Intel has been one of the larger players in the SSD market for the past few years, but it’s become a premium consumer brand rather than try compete with other manufacturers at the low end. Intel drives might not be any more resilient than, say, a Samsung Evo, but their software tools are quite nice, and they take quality testing very seriously. The company lacks any TLC drives currently, but that could change soon – Intel this past week announced the SSD 540 family, which will come in 2.5-inch and M.2 form factors and feature TLC flash memory made by SK Hynix.
The flash memory is manufactured on Hynix’s 16nm production process, and is made to be cheap rather than performant. It’s up to the drive manufacturer to extract the maximum performance from these chips and Intel will be taking the same approach as other companies in dedicating a portion of the drive to run in SLC mode. That makes it act as a super-fast, durable cache for the drive, which the controller will then copy the contents of into the larger holding pool of NAND running in TLC mode.
Capacities for the two form factors will range from 120GB to 1TB. Intel quotes up to 560MB/s sequential read speeds and up to 480MB/s writes, which is not too shabby for TLC memory. Whether they’re able to hold up that performance with sustained loads like Samsung’s Evo remains to be seen, but for now it’s good to see another drive manufacturer pour money and effort into making TLC memory cheap and durable. These drives could be substantially cheaper than the Intel 530 series based on Micron MLC flash.
Intel also claims that together with their Core M platform based on Skylake, total system power consumption in idle with a SSD 540 could be measured in microwatts instead of milliwatts. That’s thanks to the DevSlp feature found in modern SATA devices, which allow a system to stay on all of the time, and only appear to be in sleep mode.