Intel DC P3700 800GB NVMe SSD Review

Author: AkG
Date: June 18, 2014
Product Name: DC P3700
Part Number: DC P3700
Warranty: 5 Years
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Nearly a year and a half ago Intel introduced an entirely new way of thinking about Enterprise grade Solid State Drives: their Data Center series. During that first generation outing they focused in on steady-state performance and SATA based solutions, thus the 'S' in the DC S3700 and DC S3500 monikers. Put simply the DC S3xxx series introduced to the world the third generation Intel SSD controller, one which has recently cascaded down to the consumer grade 730 series. Now Intel has turned their attention to a more pressing issue: the underlying architecture that makes up a Solid State Drive. To showcase the fruits of their labor they have launched the DC P3700 series; and today we will be looking at the 800GB version.

The DC P3700 series is meant to highlight a number of advances within Intelís newly revised SSD environment but it still targets the same data center-based market as the DC S-series. However, instead of utilizing a SATA interface, it uses the PCI-E bus to maximize performance. Therefore, the P3700, P3600 and P3500 arenít meant as replacements to the slightly older but no less capable S3500 and S3700.

Like the Intel 910 series it obviously replaces, this new Data Center P3700 series will come in various capacities, but each and every one will have the same price per gigabyte ratio. While $3.02 per gigabyte does sound high (especially compared the DC S3700 series) this is a lot less than the 910 commanded when it was launched. For example a 800GB Intel 910 had an MSRP of $3,859 or $4.82 per GB whereas a 800GB DC P3700 will only set companies back $2,414. This is still high, but for the enterprise market it is much more palatable and should help the DC P3700 gain traction. However, lowered price is the smallest of the benefits the DC P3700 brings to the table.

In the past when dealing with either SATA or PCIE form factors the underlying foundation was the same: SATA and AHCI. For example, the 910 series may have used a PCI-E form factor but this was accomplished by the simple expedient of using a PCIe hub controller that was placed between the bus and the multiple SATA controllers that took care of the actual NAND. This was only a short term solution but suffice to say doing the hodge-podge of conflicting standards may have boosted performance beyond what SATA drives could handle but it also created nearly as many issues as it solved.

To eliminate the legacy issues that SATA carries from its hard drive roots, Intel helped found the Non Volatile Memory Express Workgroup in 2009. The NVM-EW's sole focus was to create a new Host Interface standard created by SSD manufactures specifically for solid state drives. This is why the heart and soul of Intel's latest DC P3700 is the Non-Volatile Memory Host Configuration Interface (also known as NVMe) and not Serial ATA's 'Advanced' Host Configuration Interface.

As the name suggests the DC P3700 uses a PCIe form-factor, but unlike the 910 the DC P3700 does not require a PCIe hub controller to connect to the PCIe bus. This in turn allows the DC P3700 to lower latency levels by 325% to an amazing 20 microseconds. Due to its NVMe foundation the DC P3700 also boasts an equally impressive 460K/180K IOP/s rating that is well in excess of what any classical PCIe SSD could do.

Mix in a maximum 25 Watts rating with real world average more in the 15 watt range and 10 full Drive Writes Per Day for five years (14.6 PetaBytes of writes in the 800GB's case), and on paper the DC P3700 is certainly going to do exactly what Intel wants it to do: get corporationsí attention and show what this new standard can offer end users.


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