Crucial's First NVMe SSD: P1 M.2 With QLC NANDby Billy Tallis on October 16, 2018 12:00 PM EST
Micron's consumer-oriented Crucial brand is finally entering the world of NVMe SSDs with the new Crucial P1 M.2 SSD. The P1 is an entry-level NVMe drive using four bit per cell (QLC) NAND flash memory and the Silicon Motion SM2263 controller. This is the same basic formula as used in the Intel 660p, the only other consumer QLC drive on the market so far. Micron has brought their own firmware customizations, so while the performance characteristics are similar to the Intel 660p they are definitely not the same drive. The Crucial P1 has slightly lower usable capacities than the Intel 660p, which translates into slightly more spare area available for garbage collection and SLC caching. Unlike the Intel 660p, the Crucial P1 uses the same 1GB DRAM per 1TB NAND ratio as most MLC and TLC SSDs.
|Crucial P1 SSD Specifications|
|Capacity||500 GB||1 TB||2 TB|
|Form Factor||single-sided M.2 2280||double-sided M.2 2280|
|Interface||NVMe 1.3 PCIe 3.0 x4|
|Controller||Silicon Motion SM2263|
|NAND Flash||Micron 64L 3D QLC NAND|
|DRAM||512MB DDR3||1GB DDR3||2GB DDR4|
|Sequential Read||1900 MB/s||2000 MB/s||2000 MB/s|
|Sequential Write||950 MB/s||1700 MB/s||1750 MB/s|
|Random Read||90k IOPS||170k IOPS||250k IOPS|
|Random Write||220k IOPS||240k IOPS||250k IOPS|
|SLC Write Cache (approximate)||5GB min
|Idle||2mW (PS4), 80mW (PS3)|
|Write Endurance||100 TB
|MSRP||$109.99 (22¢/GB)||$219.99 (22¢/GB)||TBA|
With top sequential speeds of only 2GB/s, the Crucial P1 doesn't really need all four PCIe lanes, but Silicon Motion's entry-level SM2263 controller still has four instead of the two that some other low-end NVMe controllers use. Given the use of QLC NAND, the P1's SLC cache is far more important than it is on drives with TLC NAND. Micron has taken a similar approach to what Intel did with the 660p by making the SLC cache not just a write buffer but a full-time dynamically sized read and write cache. All data written to the Crucial P1 hits the SLC cache first, and is compacted into QLC blocks only when the drive's free space starts running low. This means that a mostly-empty drive will be using tens or hundreds of GB of SLC, but as it fills up the cache will shrink down to just 5-24GB depending on the model. All of Crucial's official performance specifications are for the SLC cache.
As with the Crucial MX series of SATA SSDs, the Crucial P1 features a greater degree of power loss protection than typical consumer SSDs, though not the fully capacitor-backed protection that most enterprise SSDs feature. With the MX500, Crucial had already substantially reduced the number of capacitors required for their partial power loss protection thanks in part to a reduction in write power requirements for their 64-layer 3D NAND. The P1 gains additional data security from its SLC-first write policy, which eliminates the partially-programmed page risk. However, there is still a tiny bit of used data buffered in volatile RAM, on the order of a few MB at the most.
The rated write endurance of 0.1 drive writes per day is low even for an entry-level consumer SSD, but given the large drive capacities it is adequate. The P1 is definitely not intended to be the workhorse of an enthusiast system with a write-heavy workload, but for more typical read-oriented workloads it offers better performance than SATA SSDs.
The initial MSRPs for the Crucial P1 are unimpressive: it's substantially more expensive than the Intel 660p, and about matches some of the most affordable high-end NVMe drives like the HP EX920 and ADATA SX8200. If Micron can catch up to Intel's pricing and compete for the lowest $/GB among all NVMe SSDs then the Crucial P1 has a shot at success.
The 2TB model will be launching slightly later due to using DDR4 DRAM instead of the DDR3 used by the 500GB and 1TB models. We are testing the 1TB Crucial P1, with some results already in our Bench database. Look for our full review next week.
