Intel DC S3500 480GB SSD Review (Single & RAID)

Author: AkG
Date: June 10, 2013
Product Name: DC S3500 480GB
Part Number: DC S3500
Warranty: 5 Years
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A Closer Look at the Intel DC S3500

has always taken a durable – if rather unrefined – approach to solid state drive cases and the DC S3500 is no exception. The only difference from 3700 and 3500 models is the sticker itself as both models share the exact same 7.5mm 2.5” form factor housing.

As with the DC S3700 before it, both of our DC S3500 480GB samples do show rather extensive machine and tool markings on them. Intel doesn’t waste money on making their SSD devices look ‘pretty’. Rather, they’re durable, robust and rather utilitarian in appearance.

Opening up the case we can see the DC S3500 480B shares the exact same architecture of the DC S3700 series. The only differences between the two series are the type of NAND, over-provisioning level and number of RAM ICs. Much like the Intel DC S3700 800GB, the DC S3500 480GB has two 512MB DDR3-1600 Micron RAM IC or four times the amount of RAM as found on the 200GB DC S3700.

Both models use the same Intel highly capable X25 Gen 3 controller with two capacitors on the edge of the PCB. These capacitors are for Flush in Flight and provide more than enough reserve power to allow the DC S3500 to flush its buffers and complete any outstanding writes in the event of unexpected power loss. 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.

Just like the DC S3700, the DC S3500 has 16 NAND ICs filling up every slot on the PCB. The NAND itself is actually main difference between the DC S3700 and DC S3500 series; instead of HET MLC NAND Intel has opted standard 20nm ONFi 2 MLC NAND.

Standard 20nm MLC NAND has an erase cycle life of between 3,000 and 5,000 which is quite low for use in constant high demand environments like the typical server. However, the binning process and optimized performance curves should result in drastically increased longevity. There is 512GB worth of NAND onboard which means a mere ~7% of over-provisioning is being used instead of the ~20% of the DC S3700 series.

This less durable NAND does explain the difference in each respective drive series’ rated write lifespan. Instead of an SSD which is rated for Petabytes worth of writes, the DC S3500 is rated for Terabytes. In the 480GB model’s case it is 275TB.

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