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Intel Solid-State Drive DC S3700 Review
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Date: Dec 11, 2012
Section:Storage
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Specifications

Intel set the solid state storage market ablaze when it released the X25-M a few years back. Up until that point, solid state drives had steadily been improving in performance, but there was no real dominant player in the space. When the X25-M arrived though, with its proprietary controller, firmware, and NAND, it blew the doors of the competition and remained “the” drive for enthusiasts to own for quite some time. The X25-M was relatively pricey, but its performance was unrivaled.

However, Intel eventually moved away from its proprietary controller technology. The second gen X25-M used the same Intel-built controller as the original drive, but subsequent SATA 6Gbps offerings used Marvell (Intel SSD 510) or SandForce (Intel SSD 520) controllers. We heard rumblings for quite some that an Intel-built SATA 6Gbps SSD controller was in the works, but nothing ever materialized in the consumer space. In the enterprise space, Intel continued to leverage its 3Gbps controller in a number of products, including the SSD 710 which we reviewed here.

The new Intel DC S3700 we’ll be showing you here, however, does feature a new Intel-built, SATA 6Gbps controller, but it’s not the flat-out speed demon its predecessor was when it was released. Make no mistake, the DC S3700 is a high-performance drive, but it targets data center (hence the DC in its name) and enterprise applications.  This Intel controller and SSD is designed to offer more consistent, lower latency performance than previous generation Intel SSDs. Take a look...

Intel Solid-State Drive DC S3700
Specifications & Features
Capacity:
  • 2.5-inch : 100/200/400/800 GB
  • 1.8-inch : 200/400 GB
Components:
  • Intel 25nm NAND Flash Memory
  • High Endurance Technology (HET) Multi-Level Cell (MLC)
Form Factor:
  • 2.5- and 1.8-inch
Read and Write IOPS (Full LBA Range, Iometer Queue Depth 32) 
  • Random 4 KB Reads: Up to 75,000 IOPS
  • Random 4 KB Writes: Up to 36,000 IOPS
  • Random 8 KB Reads: Up to 47,500 IOPS
  • Random 8 KB Writes: Up to 20,000 IOPS
Bandwidth Performance 
  • Sustained Sequential Read: Up to 500 MB/s
  • Sustained Sequential Write: Up to 460 MB/s
Endurance:
  • 10 drive writes per day for 5 years
Latency (average sequential)
  • Read: 50 µs (TYP)
  • Write: 65 µs (TYP)
Quality of Service
  • Read/Write: 500 µs (99.9%)
Performance Consistency
  • Read/Write: Up to 90%/90% (99.9%)
AES 256-bit Encryption

Compliance
  • SATA Revision 3.0; compatible with SATA 6Gb/s,
  • 3Gb/s and 1.5Gb/s interface rates
  • ATA8-ACS2; includes SCT (Smart Command
  • Transport) and device statistics log support
  • SSD-enhanced SMART ATA feature set
  • Native Command Queuing (NCQ) command set
  • Data set management Trim command
Compatibility
  • Windows Server 2008 Enterprise 32/64bit
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.5, 5.6, 6.1
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 SP1
  • Intel SSD Toolbox with Intel SSD Optimizer
Power Management
  • 2.5 inch: 5 V or 12 V SATA Supply Rail9
  • 1.8 inch: 3.3 V SATA Supply Rail
  • SATA Interface Power Management
  • OS-aware hot plug/removal
  • Enhanced power-loss data protection
Power
  • Active: Up to 6 W (TYP)
  • Idle: 650 mW
Weight:
  • 2.5” 200,400,800 GB: 73.6 grams ± 2 grams
  • 2.5” 100 GB: 70 grams ± 2 grams
  • 1.8” 200, 400 GB: 49 grams ± 2 grams
Temperature
  • Operating: 0o C to 70o C
  • Non-Operating11: -55o C to 95o C
  • Temperature monitoring and logging
  • Thermal throttling
Shock (operating and non-operating):
  • 1,000 G/0.5 msec
Vibration
  • Operating: 2.17 GRMS (5-700 Hz)
  • Non-operating: 3.13 GRMS (5-800 Hz)
Reliability
  • Uncorrectable Bit Error Rate (UBER):
  • 1 sector per 1017 bits read
  • Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF):
  • 2 million hours
  • End-to-End data-path protection
Certifications and Declarations
  • UL, CE, C-Tick, BSMI, KCC, Microsoft WHQL, VCCI, SATA-IO

The Intel DC S3700 will be offered in 100GB, 200GB, 400GB, and 800GB capacities in the more common 2.5” form factor, but only 200GB and 400GB models will be offered in the smaller 1.8” form factor.

