Monday, February 10th 2020

Intel Builds 10 million QLC 3D NAND Solid-State Drives

Last week, Intel's memory and storage group produced Intel QLC 3D NAND solid-state drive (SSD) number 10 million based upon the QLC NAND die built in Dalian, China. Production began in late 2018, and this milestone establishes QLC (quadruple-level cell memory) as a mainstream technology for high-capacity drives.

"Many have talked about QLC technology, but Intel has shipped it, and at scale," said Dave Lundell, director of Client SSD Strategic Planning and Product Marketing at Intel. "We have seen strong demand for the cost-effective capacity of our standalone QLC SSD (Intel SSD 660p) and the performance of our Intel Optane Technology + QLC solution (Intel Optane Memory H10)."
Here are a few quick facts related to the achievement:
  • Intel QLC 3D NAND is used in the Intel SSD 660p, Intel SSD 665p and Intel Optane Memory H10 storage solutions.
  • Intel's QLC drive has 4 bits per cell and stores data in both 64-layer and 96-layer NAND configurations.
  • Intel has been developing this technology over the past decade. In 2016, Intel engineers changed the orientation of the already-proven floating gate (FG) technology to vertical and wrapped it into a gate all-around structure. The resulting 3D tri-cell level (TLC) technology could store 384 Gb/die. In 2018, 3D QLC flash became a reality, featuring 64 layers with four bits per cell, capable of storing a 1,024 Gb/die. In 2019 Intel moved to 96 layers, reducing overall areal density.
  • QLC is now part of Intel's overall storage portfolio, which includes both client and data center products.
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22 Comments on Intel Builds 10 million QLC 3D NAND Solid-State Drives

#1
E-Bear
Does it mean that the price will be better with this flooding of the market?
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#2
timta2
E-Bear
Does it mean that the price will be better with this flooding of the market?
Have you not been paying attention to SSD pricing over the last several years?
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#3
Dave65
E-Bear
Does it mean that the price will be better with this flooding of the market?
Prices have never been lower, although they have inched up a bit in the last few months.
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#4
R0H1T
E-Bear
Does it mean that the price will be better with this flooding of the market?
It largely depends on the demand, which has been soaring btw & won't abate anytime soon.
Dave65
Prices have never been lower, although they have inched up a bit in the last few months.
Likely a seasonal blip, even in this part of the world I've seen prices dip below last year's festive season (Oct-Nov) which rarely happens btw NVMe drives aren't getting as cheap as they could rather should be.
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#5
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
I guess most of Intel's sales are coming from OEMs (notebooks).
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#6
dj-electric
Intel builds 10 million Micron products...
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#7
NC37
Dave65
Prices have never been lower, although they have inched up a bit in the last few months.
And only going to get higher with the PS5/etc when those launch.
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#8
Chrispy_
With SLC-mode cache, whether a drive is 3, 4, 5, or 6 bits per cell will become irrelevant until we reach a point where endurance is so bad that drives fail within a reasonable timeframe.

The old TechReport SSD endurance experiment proved that older drives had two orders of magnitude more endurance than any consumer will ever need. QLC endurance diminished that endurance by an order of magnitude, and the passage of time has increased the endurance that your average consumer requires.

At some point - perhaps 5 bits per cell or even lower-grade QLC, we're going to see drives that last barely long enough for a typical consumer build's lifetime.
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#9
bonehead123
oK, so what do they (intel) want now, a pat on the back for reaching this milestone ?

Seems like a moderate accomplishment , considering their size, revenue & influence...

If this translates into lower prices, greater availability, and more innovation in the flash space, then I'm all for that, but if not, it just seems like grandstanding to me :)
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#10
kapone32
Well in my opinion they hit this mark because of how the 600 series is priced and perceived. For months the 660P 2TB was the cheapest NAND based drive you could buy at that capacity. For me there is also the satisfaction equation that Intel scores high with not just the packaging but also the software you can use. In terms of perception the Intel 600 series is the most polarized NVME drive. As a few others have noted NVME prices have been on the rise as well in the last few months. I don't think this will influence lower future pricing as the 665P is more expensive than the 660P even though it uses 96 layer Nand.
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#11
Renald
Chrispy_
With SLC-mode cache, whether a drive is 3, 4, 5, or 6 bits per cell will become irrelevant until we reach a point where endurance is so bad that drives fail within a reasonable timeframe.

The old TechReport SSD endurance experiment proved that older drives had two orders of magnitude more endurance than any consumer will ever need. QLC endurance diminished that endurance by an order of magnitude, and the passage of time has increased the endurance that your average consumer requires.

At some point - perhaps 5 bits per cell or even lower-grade QLC, we're going to see drives that last barely long enough for a typical consumer build's lifetime.
Thing that you don't mention is the heat problem. With QLC, you easily reach 110°C without a heatsink. While most of TLC cap out at 90°C if I remember well.
Next step is a fan on it ? :D

TPU made the test, it's horrifying how it can heat so much so fast. They made a test with a 120mm fan on most of them just out of curiosity.
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#12
kapone32
Renald
Thing that you don't mention is the heat problem. With QLC, you easily reach 110°C without a heatsink. While most of TLC cap out at 90°C if I remember well.
Next step is a fan on it ? :D

TPU made the test, it's horrifying how it can heat so much so fast. They made a test with a 120mm fan on most of them just out of curiosity.
I have never seen any of my 660Ps hit that temp. Do you have examples?
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#13
lexluthermiester
I've been testing QLC based drives. Out of the 10 purchased, 2 have already failed. The first failed completely(no power up), the second began to develop bad sectors within a month of testing. The rest are still going, but z-sector usage is close to maxing out in the rest. This is two months of testing. And their slow as molasses. Mechanical HDD's are actually faster once the QLC drives get beyond the write buffer.

