The Connector Formerly Known as SFF-8639 - Now Called U.2

Subject: Storage | June 8, 2015 - 04:04 PM |
Tagged: U.2, ssd, SFF-8639, pcie, NVMe, Intel, computex 2015, computex

Intel has announced that the SSD Form Factor Working Group has finally come up with a name to replace the long winded SFF-8639 label currently applied to 2.5" devices that connect via PCIe.

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As Hardwarezone peeked in the above photo, the SFF-8639 connector will now be called U.2 (spoken 'U dot 2'). This appropriately corresponds with the M.2 connector currently used in portable and small form factor devices today, just with a new letter before the dot.

U.2-M.2.jpg

An M.2 NVMe PCIe device placed on top of a U.2 NVMe PCIe device.

Just as how the M.2 connector can carry SATA and PCIe signaling, the U.2 connector is an extension of the SATA / SAS standard connectors:

Demartek_SFF-8639.png

Not only are there an additional 7 pins between the repurposed SATA data and power pins, there are an additional 40 pins on the back side. These can carry up to PCIe 3.0 x4 to the connected device. Here is what those pins look like on a connector itself:

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Further details about the SFF-8639 / U.2 connector can be seen in the below slide, taken from the P3700 press briefing:

IntelP3700-SFF8639_w_600.png

With throughputs of up to 4 GB/sec and the ability to employ the new low latency NVMe protocol, the U.2 and M.2 standards are expected to quickly overtake the need for SATA Express. An additional look at the U.2 standard (then called SFF-8639), as well as a means of adapting from M.2 to U.2, can be found in our Intel SSD 750 Review.

Source: Hardwarezone
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: SSD 750, pcie, NVMe, IOPS, Intel

It's been a while since we reviewed Intel's SSD 750 PCIe NVMe fire-breathing SSD, and since that launch we more recently had some giveaways and contests. We got the prizes in to be sent out to the winners, but before that happened, we had this stack of hardware sitting here. It just kept staring down at me (literally - this is the view from my chair):

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That stack of 5 Intel SSD 750’s was burning itself into my periphery as I worked on an upcoming review of the new Seiki Pro 40” 4K display. A few feet in the other direction was our CPU testbed machine, an ASUS X99-Deluxe with a 40-lane Intel Core i7-5960 CPU installed. I just couldn't live with myself if we sent these prizes out without properly ‘testing’ them first, so then this happened:

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This will not be a typical complete review, as this much hardware in parallel is not realistically comparable to even the craziest power user setup. It is more just a couple of hours of playing with an insane hardware configuration and exploring the various limits and bottlenecks we were sure to run into. We’ll do a few tests in a some different configurations and let you know what we found out.

Continue reading for the results of our little experiment!

Computex 2015: OCZ Trion and Z-Drive 6000, 6300 SSDs Sighted

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | June 2, 2015 - 11:18 PM |
Tagged: Z-Drive 6300, Z-Drive 6000, Trion, ssd, pcie, OCZ Technology, ocz, NVMe, computex 2015, computex

OCZ is showing off some new goodies at Computex 2015 in the form of a completely new SSD model – the Trion:

Trion Pic.jpg

The Trion is based on an in-house Toshiba ‘Alishan’ controller – the first internal design from that company. Since it is sourced from within Toshiba, the new SSD controller is to be tuned for consumer workloads and should employ lower power states than prior OCZ / Indilinx SSD controllers, as well as Toshiba’s own proprietary QSBC (Quadruple Swing-By Code) error correction technology, which should squeeze a bit more usable life out of the A19nm TLC flash. This is what QSBC looks like compared to competing BCH and LDPC technologies:

QSBC.png

We suspect Toshiba dialed back the algorithm a bit for client usage, but it should still be far superior to BCH. We don’t have many more details as the Trion has not yet been officially launched, but we do have this shot of a round of benchmark results from a pre-production 960GB model:

Trion-2.JPG

From what we can see, it appears to be a good performer (by modern SATA 6Gb/sec SSD standards), but we naturally can't tell anything for sure until we get samples in for local testing, as we have no idea of the state of preconditioning of the Trion in those tests.