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PeachNCream - Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - linkNot buying it probably won't be an option soon enough. Just like we're largely stuck with TLC (which we all generally can agree is abysmal when it comes to endurance) currently, if there isn't a way forward out of NAND, we are going to end up with widespread consumer QLC and that is a future I don't relish. Optane/Xpoint might be a viable alternative, but cold retention of ~3 months is a hard sell. There are no options for a durable and fast storage option for client systems these days. You either get high durability and the long retention of a mechanical drive at the cost of poor shock resistance and slow performance or you flip for speed and shock resistance while losing durability and retention. Sure, you can and should be looking at multiple storage solutions to suit each need, but then you wind up with multiple tiers of said storage that add a layer of complexity in the name of compensating for the individual shortcomings of mechanical drives, NAND, and now Xpoint. All of it has a very cobbled together feel.
WithoutWeakness - Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - linkThere will continue to be a market for fast, high-endurance NAND-based SSDs for years and 3D MLC like the 970 Pro will likely continue to fill that need in the consumer space. However there's a reason so few drives use it. TLC and QLC exist because most people don't *need* extreme high-speed and high-endurance storage. They just want to replace slow, bulky, and loud mechanical hard drives with solid state storage and high bit-per-cell NAND is the best available solution. QLC will be a major factor for cheap SSD storage and will open the door to 4TB+ SSDs at less than 20c per GB but it comes with tradeoffs. The need for extreme high-endurance storage in the client space is dwindling as storage continues to get cheaper and computers are treated like commodity items and are completely replaced every few years instead of being upgraded to extend their lifespan.
saratoga4 - Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - link> Just like we're largely stuck with TLC (which we all generally can agree is abysmal when it comes to endurance)
We aren't stuck with TLC, you can still buy MLC drives, they just don't make a lot of sense since TLC endurance is already more than sufficient for most people. Not really seeing what the problem is here? Buy what you need, don't complain when other people do the same.
chrcoluk - Wednesday, September 25, 2019 - linkQLC is only 33% cheaper to produce than TLC tho and thats assuming it has as good yields. Any bigger price differentials will be for other reasons (such as profit margins). So e.g. TLC is 50% cheaper than MLC to produce yet samsung TLC drives are almost half price of their MLC drives, so that doubling price has some artificial inflation for the premium'ness of the PRO models.
The 860 QVO actually was same price as the EVO on launch LOL.
nathanddrews - Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - linkIf the price is right, this would be perfect for a Steam/GOG drive.
Kamgusta - Friday, October 19, 2018 - linkFor STEAM/GOG I am using a 50$ 1TB 2,5" SATA mechanical drive. I would not replace it with this P.1 by any means: 5x price increase, 3x power consumption increase, 0% performance increase.
PaoDeTech - Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - linkIf the price is right... Today on Amazon: MX500 1TB SATA M.2 is $160 (basically the SATA M.2 consumer value leader), this one (P1 1TB 3D NAND NVMe PCIe M.2) is $220 (the PCIe M.2 consumer value leader?). Samsung 970 EVO 1TB is $277. Obviously I would't use it for OLTP.
hojnikb - Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - linkThats just not true. There was never a consumer NAND rated for million p/e. The most we got was a 100k SLC around the 50nm node. Obviously you could find some enterprise solutions for more, but that was pretty niche. When SSD really took off, we were already at MLC with around 3-5k p/e which was perfectly usable. Even todays NAND with ~1k p/e or so is more than enough for typical client workloads.
PeachNCream - Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - linkYou are correct that there wasn't a consumer product with that sort of endurance. They were the domain of flash found on devices like thin clients (which were fun to modify into desktop PCs). Regardless of the consumer availability, the fact that NAND hasn't got legs to go further and the writing has been on the wall for as long as we've had MLC makes it a confusing fact that we currently lack a sufficiently durable, cost-effective replacement. We've had years to solve the problem so even though it is a non-trivial task, wringing NAND with QLC as state-of-the-art is a poor example of how far we've fallen.
Flying Aardvark - Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - linkYup. I only buy MLC drives. Using a 960 Pro 1TB at this time. Still have my old Intel X25-M 160GB drive in use too after all these years. It's worth the money to me, to have something that can last a while and be reliable without fiddling. Replacing stuff, worrying, all is worth money. Not always about performance/$ (the last metric I actually look at, as I prefer this wholistic view on buying).