Intel 540s Series SSDs hit the market

Intel has a new lineup of solid-state drives on the market, and it's full of options. The 540s series comprises twelve drives available in six different capacities and two form factors. For these drives, Intel turned to 16-nm TLC NAND, a first for the company. The cache, however, is SLC.

Capacity Form Factors Max sequential (MB/s) Max 4KB random (IOps) Price
Read Write Read Write
120GB 80mm M.2, 2.5" 560 400 60,000 50,000 $80
180GB 80mm M.2, 2.5" 560 475 71,000 85,000 $100
240GB 80mm M.2, 2.5" 560 480 74,000 85,000 $120
360GB 80mm M.2, 2.5" 560 480 74,000 85,000 $180
480GB 80mm M.2, 2.5" 560 480 78,000 85,000 $220
1TB 80mm M.2, 2.5" 560 480 78,000 85,000 $450

No matter what capacity you're interested in, you can grab a 80mm M.2 or a 2.5" drive. Intel's advertised performance numbers are the same for both form factors, but the power consumption of the M.2 drives is a bit lower. The sequential read and write speeds that Intel posted are comparable to budget SSDs on the market, like the Trion 150 we reviewed last month. The 540S series falls a little behind on sequential write speed compared to the Trions, though the Intel drives' random write speed is significantly higher than OCZ posts for its drive. Perhaps that's a result of the SLC cache.

All of these models are available on Newegg right now. If the prices in the table above strike you as a little steep, don't worry. Most of the models are currently discounted. The 480GB 2.5" model is already on sale for 32% off, bringing it down to $150.

Comments closed
    • ronch
    • 3 years ago

    Intel just opened the floodgates to more TLC drives from other brands. Expect TLC to flood the market.

    • demani
    • 3 years ago

    My issue with Intel SSDs is the way they age out: according to the SSD endurance test results they fail in just about the worst way possible. While SSDs should theoretically fail in read-only mode, Intel’s don’t just fail, they fail to start up after the next reboot. So: they fail at a preset time, then they fail in a total fashion that won’t allow you to do any sort of recovery/one-last-backup to move on.

    Kinda sucky. Also can make RAID1 fairly useless (whereas other makers drives would likely fail separately, Intel’s will fail at the same time). Yes, I know SSDs probably won’t write the limits of the drive in practice, but what if? Why chance it when there are other options from Samsung, Crucial, SanDisk that won’t have that known, predictable issue?

      • Vaughn
      • 3 years ago

      Well I’m still running two 160GB’s G2 in Raid 0 for a couple years now and its been solid.

      So my own personal experience has me looking at intel again when it comes time to upgrade.

      • synthtel2
      • 3 years ago

      It’s probably better than bitrotting, which I just had a Crucial MX100 do. That recent SSD reliability study also showed that bitrot was where SSDs’ issues tended to lie. I’d trust an Intel a whole lot more than the average SSD to work correctly within its rated lifetime, and for me (and the overwhelming majority of other users) that lifetime isn’t limited at all by the quantity of writes done. I am a bit disappointed by the switch to TLC though, and I’d probably still pick someone else’s MLC drive over TLC from Intel.

      On a related note, people don’t tend to think of invisible failures like bitrot when they think of reliability, but those could be argued to be even more important. I seem to be a magnet for silent hardware failures, and as a result I’m done recommending anything less than the best for RAM/storage for machines that do anything more important than gaming. ([url=https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=117664<]Most recently I had a CPU silently fail and wreck my font rendering.[/url<] I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.) (For full disclosure, I'm using a Sandisk as the replacement for that MX100, but that's because there were shenanigans and I didn't get much of a choice unless I wanted to accept a week or two of downtime. An Intel 535 was my first choice, and it basically had/has no competition in my mind.)

      • blahsaysblah
      • 3 years ago

      That’s the enterprise drives. Because they are used in redundant systems. No limping along and causing random havoc. They do fail gracefully for enterprise…

      Not the consumer drives.

    • Jambe
    • 3 years ago

    Mushkin’s 1TB Reactor is $210 on Newegg right now, and Sandisk’s Ultra II is $235. Intel’s 540s is $304.

    Given the interface I doubt the performance of these drives can justify the extra 94/69 bucks. Maybe the extra two years of warranty is worth the cost (five years vs three) but not to my mind; not on budget TLC drives, certainl (and on that note, the Reactor is MLC).

    • Freon
    • 3 years ago

    I would love to see a review to see where these stand against the competition.

    • slaimus
    • 3 years ago

    I’m curious which controller is being used as I don’t think Intel currently has a TLC controller deployed in any of their SSDs.
    The previous model 535 has a Sandforce 2000 series controller and 20nm Hynix MLC.