Unless someone comes up with a breakthrough in W/E cycle durability, QLC is unacceptably fragile.
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#14
QUANTUMPHYSICS
timta2
Have you not been paying attention to SSD pricing over the last several years?
Pricing on SSD is still around $100 per Terabyte and I've seen no decline in the past few months.
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#15
Flyordie
My issue with Intel is the way they brick. One major failure and the drive goes into Read Only mode... once. After that, poof. Data gone. Drive self destructs.

Its why I went with the SX8200 480GB model. USA made Micron flash on it. Fast too when hooked to the NVMe slot going straight to the CPU. (TR ftw) Not a bad deal for I believe it was $54.99?
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#16
HugsNotDrugs
I was never a big fan of QLC, but I found the 660p to be a compelling drive for the price.

I use a 1TB 660p in my mission-critical office computer. Of that, usage hovers around 100GB which remains in that sweet SLC territory.

My only complaint is that I'd rather be able to set it to 750GB of capacity and force TLC.
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#17
lexluthermiester
HugsNotDrugs
My only complaint is that I'd rather be able to set it to 750GB of capacity and force TLC.
That wouldn't work. The controller would still cycle through the voltage phases to rewrite data. Durability would not change.
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#18
bonehead123
Well, IMHO, if these drives are the best they can come up with, then they can K.M.A...

I've been saying that they are low-end drives for a while now, again especially considering their available resources, volume, and market cap...

There are soooo many far better performing drives with less issues than theirs, so those mfgr's will get my drive money way, way before Intel ever will...
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#19
Franzen4Real
I bought my 1TB 600p for $84.00, exclusively for game installs. Performs great for that use case.
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#20
kapone32
bonehead123
Well, IMHO, if these drives are the best they can come up with, then they can K.M.A...

I've been saying that they are low-end drives for a while now, again especially considering their available resources, volume, and market cap...

There are soooo many far better performing drives with less issues than theirs, so those mfgr's will get my drive money way, way before Intel ever will...
Interesting. I have Intel 660P and Adata Sx8200. Out of the 2 I would always pick the 660P as my Adata SX8200 2TB pro just gave up the ghost. I have owned it for exactly 3 months and it is not the first Adata drive to do that. Not only that but Intel sells more than this, the 760P is the big brother and competes with other TLC drives. Intel's Optane are undisputed when it comes to be the fastest drive you can buy. The warranty is also quite nice at 5 years.
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#21
Chrispy_
Renald
Thing that you don't mention is the heat problem. With QLC, you easily reach 110°C without a heatsink. While most of TLC cap out at 90°C if I remember well.
Next step is a fan on it ? :D

TPU made the test, it's horrifying how it can heat so much so fast. They made a test with a 120mm fan on most of them just out of curiosity.
That makes no sense at all; QLC drives have lower power consumption.

The Intel 660p, for example, has a peak consumption of just 4W, that's about 30% less than most other NVMe drives. It's average power consumption is incredibly low at just 2.2W - not something I would associate with 110°C temperatures you're talking about. More importantly, it thermal throttles at 80°C, which means it can't get any hotter than that by itself. If it isn't drawing as much power as other drives, the laws of physics say that it shouldn't get any hotter than other drives (of the same physical size)

If there was a 110°C SSD in my laptop, I think I'd feel that on my leg. Surprisingly, I don't because mine is running at a perfectly normal 67°C at the moment as I throw a 25GB CrystalDiskmark cycle at it for science.

Which TPU test are your referring to with these insane temperature claims - can you link it please?
I searched TPU's review database for "660p" and "QLC" and there aren't any matches.
Posted on Reply
#22
Renald
Chrispy_
That makes no sense at all; QLC drives have lower power consumption.

The Intel 660p, for example, has a peak consumption of just 4W, that's about 30% less than most other NVMe drives. It's average power consumption is incredibly low at just 2.2W - not something I would associate with 110°C temperatures you're talking about. More importantly, it thermal throttles at 80°C, which means it can't get any hotter than that by itself. If it isn't drawing as much power as other drives, the laws of physics say that it shouldn't get any hotter than other drives (of the same physical size)

If there was a 110°C SSD in my laptop, I think I'd feel that on my leg. Surprisingly, I don't because mine is running at a perfectly normal 67°C at the moment as I throw a 25GB CrystalDiskmark cycle at it for science.

Which TPU test are your referring to with these insane temperature claims - can you link it please?
I searched TPU's review database for "660p" and "QLC" and there aren't any matches.
Meh indeed I inverted the two tests in my mind, like Crucial P1 in QLC and any TLC NVMe

The fact is I remembered mainly that :

Heat is not well dissipated in a QLC chip because of the +33% density over the same (nearly) heat generated on a lower surface.
So it can't handle it.

Some are downgrading transfer speed, some are making rollercoasters in transfer rate, but the problem exists IMHO. Surely not as deep as I remembered but still :
https://www.techpowerup.com/review/crucial-p1-nvme-m-2-ssd-1-tb/7.html

With a fan it's working ! (sadly)


Meanwhile TLC can handle higher temperature before throttling :
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