Intel DC S3700 200GB & 800GB, Enterprise SSD Review

Author: AkG
Date: January 23, 2013
Product Name: Intel DC S3700
Warranty: 5 Years
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Closer Look at the DC S3700

Since the DC S3700 this is a 700-series device which is designed around standard form factor specifications, it uses a 7mm high, 2.5” layout. Intel has always taken a durable – if rather utilitarian – approach to solid state drive cases and the DC S3700 is no exception. The only difference from the 200 and 800 GB models is the sticker itself as both versions share the exact same housing.

Opening up the case on the 200GB and 800GB drives, we can see both share the exact same internal architecture. The only difference between the various sizes is the density and number of RAM ICs, and the capacity of the NAND itself. The 200GB only has 256MB of DDR3-1600 RAM whereas the 800GB version has 1GB of onboard memory.

The capacitors housed on the PCB’s edge are for Flush in Flight, providing more than enough reserve power to allow the 3700 to flush its buffers and complete any outstanding writes in the event of unexpected power loss. This is a critical feature for datacenter clients as it protects sensitive data at the most critical times.

Unlike most 7mm form factor drives we have seen, Intel has also included plastic ‘stiffeners’ to ensure that there is no flexing or movement of the PCB.

Standard 25nm MLC NAND has an erase cycle life of between 3,000 and 5,000 which is very low for use in constant high demand environments So Intel couldn’t use it in their enterprise-focused product. By that same token the traditional choice of SLC - with has a much longer life – would have significantly increased the upfront cost of these storage devices. Rather than opting for one of these two extremes, Intel has side stepped the issue by using what they call HET MLC NAND, or what the rest of the industry simply calls e-MLC or “enterprise MLC” NAND. In essence, the DC-S3700 uses the exact same NAND we found on Intel’s 910 PCI-E SSD.

High Endurance Technology MLC NAND is approximately thirty times more durable than standard MLC NAND but not nearly as costly to manufacture as SLC NAND. This in turn allows Intel to offer such a massive drive for a reasonable price, while still being able to guarantee it for 5 years at 10 full drives writes everyday for those five years. To put that in more practical terms, Intel guarantees the 800GB version’s NAND for over 14.6 Petabytes and over 3.6 Petabytes for the 200GB model. Intel firmly states this is the pessimistic estimate and in all likelihood the DC S3700 series could double this amount under optimal conditions.

The only negative to using such durable MLC NAND is that it does sacrifice some small file performance to gain longevity. However, the DC S3700 isn’t meant to be used as a standalone device. Rather, it is meant to be used in RAID array environments. As we saw with the 910, distributing the load across multiple drives does more than make up for the small loss of performance.

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