Also on display were the recently launched Z-Drive 6000 and 6300 Series parts:

ZDrive6000.jpg

ZDrive 6300 pic1.jpg

These are OCZ’s enterprise-grade NVMe devices, available in 800GB, 1.6TB, and 3.2TB. The 6000 series is a 2.5” 15mm SFF-8639 device aimed at lighter workloads with a rating of 1 Drive Write Per Day (DWPD) over a 5-year period, while the 6300 series brings that figure up to 3 DWPD and offers an HHHL PCIe card as an optional form factor. The higher writes per day are facilitated by the move to A19nm eMLC flash.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on these new developments from OCZ and we are eager to get these in the shop for some thorough testing!

Press blast for the Trion and Z-Drive 6300 Series after the break!

Contest: Win a 400GB Intel 750 Series SSD from Intel and PC Perspective!

Subject: Editorial | May 29, 2015 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: SSD 750, PCI Express, NVMe, Intel, giveaway, contest, 750 series

PC Perspective and Intel are partnering together to offer up a giveaway with some pretty impressive swag. Surely by now you have read all about the new Intel SSD 750 Series of products, a new class of solid state drive that combines four lanes of PCI Express 3.0 and a new protocol called NVM Express (NVMe) for impressive bandwidth throughput. In Allyn's review of the SSD in April he called it "the obvious choice for consumers who demand the most from their storage" and gave it a PC Perspective Editor's Choice Award!

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Thanks to our friends at Intel we are going to be handing out a pair of the 400GB add-in card models to loyal PC Perspective readers and viewers. How can you enter? The rules are dead simple:

  1. Fill out the contest entry form below to find multiple entry methods including reading our review, answering a question about Intel SSD 750 Series specs or following us on Twitter. You can fill out one or all of the methods - the more you do the better your chances!
     
  2. Leave a comment on the news post below thanking Intel for sponsoring PC Perspective and for supplying this hardware for us to give to you!
     
  3. This is a global contest - so feel free to enter from anywhere in the world!
     
  4. Contest will close on June 2nd, 2015.

Win an Intel SSD 750 Series From PC Perspective and Intel!

Our most sincere thanks to Intel for bringing this contest to PC Perspective's readers and fans. Good luck to everyone (except Josh)!

Sponsored by Intel

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Product Specifications

Capacity Seqential 128KB Read (up to MB/s) Sequential 128KB Write (up to MB/s) Random 4KB Read (up to IOPS) Random 4KB Write (up to IOPS) Form Factor Interface
400 GB 2,200 900 430,000 230,000 2.5-inch x 15mm PCI Express Gen3 x4
1.2 TB 2,400 1,200 440,000 290,000 2.5-inch x 15mm PCI Express Gen3 x4
400 GB 2,200 900 430,000 230,000 Half-height half-length (HHHL) Add-in Card PCI Express Gen3 x4
1.2 TB 2,400 1,200 440,000 290,000 Half-heigh half-length (HHHL) Add-in Card PCI Express Gen3 x4

Experience the future of storage performance for desktop client and workstation users with the Intel® SSD 750 Series. The Intel SSD 750 Series delivers uncompromised performance by utilizing NVM Express* over four lanes of PCIe* 3.0.

With both Add-in Card and 2.5-inch form factors, the Intel SSD 750 Series eases migration from SATA to PCIe 3.0 without power or thermal limitations on performance. The SSD can now deliver the ultimate in performance in a variety of system form factors and configurations.

