have seen various expansions and spinoffs. The most recent to date was the P3608, which packed two full P3600's into a single HHHL form factor. With Intel 3D XPoint / Optane parts lurking just around the corner, I had assumed there would be no further branches of the P3xxx line, but Intel had other things in mind. IMFT 3D NAND offers greater die capacities at a reduced cost/GB, apparently even in MLC form, and Intel has infused this flash into their new P3520:

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Remember the P3500 series was Intel's lowest end of the P line, and as far as performance goes, the P3520 actually takes a further step back. The play here is to get the proven quality control and reliability of Intel's datacenter parts into a lower cost product. While the P3500 launched at $1.50/GB, the P3520 pushes that cost down *well* below $1/GB for a 2TB HHHL or U.2 SSD.

Read on for our full review of the Intel DC P3520 SSD!


I'm going to try something new with this review and spread the relevant performance specifications across the associated pages and charts of the review. I'm also going to place markers indicating the specs on the charts themselves, making it clear if/when the tested part is not meeting its spec. Thanks to our exclusive in-house Latency Percentile testing, I've greatly expanded our QoS charting to a new 'high resolution' method which allows us to easily confirm the various "9's" claims seen in enterprise product specs. Below are a few of the specs that do not fall into the other categories of this review:

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Yes, this is not meant to be a high-endurance drive, as is clear by the relatively low TBW and DWPD figures.

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I don't have our detailed power consumption testing where I'd like it to be yet, but quick spot checks of our 2TB sample showed it to be within the stated limits. Note that the P35xx series parts are meant for lower performance, so even the 2TB capacity comes nowhere close to the 25W (non-GPU) PCIe slot limit.


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Standard brown box packaging for this enterprise part.


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August 25, 2016 | 02:06 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

$0.50/GB is considered good? Was this article written in 2005?

August 25, 2016 | 02:26 PM - Posted by Vitagra

For pci-e ssds, that is considered good.

August 25, 2016 | 03:46 PM - Posted by Nimrod (not verified)

Yeah, for SATA SSDs anything <0.25/GB is pretty good, this is about twice that but you're also getting around twice the speeds.
Too expensive for me personally, but not unreasonable IMO.

August 25, 2016 | 04:32 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Intel enterprise SSDs didn't launch until 2008, and did so at >$10/GB (>20x the cost).

August 25, 2016 | 08:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's good progress, so they should begin to be viable around 2024

August 25, 2016 | 09:31 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

SSD market share has doubled for the past two years. It's expected to surpass HDD a lot sooner than 2024.

January 31, 2017 | 10:51 AM - Posted by John H (not verified)

in 2005 SSDs would be more like $50/GB :)

August 26, 2016 | 01:46 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

For that terrible 0.7 DWPD/5 years, I would take 750 over this thing any day, performance wise it's not even close to P3700/750.

August 26, 2016 | 04:53 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Performance is no comparison, obviously. The point of this drive is cost, which is a fraction of all parts you mentioned.

August 26, 2016 | 05:53 AM - Posted by Jann5s

Allyn, thank you, I really like the depth of your reviews, I'm actually learning stuff!

August 26, 2016 | 09:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I do not find any mention of capacitor for power loss writes. It's a feature on which I place great importance.

August 26, 2016 | 04:52 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Intel has among the highest, if not *the* highest power loss testing / qualification / reliability in the industry. It wasn't mentioned specifically because at this point it's just a given for their products. Here's a blurb from one of their product briefings:

Intel. Intel® Datacenter Drives provide robust Power Loss Imminent (PLI) circuitry that helps to protect inflight data in the event of power loss. Intel drives monitor the health of the PLI circuitry via a Self Cap Test using SMART attributes.  Samsung PM853T and SM843T drives were checked for capabilities and flags.  No PLI monitoring capabilities (e.g. SMART Attributes) were listed in the Samsung drive specification sheet.  Additionally, the drives were tested by powering off a drive and removing one electrolytic (or any other type) capacitor. The drives were then powered up to recollect SMART attribute data to determine is the cap test detected the removal of the capacitor.  The Samsung drives did not detect capacitor removal. 

They also bombard their drives with radiation (from an accelerator) until they hang, restart them, and ensure no data was corrupted. Their testing is pretty crazy, and that's why their products typically run higher in cost compared to others, but you get what you pay for.


August 27, 2016 | 03:45 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Many think inflight data protection only as a safety issue, but it is also a significant performance issue. Without inflight data protection, use of inflight data must be turned off in the OS (it may be called something like write cache) to avoid data corruption in case of power failure, which in turn significantly lowers write speed.

So the point of inflight data protection or the lack of it should be hammered home in every review until it gets the warranted attention.

August 28, 2016 | 02:07 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

There are lots of layers of what would/could be considered 'in-flight'. Even with all caching disabled, the mere fact that writes are queued could be considered so, as they are technically buffered by the kernel. To strip all the way down to zero buffering would reduce the performance of *most* SSDs to painful levels, as you'd have to limit to QD=1 and disable all OS buffers.

This protection, as defined by SSD makers, is a guarantee that the data that has been received by the controller at the point of power loss will be retained and available at next power up. Host / OS-side buffers will naturally not be included here.

August 26, 2016 | 11:15 AM - Posted by dstanding (not verified)

Very excited about P3520 especially in U.2 2.5" format. This kind of pricing should really increase the viability (economically speaking) of big top-of-rack all flash arrays.

Not sure if you mentioned in the review but has Intel made any mention of dual-port U.2 version?

August 26, 2016 | 04:53 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

No mention of dual port for this one, but I'd guess once 3D rolls out to other models in their lineup, it will include dual port.

September 1, 2016 | 10:03 PM - Posted by So.... (not verified)

So, let me make sure I understand. This SSD is not tested against any other product, yet receives an editors choice. I smell something.

September 10, 2016 | 03:55 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

What you smell is no other products competing at this low of a cost/GB. Other companies are welcome to sample us their competing products (we ask them often).

September 18, 2016 | 04:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It was pretty well-explained why...

September 6, 2016 | 08:40 AM - Posted by "; echo killer (not verified)

what about raid 0 on 4 of these

September 12, 2016 | 09:47 AM - Posted by Guido (not verified)

We are thinking of using the P3520 or P3500 in Supermicro 48 bay nvme server. P3500 might be quicker but probably these will already move the bottleneck to the interface... Will have a look if you benchmarked the p3500 before...

November 1, 2016 | 05:35 PM - Posted by Stan (not verified)

Going to try out three of the 1.2TB P3520's for the hot tier in a three node hyperconverged environment. It'd be interesting to know what sort of benchmark would be relevant for comparison purposes on that kind of platform, since the workload mix could look like practically anything.

November 1, 2016 | 06:02 PM - Posted by Jeremy Hellstrom

Yes it would, trying to set up benchmarks simulating that kind of environment is not simple.  Let us know how it goes as it could be very interesting.

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