Intel SSD DC P3520 Series NVMe PCIe Enterprise Solid State Drive Review

The Intel SSD DC P3520 Series

A few months back, Intel updated its enterprise-class solid state storage line-up with a new series of NVMe-based drives – the DC P3520 series -- featuring IMFT 3D MLC NAND flash memory. Like some of its other high-end offerings, the drives featured Intel’s native NVMe PCI Express controller, but the use of more affordable 3D MLC NAND allowed Intel to reduce costs, while keeping endurance relatively high.

Since some of the first consumer-class solid state drives hit the scene, Intel has been known to push the envelope in the space, and ultimately drive prices down. Intel did it somewhat recently with the SSD 750 series for desktops, which made high-speed NVMe PCIe storage much more attainable for the average enthusiast. And now with the Intel SSD DC P3520, the company is doing something similar in the enterprise storage space. To date, many top-flight enterprise solid state drives have commanded prices many time those of slower SATA-based offerings. But drives in the Intel SSD DC P3520 series can be had for right around $.50 per gigabyte. Take a look at the specs and then we’ll dig in a bit deeper on the pages ahead...

intel dc p3520 3
Intel SSD DC P3520 Series
Specifications & Features
Capacities 450GB, 1.6TB, 2TB
Lithography Type 3D NAND G1 MLC
Sequential Read (up to) 1700 MB/s
Sequential Write (up to) 1350 MB/s
Random Read (100% Span) 375000 IOPS
Random Write (100% Span) 26000 IOPS
Latency - Read 20 µs
Latency - Write 20 µs
Power - Active Avg. 12W (Write), 10W (Read)
Power - Idle 4W
Vibration - Operating 2.17 GRMS
Vibration - Non-Operating 3.13 GRMS
Shock (Operating and Non-Operating) 1000 G/0.5msec
Operating Temperature Range 0°C to 55°C
Endurance Rating (Lifetime Writes) 2490 TBW
Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) 2 million hours
Uncorrectable Bit Error Rate (UBER) 1 sector per 10^17 bits read
Warranty Period 5 yrs
Weight Up to 190gm
Form Factor HHHL (CEM2.0)
Interface PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4
Enhanced Power Loss Data Protection Yes
Hardware Encryption AES 256 bit
–High Endurance Technology (HET)  No
Temperature Monitoring and Logging Yes
End-to-End Data Protection Yes

Intel has three different SSD DC P3520 series capacities in its line-up, using two different form factors, with varying performance levels and endurance ratings. The drives are offered in 480GB, 1.2TB, and 2TB capacities, in both 2.5” U.2 and PCIe 3 x4 Half-Height / Half-Length form factors.

The particular drive we’ll be showing you here is a 2TB PCIe model. It features Intel’s tried-and-true 18-channel NVMe controller and IMFT 3D MLC NAND flash memory. The drive is outfitted with a PCIe x4 electrical interface (max bandwidth up to 4GB/s) and it has a half-height add-in-card form factor.

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This 2TB drive is outfitted with 36 NAND packages (18 front, 18 rear), along with some DRAM cache. There are also an array capacitors on the PCB, which provide power-loss protection. The Intel SSD DC P3520 is outfitted with a large heatsink that covers the controller and all of the front-mounted NAND, but we found it only got slightly warm to the touch, even after hours of testing (we test inside and enclosure, with active cooling). Unlike some previous PCIe-based SSDs we’ve looked at, which required a robust cooling solution, the Intel SSD DC P3520 should be fine as long as there is moderate air-flow through the system, which should not be an issue with the enterprise systems targeted by this drive.

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Though modern operating systems have support for NVMe now, to achieve peak performance, you’ll want to install drivers for the P3520. As you’d expect, the Intel SSD DC P3520 has full support for TRIM and idle garbage collection, but it also offers full AES 256-bit hardware encryption, Temperature Monitoring and Logging, End-to-End Data Protection, and other enterprise-class features.

Sequential Read
(up to MB/s)
Sequential Write
(up to MB/s)
Random Read
(up to IOPS) 
Random Write
(up to IOPS)
Form Factor
450 GB 1,200 600 145,000 19,000 U.2 2.5" and PCIe 3 x4 AIC (HHHL)
1.2 TB 1,700 1,300 320,000 26,000 U.2 2.5" and PCIe 3 x4 AIC (HHHL)
2 TB 1,700 1,350 375,000 26,000 U.2 2.5" and PCIe 3 x4 AIC (HHHL)

As the table above shows, performance differs somewhat from capacity to capacity due to the different NAND configurations on the drive. The 2TB drive we have here offers sequential reads of up to 1.7GB/s, with sequential writes of 1.35GB/s. Random read and write IOPs are 375K and 260K respectively, and average power while active hovers in the 10-12W range. The particular 2TB model shown here also has a 2,490 TBW (terrabytes written) endurance rating, which is nice and high considering the relatively affordable nature of the drive.

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