Conclusion

The Crucial P1 SSD doesn't leave us particularly excited about the near-term prospects for QLC NAND in the consumer SSD market. The P1 is a decent entry-level NVMe SSD for less intensive workloads, but the wide gap between its best and its worst performance means the P1 comes with more caveats than most of its competition.

The Crucial P1 relies very heavily on its SLC cache to provide high performance, and that cache shrinks as the drive fills up. When the drive is full, a very write-heavy workload can overflow the cache and severely impact write speeds and even read performance to some extent. However when the drive isn't close to full, it is nearly impossible to fill the SLC cache with a realistic workload, and the Crucial P1 performs at least as well as any other entry-level NVMe drive, and sometimes rivals high-end NVMe drives. Compared to the Intel 660p, the SLC cache on the Crucial P1 seems to be more write-oriented and is not as good at accelerating read operations. It seems like the P1 may be a bit quicker to evict data from the cache and compact it into QLC blocks.

Overall the Crucial P1 is primarily aimed at consumer machines, and that definitely seems like the segment it's best suited for. A typical consumer use case would involve most of the large data on the drive coming from things like movies and video games that are rarely modified, as opposed to workstation workloads that generate massive files that constantly change. This is helpful to the P1 because it reduces the actual amount of writing the drive needs to do, though it does mean that the drive's variable-size SLC cache could end up quite small. On balance, even that small cache should be adequate given the limited amount of data that does change with most consumer workloads; though to be sure, overflowing the SLC cache is something that would be far more noticeable on the P1 than most TLC-based SSDs. But it is still not something that will happen to most consumers often enough to worry about.

That leaves the Crucial P1 as usually being very fast, and definitely faster overall than any SATA SSD. The use of QLC NAND doesn't cripple the drive, and is a detail that most consumers don't have to care about. Even at its worst, the P1 is still faster and more efficient than a mechanical hard drive. NVMe SSDs should aspire to more than that, but this will probably be true even of QLC SATA drives as long as they also avoid the low capacity points where high performance is impossible.

NVMe SSD Price Comparison
  240-280GB 480-512GB 960GB-1TB 2TB
Crucial P1   $109.99 (22¢/GB) $219.99 (22¢/GB) Coming Soon
Intel 660p   $99.99 (20¢/GB) $189.99 (19¢/GB) $349.99 (17¢/GB)
MyDigitalSSD SBX $54.99 (21¢/GB) $94.99 (19¢/GB) $219.99 (21¢/GB)  
Kingston A1000 $56.99 (24¢/GB) $97.99 (20¢/GB) $219.99 (23¢/GB)  
MyDigitalSSD BPX Pro $74.99 (31¢/GB) $129.99 (27¢/GB) $259.99 (27¢/GB) $519.99 (27¢/GB)
ADATA XPG SX8200 $62.99 (26¢/GB) $107.99 (22¢/GB) $214.99 (22¢/GB)  
HP EX920 $73.99 (29¢/GB) $119.99 (23¢/GB) $199.99 (20¢/GB)  
WD Black (2018) $85.99 (34¢/GB) $138.46 (28¢/GB) $259.75 (26¢/GB)  
Samsung 970 EVO $87.90 (35¢/GB) $147.99 (30¢/GB) $227.99 (23¢/GB) $577.95 (29¢/GB)
SATA Drives:        
Crucial MX500 $52.99 (21¢/GB) $84.95 (17¢/GB) $154.99 (15¢/GB) $328.99 (16¢/GB)
Samsung 860 EVO $57.99 (23¢/GB) $82.99 (17¢/GB) $162.99 (16¢/GB) $347.99 (17¢/GB)

The downsides of QLC NAND are pretty easy to accept if they come with a significant price cut, but that is not yet the case for the Crucial P1 or the Intel SSD 660p. The Crucial P1 is 22 cents per GB and the Intel 660p is 19 cents per GB, so Micron obviously needs to drop their prices at least a little bit to be at all competitive. Meanwhile, mainstream SATA SSDs are about 16–17 cents per GB for 512GB and larger capacities, and there are some high-performance TLC-based NVMe SSDs in the 20-22 cents per GB range.

Ultimately if you are going to pay extra for a NVMe SSD instead of a SATA drive, at current prices there are far more compelling options than the Crucial P1 and Intel 660p. We're accustomed to seeing entry-level NVMe SSDs get undercut by more popular high-performance drives as prices in general trend downward, and the two QLC drives we have so far on the consumer market are continuing that pattern. When QLC comes to the SATA SSD market, prices will need to be at or below 13 cents per GB to avoid repeating this problem.

Power Management
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  • Marlin1975 - Thursday, November 8, 2018 - link

    " The company's first attempt at an NVMe drive was ready to hit the market but was canceled when it became clear that it would not have been competitive."

    Looking at this one maybe it should follow the same fate. Or the price should be much lower.
    Reply
  • StrangerGuy - Thursday, November 8, 2018 - link

    The MSRP for the 1TB is a completely non starter when the excellent EX920 1TB already hit $170, but if the actual price drops to $120 it's definitely appealing especially for a low write count usage like a Steam install drive. Reply
  • FullmetalTitan - Thursday, November 8, 2018 - link

    The 970 EVO 1TB NVMe was just on sale for $228 on most retail sites in the US. At the same cost/GB and significantly better performance, it isn't even a question what to buy currently. Reply
  • menting - Thursday, November 8, 2018 - link

    comparing sale price vs retail price is pretty meaningless. Reply
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, November 8, 2018 - link

    Given how flash memory prices have been dropping, today's sale price is next month's everyday retail price. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, November 9, 2018 - link

    Just saw the 970 EVO 1TB is $219 at Microcenter. Unless it gets a $50+ price cut immediately, the P1 is DOA. Reply
  • tokyojerry - Friday, April 19, 2019 - link

    Currently $128 at Amazon. As of 4/19/2019 3:14:42 PM Reply
  • 0ldman79 - Monday, November 12, 2018 - link

    I just paid $139 for a WD Blue 1TB 3D m.2 a couple of days ago. Haven't even beaten on it thoroughly.

    In quick testing (video encoding) during the decompress it will sustain 300MBps for a while, not sure if I'm hitting a drive limit, IO limit or CPU limit shortly there after. The program starts a few other processes, so I'm thinking CPU.
    Reply
  • III-V - Thursday, November 8, 2018 - link

    They are supposedly having yield issues. If they resolve those, there is plenty of room for cost to come down. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Thursday, November 8, 2018 - link

    Look at what happens with DRAM every time. DDR2 comes out and DDR1 becomes more expensive. Rinse repeat.

    QLC may lead to higher TLC prices, if TLC volume goes down and/or gets positioned as a more premium product as manufacturers try to sell us QLC.
    Reply

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