The DC S3700’s enclosure looks much like previous Intel-built solid state drives. It’s a basic, metal case with a 7.5mm Z-Height, adorned with a couple of decals detailing the drives capacity and a few specifications. If you’ve seen any of Intel’s recent SSD offerings, the DC S3700 will look familiar to you.

 

 
Intel DC S3700 800GB Solid State Drive

Inside the enclosure, however, there are plenty of new things to see. There are few noteworthy items on the PCB worth pointing out. First, obviously is the new controller. The controller used in the DC S3700 family of SSDs supports 8 NAND channels, AES-256 encryption, and has a native SATA 6Gbps interface. The controller is paired to 256MB (or 512MB in the case of the 800GB drive) of DDR3-1333 DRAM cache and there are also a couple of capacitors on-board designed to power the drive just long enough to write any unsaved data to the NAND in the event of a power failure. We should also point out that the drive monitors these capacitors, and should they fail, write buffering is automatically disabled and the drive will report a S.M.A.R.T. error.

The actual NAND used in the drive is Intel 25nm HET-MLC (High Endurance Technology – Multi-Level Cell) NAND, with total capacities that vary from drive to drive. The 200GB model is outfitted with a total of 264GB of NAND, with the additional capacity used for wear leveling, bad block replacement and other proprietary and maintenance-related features. The 800GB drive has a total of 1024GB of NAND on-board.

Although the controller used in the new DC S3700 family has a SATA 6Gbps interface, Intel’s focus wasn’t on maximum sequential throughout with the drives. Instead, Intel’s focus was on, reliability, consistency and low latency. Intel claims total IOPS shouldn’t vary by more than a few percentage points, regardless of the drive’s state, and that it’s able to service 99.9% of 4K random IO request in .5ms (QD1). The drives are also able to handle 10 full span, random writes per day for five years, which works out to roughly 14 petabytes of data writes for the 800GB drive.

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Test Setup, IOMeter 1.1 RC

Our Test Methodologies: Under each test condition, the Solid State Drives tested here were installed as secondary volumes in our testbed, with a standard spinning hard disk for the OS and benchmark installations. Out testbed's motherboard was updated with the latest BIOS available as of press time and AHCI (or RAID) mode was enabled. The SSDs were secure erased and left blank without partitions wherever possible, unless a test required them to be partitioned and formatted, as was the case with our ATTO, PCMark 7, and CrystalDiskMark benchmark tests. Windows firewall, automatic updates and screen savers were all disabled before testing. In all test runs, we rebooted the system, ensured all temp and prefetch data was purged, and waited several minutes for drive activity to settle and for the system to reach an idle state before invoking a test.

HotHardware Test System
Intel Core i7 and SSD Powered

Processor -

Motherboard -


Video Card -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drives -

 

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-2600K

Asus P8Z6-V Pro
(Z68 Chipset, AHCI Enabled)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285

4GB Kingston DDR3-1600

Integrated on board

WD Raptor 150GB (OS Drive)
OCZ Vertex 3 Pro(480GB)
Corsair Force GT (240GB)
Intel SSD 710 (200GB)
Intel SSD 520 (240GB)
Intel DC S3700 (200GB, 800GB)

OS -
Chipset Drivers -
DirectX -

Video Drivers
-


Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 x64
Intel 9.2.0.1030, iRST 10.5.1027
DirectX 11

NVIDIA GeForce 275.33

Benchmarks Used:
IOMeter 1.1.0 RC
HD Tune v4.61
ATTO v2.47
AS SSD
CrystalDiskMark v3.01 x64
PCMark 7
SiSoftware Sandra 2011

IOMeter
I/O Subsystem Measurement Tool

As we've noted in previous SSD articles, though IOMeter is clearly a well-respected industry standard drive benchmark, we're not completely comfortable with it for testing SSDs. The fact of the matter is, though our actual results with IOMeter appear to scale properly, it is debatable whether or not certain access patterns, as they are presented to and measured on an SSD, actually provide a valid example of real-world performance for the average end user. That said, we do think IOMeter is a reliable gauge for relative available throughput within a given storage solution. In addition there are certain higher-end workloads you can place on a drive with IOMeter, that you can't with most other storage benchmark tools available currently.