Source: Intel.com

Love the NVMe, shame almost nobody can use it

Subject: Storage | May 20, 2015 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: XP941, SSD 750, ssd, SM951, pcie, NVMe, MZVPV512HDGL, AHCI

For owners of Z97 or X99 boards with updated UEFIs or a rare SFF-8643 connector for the 2.5" version, booting from NVMe is possible, for the rest the Intel SSD 750 will have to be a storage drive.   Al recently looked at this more than impressive PCIe SSD and now [H]ard|OCP has had a bash at it.  The review is certainly worth checking out as some of their tests, especially the real world ones, differ from the benchmarks that Al used.  This will give you more information about how the new SSD will handle your workloads, research worth it if you are thinking of spending $1055 for the 1.2TB model.

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"Intel is set to be the catalyst for a long-awaited leap forward in storage technology with the new SSD 750 bringing NVMe storage to client PCs for the first time, and turning the high end SSD space upside-down. We are expecting blinding IOPs and we dig in to find out what it can mean to the hardware enthusiast."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Don't be afraid of PCIe or NVMe

In very early April, Intel put a shot across the bow of the storage world with the release of the SSD 750 Series of storage devices. Using the PCI Express bus but taking advantage of the new NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) protocol, it drastically upgrades the capabilities of storage within modern PC platforms. In Allyn's review, for example, we saw read data transfer rates cross into the 2.6 GB/s range in sequential workloads and write rates over 1.2 GB/s sequentially. Even more impressive is the random I/O performance where the SSD 750 is literally 2x the speed of previous PCIe SSD options.

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A couple of weeks later we posted a story looking into the compatibility of the SSD 750 with different motherboards and chipsets. We found that booting from the SSD 750 Series products is indeed going to require specific motherboards and platforms simply due to the "new-ness" of the NVMe protocol. Officially, Intel is only going to support Z97 and X99 chipsets today but obviously you can expect all future chipsets to have proper NVMe integration. We did find a couple of outliers that allowed for bootability with the SSD 750, but I wouldn't count on it.

Assuming you have a Z97/X99 motherboard that properly supports NVMe drives, of which ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte seem to be on top of, what are the steps and processes necessary to get your system up and running on the Intel SSD 750? As it turns out, it's incredibly simple.

Step 1

Make sure you have enabled NVMe in the latest BIOS/UEFI. The screenshot below shows our ASUS X99-Deluxe motherboard used during testing and that it is properly recognizing the device. There was no specific option to ENABLED NVMe here though we have seen instances where that is required.

Continue reading our overview of installing Windows on the Intel SSD 750 Series!!

Podcast #346 - Intel Compute Stick, ASUS X205TA, Samsung PCIe SSDs and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2015 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Intel, compute stick, baytrail, asus, x205ta, SM951, NVMe, XP941, windows 10, SSD 750, acer, XR341CKA, gamebench, ios, Android

PC Perspective Podcast #346 - 04/23/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel Compute Stick, ASUS X205TA, Samsung PCIe SSDs and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

 

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

There's been a lot of recent talk about the Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe SSD. It was supposed to launch as an NVMe product, but ended up coming out in AHCI form. We can only assume that Samsung chose to hold back on their NVMe-capable iteration because many devices are unable to boot fron an NVMe SSD. Sitting back for a few months was a wise choice in this case, as an NVMe-only version would limit the OEM products that could equip it. That new variant did finally end up launching, and we have rounded it and the other Samsung M.2 PCIe SSDs up for some much awaited testing:

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I'll be comparing the three above units against some other PCIe SSDs, including the Intel SSD 750, Kingston HyperX Predator, G.Skill Phoenix Blade, Plextor M6e Black, and more!

Continue reading our review of these hot new M.2 products!

Intel SSD 750 Series PCIe Compatibility Tested

Subject: General Tech, Storage | April 16, 2015 - 06:47 AM |
Tagged: uefi, SSD 750, PCI-E 3.0, NVMe, Intel, ACHI, 750 series

UPDATE: ASUS has pointed us towards a poll they are running to gauge what platforms people are most anxious for NVMe Boot support on. So if you have an ASUS board and are interested in buying an Intel SSD 750 Series, head to their poll to voice your opinion!