      • mczak
      • 3 years ago

      Some sites are claiming it’s a silicon motion controller (SM2256).

    • Firestarter
    • 3 years ago

    I just checked and it’s more expensive than the Samsung 850 EVO drives, all the other TLC drives and even some MLC drives as well. But, the difference is small enough that I’d still recommend them to someone distrusting of SSDs. I mean, it’s Intel, what could go wrong, right?

      • Airmantharp
      • 3 years ago

      Stuff’s gone wrong with Intel’s drives before- but it’s rare. If someone is distrusting of SSDs, I’d point them to an older model with a record of reliability, from Intel if you prefer.

    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    For a company that was bragging about (and trying to pioneer) good steady-state performance and consistency, I am disappointed to see nothing but a list of stats relating to the SLC cache.

    How slow and inconsistent is the drive once it needs to start dumping to TLC NAND?

    • EzioAs
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]The [b<]cache[/b<], however, is SLC.[/quote<] But what's the [i<]catch[/i<]?

      • EricBorn
      • 3 years ago

      I’d bet some cash that the cache is the catch.

        • jihadjoe
        • 3 years ago

        Or maybe catch is that you to shell out some cash to get the cache.

      • MOSFET
      • 3 years ago

      The cache is [b<]SLC[/b<]. The [i<]catch[/i<] is [b<]TLC[/b<].

    • MagariNegi
    • 3 years ago

    Are there any negatives to buying two 480s and running as one? Thinking like a spanned volume?

      • chuckula
      • 3 years ago

      Twice as many parts to potentially fail.
      Requires two connections instead of one.
      Greater power consumption.

      Not necessarily show-stoppers, but they are something to consider.

      • Pitabred
      • 3 years ago

      If you do it, RAID-0, not just a spanned volume. May as well get the speed benefits if you’re going to risk your data across two devices.

        • BurntMyBacon
        • 3 years ago

        Technically you only lose the data on the failed drive with spanning where you lose it all with RAID-0.

          • magila
          • 3 years ago

          Your filesystem is going to be completely hosed after losing half the underlying storage. With some effort you _might_ be able to recover some files, but you’d be insane to rely on this. If you care about your data, back it up, then use RAID-0 if you want to combine devices.

            • blahsaysblah
            • 3 years ago

            It’s easy and cheap to have two distinct storage solutions. RAID-0 for OS/games and just a plain drive for local manual backup of key files.

            It’s not like old days of massive heat 3.5″ drives. RAIDs should be coming back soon for gamers. Ive been actually waiting to build a cheap 2.5″ array versus buying $330 Samsung M.2 NVMe 950 Pro. Just waiting for someone else do to it first and say its worth it. (With Win soft-raid and or Intel chipset only, no custom stuff)

            Absolutely nothing wrong with RAID via Intel chipset as you can move array to another motherboard without issue(not sure about UEFI secure boot, last time i did was in Win 7 days). Also, Windows soft-raid is actually just as good as Intel RAID is pretty much a software solution too. Sort of.

            • Airmantharp
            • 3 years ago

            Biggest complaint with M.2, with a real PCIe interface, unlike these ‘new’ Intel drives, is price.

            That’ll be overcome soon enough, and then RAID-0 will essentially be kicked to the curb; there will be no need for speed that compromises availability, and integrity if you don’t have a backup.

            • curtisb
            • 3 years ago

            [quote<]Just waiting for someone else do to it first and say its worth it.[/quote<] I've been doing it with my gaming systems for a few years now. When I did the first build though, it was much cheaper to get two 120/128GB SSD's than it was a single 250/256GB SSD. My previous build had two Crucial M500 128GB drives in RAID0 for the OS/apps/games, and two WD RE 1TB drives in RAID1 for important data. The build I just finished has two Crucial MX200 500GB drives in RAID0 and two Hitachi 4TB drives in RAID1. All of the old parts from my previous build got transplanted into a new case for one of my kids, except the M500's got replaced by some new Intel 535 240GB drives. I did do another build where I used a Samsung 850EVO 500GB M.2 drive (yeah, I know it's SATA based and not PCIe) for the OS/apps/games, and two Seagate 4TB drives in RAID1 for data.

    • dragosmp
    • 3 years ago

    I was thinking they look expensive looking at the 480GB drive and then you say it’s 150$…nice!

    Hopefully we’ll have a review soon

      • bittermann
      • 3 years ago

      These are listed as data center class drives as well…nice.

        • blahsaysblah
        • 3 years ago

        The 540s is consumer. Pro 5400s is Professional. The new enterprise don’t have similar model names.

        Super low power for ultrabooks, laptops,… Thats 540s.

        [url=http://ark.intel.com/compare/94203,94446<]Comparison on ark.intel[/url<]

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