I’ve just become the proud daddy to a Huawei Matebook X Pro this week. I got an astonishingly good deal on an ‘open box’ return, plus with Huawei’s latest slammings by the US and EU governments, the price was super duper cheap.

The laptop itself is decent – maybe I’ll do a full review on it, but there are already so many good/honest reviews and videos out there that it doesn’t really make sense.

Anyway, upgrading the storage. I’m a data whore, and while I make heavy use of cloud storage technologies, my ‘must have to hand’ data now spans over 1TB. Obviously, the 256GB SSD that Huawei ships just wouldn’t scratch the surface, so I purchased and fitted an Intel 660p Series 2TB SSD.

The Intel 660p Series of SSDs are their budget-friendly range, and are by far the best price/GB compared to other manufacturers in the NVMe M.2 SSD sector. The 660p Series use QLC (Quad-Level Cell) technology to achieve the super cheap price, which basically means they store 4 bits of data per cell rather than other flash tech that uses 3, 2 or 1 bits per cell. Note that the more bits per cell, the slower the speed, and the lower the endurance level (aka faster it fails under heavy use).

Given the price of just under £200 delivered, I wasn’t expecting earth-shattering performance out of this SSD, though Intel do hint 1.8GB/s maximum speeds on their marketing. And sure, in some benchmarking apps like CrystalDiskMark and ATTO, I got very close. But real-world performance — well, take a look:

Intel SSD 660p 2TB performance tanks badly due to thermal throttling

What’s going on here then? I’m copying a 400GB chunk of data from a Dropbox folder to a non-Dropbox folder on the same SSD partition. But instead of copying at 1.8GB/s (800MB/s read, 800MB/s write) or close to that, I’m getting a measly 300MB/s on average.

Unfortunately, one major flaw of QLC is that it operates about 30% hotter than TLC, which means my should-be super duper fast NVMe SSD is getting too hot, thermal throttling its speed down, and operating slower than an older SATA SSD. We can even see the saw-tooth transfer speed dancing up and down as the SSD teeters above and below the 70C mark, slowing its transfer trying to keep cool.

Would I have bought the Intel 660p Series 2TB SSD knowing that it suffers from major thermal problems? Probably, yes. But I’d like to have at least seen somebody warn me about this before buying it first. Alas, here is this post, hopefully to warn a potential buyer.


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