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Hands-on with Intel's 5GBps wonder, the DC P3608 SSD

Gordon Mah Ung | Sept. 24, 2015
You read that right: This SSD pushes 4TB capacity and up to 5GBps read speed.

Credit: Intel

Thought your PCIe SSD was hardcore at 1.5GBps read speeds? Think again.

Intel just dropped a new SSD that it says will hit 5GBps sequential reads and pack up to 4TB in a single PCIe card. In the parlance of our time: Dayum.

The trick Intel did to hit this speed and capacity with its new DC P3608 was basically to take two of its impressive 750 Series drives and double them in the same card.

Each of the drives are then seen by the system as its own device. When combined into a RAID 0 array by Intel’s RSTe, it can hit blazing speeds. The two NVMe SSDs also promise incredibly low latency. Intel said the RSTe driver can intelligently split the load between the two separate controllers to keep latency low even when in RAID mode.

Intel essentially took two of its wickedly fast NVMe 750 series SSDs and put them in RAID 0 on a card.

It’s really for pros

The model number tells you where Intel is primarily targeting the card: at data centers and professional users who need to reduce I/O bottlenecks. Before, Intel said, it might be a struggle to do queries of a database with millions of rows. With the P3608, you can run queries across billions of rows. Yes, with a 'b.' Intel said it also recognized there are gamers and PC enthusiasts who always feel the need for speed. 

The drive comes in three capacities: 1.6TB, 3.2TB and 4TB. Sit down before you read the prices: The 1.6TB drive is $3,509, the 3.2TB costs $7,009, and the 4TB pushes it all the way to $8,759. For comparison, the 1.2TB Intel 750 drive that’s rated at about half the performance of the P3608 is about $1,000.

Each model has its own strength and weakness. The 1.6TB has the highest random read performance and a read speed of 5GBps with writes at 2GBps. The 3.2TB cuts random 8K reads in half and sees rated read performance take a hit, with 4.5GBps reads. Write speed improves to 2.6GBps, though, and you do get more than double the capacity.

The largest 4TB version maintains the 5GBps reads and has almost the same random 8K performance, but it has the highest write performance at 3GBps.

Hands-On with the P3608

Physically the drive isn’t much larger than the original 750-series drive, but the differences are still pretty significant externally. In the photo below, you can see the faster P3608 now uses a x8 PCIe Gen 3 connector, whereas the older 750-series used x4 PCIe Gen 3. That means the P3608 can technically push up to about 6GBps before it hits the limit of the interface. It may sound crazy to you now but you can see that pretty soon, you’ll need to slot your SSD into a full x16 PCIe Gen 3 to get its full performance.


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