While today's Intel event was mostly focused on the announcement of their Optane DIMMs, they have also provided updates on their plans for using their new QLC NAND flash memory. Intel and Micron jointly announced their 64-layer 4 bit per cell (QLC) 3D NAND flash memory earlier this month, but at that time only Micron announced a specific product: the 5210 ION enterprise SATA SSD. Intel still hasn't officially launched any QLC-based SSDs, but they have now confirmed two different QLC SSDs in development.

For the client market, Intel will introduce a QLC-based SSD in the second half of this year. While still officially unnamed, we expect this to be the Intel SSD 660p that has shown up on several leaked roadmaps and a few unofficial online retailer product listings. Those leaks point to a low-end M.2 SSD with a PCIe x2 interface and capacities up to 2TB.

On the enterprise side, Intel has put up to 20TB of QLC NAND into a 2.5-inch drive. During today's discussions about Optane at Intel HQ, one of Intel's partners accidentally disclosed that they were working with 20 TB sized QLC drives in a 2.5-inch form factor - this is most likely a 15mm thick U.2 NVMe SSD. That would be positioned below the Intel SSD DC P4510 TLC-based SSD family that currently offers up to 8TB in a 2.5" 15mm U.2 form factor. Intel is currently sampling enterprise QLC drives to select cloud service providers and OEMs, and production availability is planned for the second half of this year. It is not confirmed whether the 20TB capacity will be available for that initial launch, but it seems likely. Even higher capacities may be available in Intel's Ruler form factor.

At the event, Intel was presenting with a laptop using a QLC, so there are engineering samples around. We were unable to determine if this was a 2.5-inch drive or an M.2 drive.

Intel is currently manufacturing all of their 3D NAND at Fab 68 in Dalian, China. A major expansion to this fab is coming online soon that will increase its capacity by 75%. The joint Intel/Micron Fab 2 in Utah is no longer producing 3D NAND and has been converted entirely to producing 3D XPoint memory. With Intel and Micron's NAND flash partnership coming to an end as Micron prepares to switch to a charge-trap memory cell design after the 96-layer generation, the IM Flash Technologies joint venture could use a renaming to reflect its 3D XPoint future.

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  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - link

    If a motherboard has M.2 slots connected by PCIe, it nearly always supports NVME out of the box. And there is also M.2 SATA if you want just the small package. Throttling also only happens after tons of writes (tens to hundreds of gigabytes continuously) and even then it is still faster than SATA speeds, so I don't know why you care about that? That's like asking for a bike because sometimes the car has to slow down when it turns a corner. ;)
    What is your use case for the endurance? I've had my 500GB 840 SSD for 6 years now and have only written 37.8TB to it. It is my main System drive that I try to keep at below 90% full (wear leveling), but I install new games regularly and have probably installed a new version of windows on it on average twice a year, with all programs and drivers needed.
    Considering 1TB SSDs here in Germany are already at or below 200€ and I just bought a 300€ 960Evo 1TB, your issue may just be a weak Canadian Dollar? I've heard some of my youtubers complain about that. I'm looking forward to QLC not in my regular desktop, but to replace my backup / fileserver hard drives. Thought it will take several years before it gets economical enough for that. :D
  • rahvin - Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - link

    M.2 doesn't guarantee NVME or PCIe unfortunately. There are still a large number of M.2 slots that are wired for SATA operation and that doesn't even count the difference on NVME between 2 lane and 4 lane drive operation. You have to be a very careful purchaser these days or you won't get what you thought you bought.
  • frenchy_2001 - Thursday, May 31, 2018 - link

    Honestly, for most consumers, the difference is academic.
    The speed difference between SATA and NVMe SSds is negligeable compared to HDD to SSD.
    Most consumers couldn't tell the difference in usage.
    (you need stressful scenarios, like database or multiple video stream access to see the difference)
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, May 31, 2018 - link

    I never said that M.2 = NVMe / PCIe, please read my post very carefully. :) Unless you show me cases where M.2 slots connected by PCIe do not support NVME, then you'd have a point (which is different from the point you made here). :P
  • frenchy_2001 - Thursday, May 31, 2018 - link

    Have you looked at the micron 1100 SSD?
    2TB for ~300$ lately, a bit less when on sale.
    Should fit most of your needs for a while.
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, May 31, 2018 - link

    They are very well priced, indeed! I nearly would have bought one for 330€ 2TB version a while ago, but I wanted to go cable less for the next build because I'm a snob who like tidy small cases. :D Paid 300€ for a 1TB 960 Evo M.2 as my System / Steam drive. And will get a 1TB M.2 SATA (Crucial MX500 are well priced) or PCIe (Kingston A1000 for cheap x2 NVME) for my regular data stuff (pictures, current shows I watch, programs and documents, music, books etc. rest is on my file server). :D Currently running a 500GB 840 Samsung (original TLC baby!) and a 750 GB 2.5" Toshiba drive I pulled from an external enclosure.
  • iwod - Friday, June 1, 2018 - link

    The future Intel and Micron wants, QLC NAND, may be even 200 Layers plus, to replace HDD. And HDD replaces Tapes. Optane / Xpoint to replace SSD.

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