Last week, the Intel 750 Series SSD was unveiled the the public as the first consumer SSD to feature the NVMe or Non-Volatile Memory Express interface. NVMe was designed from the ground up for flash storage, and provides significant advantages in latency and potential top transfer rates over the aging AHCI standard. Check out our review of the Intel SSD 750 Series to find out why this is such an important step forward for storage technology.

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Even if you aren't necessarily concerned about the merits of a new storage interface, the throughput numbers from the 750 series are hard to ignore. With peak speeds over 2.5GB/s read and 1.5GB/s write, it's hard not to be interested in this new drive.

However, all this new speed doesn't come without a few complications. NVMe is an all-new standard which means it might not be supported on all platforms. Intel themselves only point to official support for Z97 and X99 chipsets. In order to get a better idea of the landscape of NVMe compatibility, I took it amongst myself to start testing the add-in card version of the 750 Series in just about every modern motherboard I could get my hands on at the office.

Continue reading our testiof Intel SSD 750 Series Compatiblity!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Editor's note: We are hosting a live stream event with our friends at Intel's SSD group today to discuss the new SSD 750 Series launch and to giveaway a couple of the 400GB units as well! Be sure you stop by to ask quesitons, learn about the technology and have a chance to win some hardware!!

Introduction:

Intel has a habit of overlapping their enterprise and consumer product lines. Their initial X25-M was marketed to both consumer and enterprise, with heavier workloads reserved for the X25-E. Their SSD 320 Series was also spec'd for both consumer and enterprise usage. Their most recent SSD 730 Series was actually an overclocked version of their SSD DC S3500 units. Clearly this is an established trend for Intel, so when they dominated flash memory performance with the SSD DC P3700 launch last year, pretty much everyone following these sorts of things eagerly waited in anticipation of a consumer release.

While they were hard to find outside of enterprise supply chains, some dedicated users picked up that enterprise part for their enthusiast systems, but many were disappointed as the P3700's enterprise hardware and firmware conflicted with many consumer motherboards' BIOS, rendering it unbootable for some and causing address space conflicts for others. In short, the P3700 was a great product that simply did not function properly with most consumer motherboards. All anyone could do was wait for Intel to spin a consumer product from this enterprise part, and that day is today:

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This is the add-in card version of the new Intel SSD 750 Series that brings NVMe technology and insane performance levels to consumers at a cost that is more affordable than you might think.

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As with the enterprise variant, Intel chose to launch the SSD 750 Series in the familiar HHHL PCIe x4 form factor as well as a 2.5" SFF-8639 packaging. The 2.5" model contains the exact same set of components, just rearranged into a smaller device.

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Despite being 2.5", this is not a SATA device. While the connector may look similar, it is *very* different:

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As you can see above, SFF-8639 further extends on the familiar SATA power and data connections, which had already been extended a few times to add additional SAS data lines. The new spec adds a complete row of pins on the back side of the connector to support four lanes of PCIe. This means the SFF variant of the SSD 750 will perform identically to the PCIe half-height card version. Since SFF-8639 was born as an enterprise spec, one question remains - how do you connect it to a consumer desktop motherboard? Well, desktop motherboards are coming with M.2 ports that can support up to PCIe 3.0 x4, so all you really need is a simple way to get from point A to point B:

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Pictured above (left) is the ASUS 'Hyper Kit' adapter PCB, which was sampled to us with their new Sabertooth X99 motherboard just for testing these new 2.5" devices. The connector you see at the right may look familiar, as it is an internal Mini-SAS HD (SFF-8643) cable commonly used with high end SAS RAID cards. Intel is basically borrowing the physical spec, but rewiring those four SAS lanes over to the PCIe pins of the SFF-8639 connector at the other end of the cable.

Continue reading our review of the Intel SSD 750 Series NVMe 1.2TB PCIe drives!!