Performance Consistency

Our performance consistency test explores the extent to which a drive can reliably sustain performance during a long-duration random write test. Specifications for consumer drives typically list peak performance numbers only attainable in ideal conditions. The performance in a worst-case scenario can be drastically different as over the course of a long test drives can run out of spare area, have to start performing garbage collection, and sometimes even reach power or thermal limits.

In addition to an overall decline in performance, a long test can show patterns in how performance varies on shorter timescales. Some drives will exhibit very little variance in performance from second to second, while others will show massive drops in performance during each garbage collection cycle but otherwise maintain good performance, and others show constantly wide variance. If a drive periodically slows to hard drive levels of performance, it may feel slow to use even if its overall average performance is very high.

To maximally stress the drive's controller and force it to perform garbage collection and wear leveling, this test conducts 4kB random writes with a queue depth of 32. The drive is filled before the start of the test, and the test duration is one hour. Any spare area will be exhausted early in the test and by the end of the hour even the largest drives with the most overprovisioning will have reached a steady state. We use the last 400 seconds of the test to score the drive both on steady-state average writes per second and on its performance divided by the standard deviation.

Steady-State 4KB Random Write Performance

Right from the start we see a substantial improvement of the SM2258 over SM2256, as steady-state random write speed has increased by 37%. This puts the Intel 540s well ahead of any other planar TLC drive and ahead of a few low-end MLC drives as well.

Steady-State 4KB Random Write Consistency

While the average random write speed has improved, the consistency is a bit worse and the Intel 540s scores in the bottom tier of drives. Phison's most recent generation of TLC drives managed to deliver very consistent steady state performance, but Silicon Motion still has a lot of room for improvement here.

IOPS over time
25% Over-Provisioning

The consistency of the 540s was clearly poor even before the transition to steady state, but during that early phase of the test it delivered twice the IOPS of the ADATA SP550.

Steady-State IOPS over time
25% Over-Provisioning

Once in steady state, the 540s performance mostly stays slightly above the SP550. Both drives have frequent outliers beyond their band of usual performance, and the outliers are almost all in the direction of better performance. The Intel drive's outliers hit some much higher peaks than the ADATA SP550, suggesting that the new SM2258 controller may have significantly improved performance on bursty workloads.

Introduction AnandTech Storage Bench - The Destroyer
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  • doggface - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - link

    I am ... Amazed that Intel would dirty their brand name like this. Truly a terrible controller, terrible flash, and a terrible idea.

    Intel has a brand name that generally speaks to quality parts. They should never have dabbled in the arena of TLC.
  • ddriver - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - link

    Reveals optane, releases mediocrity... come on.
  • Drumsticks - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - link

    I actually worked on this for a short time last year, and I can say - working with SMI definitely is not as easy (at least for Intel) and was certainly more frustrating than developing in house.
  • BurntMyBacon - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    Any reason they didn't label a drive with this level of performance a 300 series drive?
  • Drumsticks - Friday, June 24, 2016 - link

    No idea, honestly. I think everything is just a 5xx SSD now (at least the SATA stuff). I think it's priced well above what I was expecting it to be priced at though, tbh.
  • pwil - Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - link

    300 series had 3y warranty.
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - link


    >Muh MLC!
    >Muh endurance!
    >Muh data retention!
    >Muh reliability!
    >Muh random I/O!
    >Muh this drive isn't exactly what I want in my PC, so instead of using PC Part Picker to find a suitable drive for my incredibly critical tastes, I'm going to post a comment on a news article expressing how disgusted I am by how this drive isn't up to _MY_ standards.

    FUN FACT: Did you know that companies design products for people besides yourself?
  • b4bblefish - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - link

    Meh... it's not that they make products for people besides us. It's that for the price it's a horrible deal. You can buy better more reliable drives for a lot cheaper especially if it's targeting the entry level consumer market. So why bother entering this segment and offer something without any value?
  • JoeyJoJo123 - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - link

    Because these drives are likely aimed at bulk government/corporate purchases, not really for consumers as the price/performance ratio is terrible. Government/corporate entities will end up buying bulk, even when the price isn't the best available, from what the business analysts approve as reputable companies; not because it's a wise purchase from an IT perspective.

    I guarantee you this: It's got an Intel sticker, so it'll be bought in droves by people who don't know, even if it sucks. See: Pentium 4.

    And secondly, nobody should ever care for brand image. Every brand releases crap products from time to time. Some brands do this more often than others. Always evaluate products on an individual level, not because they happen to come from some "reputable" brand.
  • techconc - Thursday, June 23, 2016 - link

    I agree with most of your post. However, you went off the rails with regard to brand image. Yes, you shouldn't buy based on brand image alone. However, all things being equal, brand reputation does come into play. Companies earn a reputation, for better or worse, based on the quality of the product they produce. Completely disregarding that history isn't very good advice.

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