The hype surrounding recent 4-bit quad-level cell (QLC) NAND flash memory chip announcements has been that they will lead to bigger capacity and more affordable solid state drives. Intel is already delivering on the latter promise with its new SSD 660p series.
These new drives come in the M.2 form factor and utilize an NVMe interface to shuttle data through the PCI Express bus. They are also the first NVMe drives to use 4-bit QLC memory chips (Samsung will release 2.5-inch SATA drives that use QLC chips later this year).
The reason this matters is because the transition to QLC memory enabled Intel to come out swinging with aggressive pricing—the 1TB model has an MSRP of $199 and the 512GB model is priced at $99. That works out to around 20 cents per gigabyte. There will be a 4TB model at some point as well, though Intel has not yet announced pricing for it.
Save for a spattering of recently discounted 2.5-inch SATA SSD deals, Intel's pricing is around the same, and even cheaper in some cases. For example, Samsung's 860 Evo 1TB sells for $219.99 on Amazon right now.
As to performance, Intel claims its 660p SSDs deliver sequential reads and writes at up to 1,800MB/s (sequential), with 4K random reads and writes checking in at 220,000 IOPS.
Early reviews are fairly positive. HotHardware said the 1TB model "performed well" at low queue depths and "actually finished near the top of the pack in 4K QD1 transfers," while PCWorld praised the drive as the "best of the bargain NVMe SSDs," save for a concerning drop in write speeds in situations most users are not likely to encounter.
Look for the new SSDs to land on store shelves soon. We also plan on evaluating the 660p ourselves to see if it can crack our list of the best SSDs for gaming.