In the following tables, we're showing two sets of access patterns; our custom Workstation pattern, with an 8K transfer size, 80% reads (20% writes) and 80% random (20% sequential) access and IOMeter's default access pattern of 2K transfers, 67% reads (34% writes) and 100% random access.

 

We've got a bunch of numbers to share on the Intel DC S3700 series solid state drives. We tested both the 200GB and 800GB models in single drive and dual-drive RAID 0 configurations, and compared them to a number of other Intel built or enterprise-class drives throughout.

Here in our IOMeter tests, you can see the Intel DC S3700 offers flat, consistent performance across the board, regardless of the queue depth or access pattern. The single-drive configurations trailed the other drives we tested in total IOPS, but the RAID configurations fared much better, though the still trailed a couple of other setups.

Transfer speed for the Intel DC S3700 was also lower than competing offerings, especially those based on LSI SandForce controller technology.
 

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SiSoft SANDRA 2012
Next we ran SiSoft SANDRA, the the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. Here, we used the Physical Disk test suite and provided the results from our comparison SSDs. The benchmarks were run without formatting and read and write performance metrics are detailed below.

SiSoft SANDRA 2012
Synthetic HDD Benchmarking

The new Intel DC S3700 series drives performed very well in the light-duty SiSoft SANDRA physical disk benchmark. In this test, the DC S3700 series drives offered up the best read speeds with competitive write speeds. With the drives paired up in a RAID 0 configuration, performance was obviously much better and outpaced every other configuration we tested.
 

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ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO is another "quick and dirty" type of disk benchmark that measures transfer speeds across a specific volume length. It measures raw transfer rates for both reads and writes and graphs them out in an easily interpreted chart. We chose .5kb through 8192kb transfer sizes and a queue depth of 6 over a total max volume length of 256MB. ATTO's workloads are sequential in nature and measure raw bandwidth, rather than I/O response time, access latency, etc. This test was performed on blank, formatted drives with default NTFS partitions in Windows 7 x64.

ATTO Disk Benchmark
More Information Here: http://bit.ly/btuV6w

 

The new Intel DC S3700 series drives also performed very well in the ATTO Disk Benchmark. Here, the single drive DC S3700 configurations were competitive across the board and were only outpaced by the SandForce based drives. When paired up in two-drive RAID 0 configurations, the DC S3700 series drives also offered up strong performance that trailed only the Intel SSD 520 series RAID 0 setup.
 

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HD Tune Benchmarks
EFD Software's HD Tune is described on the company's web site as such: "HD Tune is a hard disk utility with many functions. It can be used to measure the drive's performance, scan for errors, check the health status (S.M.A.R.T.), securely erase all data and much more." The latest version of the benchmark added temperature statistics and improved support for SSDs, among a few other updates and fixes.

HD Tune v4.61
More Info Here: http://www.hdtune.com

The Intel DC S3700 series drives also performed very well in the HD Tune benchmark. If you look through all of the graphs above, you'll see burst rates that are somewhat lower than the other drives, but strong sequential transfer performance and best of class access times.
 

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CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark is a synthetic benchmark that tests both sequential and random small and mid-sized file transfers using incompressible data. It provides a quick look at best and worst case scenarios with regard to SSD performance, best case being larger sequential transfers and worse case being small, random transfers.

CrystalDiskMark Benchmarks
Synthetic File Transfer Tests

The Intel DC S3700 series drives offered middling performance in the large sequential transfer tests that are part of the CrystalDiskMark benchmarks, but in both of the 4K transfer tests the DC S3700 series drives put up some of the best scores of the bunch. RAID the drives together and up the workload, and the DC S3700 series drives clearly lead the pack.

