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First Look: Intel 545S SSDs

The new Intel 545S SSD has landed with a $179 price point for the 512GB model. Remember the dark days of early 2015? So long ago, well before the glorious NVMe Intel 750 SSDs arrived with bonkers performance. Back then, the SSD manufacturers were bragging about 5Mbps transfer gains and RAID SSD performance.

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NVMe drives (on PCIe lanes) changed all that. We’re talking over 2000Mbps transfer rates with SSDs the size of Wrigley’s gum.

And soon, Intel Optane SSDs will come with even crazier specs.

But the truth is the average user doesn’t need SSD transfer speeds fast enough to launch Marty McFly back in time. Rather, normal SSDs are the ticket for the vast majority of users. Which brings us to the Intel 545 SSD.

What’s up with the new 545? We take a look. And check out our build with Intel 545 and NZXT Manta here

64 LAYER 3D NAND

So what does this 64 layer thing mean? Really, it’s about stacking layers on layers. Now up to 64 layers. This means smaller, faster drives with lower cost. Since the material used is smaller, that means smaller drives.

The 64 layer limit has been something of a race between the SSD manufacturers. Intel is the first to launch the 64 layer goodness. 

BRINGING IT IN HOUSE

For Intel’s past SSDs, Intel worked with Hynix who provided the flash. These days, Intel has partnered with Micron to develop and manufacture SSD tech like the 64 layer NAND as well as the upcoming Optane XPoint (pronounced cross point).

While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it means Intel can move vastly faster to bring tech to market.

For the consumer, the hope is the direct manufacturing allows even lower priced SSDs.

PERFORMANCE SATURATION

Now, we typically talk SSD performance when it comes to NVMe SSDs -- that’s where the fun is at.

But when it comes to SATA drives, the SSD is limited by the SATA III interface. Meaning, the best an SSD can do is saturate that SATA cable to the max.

While we haven’t benchmarked the SSD, Intel is confident the 545 will max out all tests. And it should -- many drives, including Intel’s other drives, can hit the full performance numbers.

The real story here then comes down to the whole package -- performance, price, reliability.

RELIABILITY

If you’ve followed the SSD drama of recent years (and, come on, who hasn’t), you’ll be aware that reliability is a hot topic. SSDs will, eventually, degrade over time.

On the enterprise side, Intel promises specific read/writes before the SSD goes into safety mode and prevents any additional writes to protect your data (reads are allowed -- gotta get that info somehow).

These hard limits are critical on the enterprise market because data integrity is kinda important.

On the consumer side, Intel isn’t quite as extreme, listing the “endurance” as 288TB with a 5 year warranty.

OVERALL

Intel isn’t doing anything crazy like their Optane drives or the NVMe 750 series. Instead, the 545 is the “do everything” budget SSD. For a normal consumer, Intel is betting the 5 year warranty, $179 price point and full SATA saturation will be appealing. Since the 545 is one of the cheapest 512GB models on the market, it seems like they’re spot on.

In the future, the 2.5” model will arrive in up to 2TB versions while the m.2 model will offer up to 1TB of storage (and on one side, not a double sided m.2 drive).

Additionally, the 64 layer 3D NAND will eventually replace the 32 layer NAND found on the Intel 600p and other NVMe SSDs.