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AS-SSD Compression Test

Next up we ran the Compression Benchmark built-into AS SSD, an SSD specific benchmark being developed by Alex Intelligent Software. This test is interesting because it uses a mix of compressible and incompressible data and outputs both Read and Write throughput of the drive. We only graphed a small fraction of the data (1% compressible, 50% compressible, and 100% compressible), but the trend is representative of the benchmark’s complete results.

AS SSD Compression Benchmark
Bring Your Translator: http://bit.ly/aRx11n

 

Regardless of the compressibility of the data being transferred, the new Intel DCS3700 series solid state drives offers consistent performance. The SandForce-based drives show a sharp drop in performance with incompressible data, especially with writes; the Intel-based DC S3700s don't suffer from the same drop. As such, the Intel DC S3700 drive offer some of the best overall scores here and they only get better, running in RAID.
 

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PCMark 7 Storage Benchmarks
We really like PCMark 7's Secondary Storage benchmark module for its pseudo real-world application measurement approach to testing. PCMark 7 offers a trace-based measurement of system response times under various scripted workloads of traditional client / desktop system operation. From simple application start-up performance, to data streaming from a drive in a game engine, and video editing with Windows Movie Maker, we feel more comfortable that these tests reasonably illustrate the performance profile of SSDs in an end-user / consumer PC usage model, more so than a purely synthetic transfer test.

Futuremark's PCMark 7 Secondary Storage
http://www.futuremark.com

 

Although they're not necessarily designed for standard desktop workloads, the new Intel DC S3700 drives excelled in the trace-based PCMark 7 secondary storage benchmark. The 800GB drive put up the best scores we've seen from a single SSD in this benchmark and the 200GB model followed closely behind. In fact, the 200GB drive put up the exact same score as the SandForce-based Intel SSD 520, which was previously the fastest consumer-class drive we had tested.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Intel DC S3700 series SSD offered very good performance throughout our testing. These drives are not meant to outpace all others in terms of large sequential transfers and our tests proved that, as the DC S3700s trailed the LSI SandForce-based drives in that regard. At high queue depths with smaller random data transfers, however, and in terms of consistency and latency, the Intel DC S3700 drivers were among the best performers overall. The DC SC3700 offered the lowest access times of all of the drives we tested and they finished at the top of the charts in the CrytalDiskMark 4K QD32 tests and in PCMark 7’s trace-based secondary storage benchmark. The Intel DC SC3700 also offered consistent performance, regardless of the compressibility of the data being transferred to or from the drive.


The Intel DC S3700 Solid State Drive

Intel’s enterprise-class solid state drives typically command a premium, and as you probably expect, the new DC S3700 series drives continue that trend. The 100GB variant carries an MSRP of $235, the 200GB drive $470, the 400GB drive $940, and the 800GB drive $1880. At those prices, the DC S3700 series drives cost $2.35 per gigabyte, which is more than double the price of most high-end consumer-class SSDs. These drives aren’t targeted at the same market though. Take a look as some other enterprise-class SSDs and you’ll see Intel’s DC S3700 is priced very competitively. In fact, in comparison to other enterprise-class drives like the Intel SSD 710 ($3.84 per GB), the Kingston SSDNow E100 ($4.29 per GB), or the OCZ Talos 2 R ($3.99 per GB), the Intel DC SC3700 is downright cheap.

We obviously can’t speak to the long-terms reliability of the Intel DC S3700, but Intel’s track record in the enterprise SSD market is excellent. These new drives stick with proven, mature 25nm HET-MLC NAND, they offer consistently strong performance, and their endurance rating is comfortably high at 10 full-drive writes per day for 5 years. Consider the Intel DC S3700’s overall performance profile, feature set, a 5-year warranty and competitive pricing, and Intel’s got another strong enterprise-class SSD in their product portfolio.

  • 5-Year Warranty
  • Consistent Performance
  • Competitive Pricing
  • High Endurance Rating
  • Relatively Expensive
  • Sequential Transfers Trail many other SSDs.



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