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!!

Test Setup

Since UEFI is an absolute requirement for NVMe to work, I started testing each generation of Intel and AMD chipset since UEFI was introduced around the Z68 and X79 chipsets.

From there, I tested at least one of every chipset that was released up until the modern Z97, X99, and A88 chipset boards.

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Each board was updated to the latest UEFI found on the manufacturer's website (including beta versions) and tested for compatibility as a secondary drive, as well as bootability.

Add-In Compatibility

Testing the 750 Series as a secondary drive on Windows 8.1 and 10 (Window 7 and 8.0 need an additional driver install but should work fine) provided some motivational results. With the latest UEFI versions, all motherboards tested were able to access the SSD 750 as a secondary drive without a problem.

Intel's Z68 Chipset along with the X79 chipset provided support for PCIe 3.0, but the matching support wasn't found in the Sandy Bridge (and Sandy Bridge-E) processors that those platforms launched with such as the i7-2600k and i7-3960x. The AMD 990FX also experiences this limitation with the exception of one motherboard, the ASUS Sabertooth 990FX/GEN3 R2.0. With PCIe 2.0 the SSD 750 is capped at 1.5GB/s in both direction, fitting inside the expected write performance, but with reads potentially around 1GB/s slower.

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Performance of the Intel SSD 750 Series on a PCIe 2.0 connection

However with the arrival of Ivy Bridge as well as it's Extreme variant, full support for PCIe 3.0 was added. With an Ivy Bridge or newer processor, the SSD 750 performs as expected.

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Performance is much higher when a PCIe 3.0 connection is present

With some lower CPU performance platforms, such as the A10-7850K, it took a little longer to ramp up to that speed. This means that you might not be getting the full potential speed with smaller transfer sizes like 4K, but it will still be an incredibly fast drive.

Booting

While using the Intel SSD 750 Series as a secondary drive to a currently existing Windows install was a relatively painless experience, booting from an NVMe SSD is currently a more difficult proposition.

Intel says that they have only qualified the Intel SSD 750 for booting on the  Z97, and X99 chipsets, and those are indeed the only Intel-based boards we could get to boot from this drive. ASUS, MSI, and Gigabyte have all announced their compatible boards and corresponding UEFI updates.

However not all motherboard makers seem to be prepared for this compatibility at launch. The EVGA X99-Micro that we tested did not yet have a UEFI update that enabled booting. Seeing as you can't yet buy an SSD 750 though, I imagine this will be remedied before they start shipping to consumers at the beginning of May.

As an interesting aside, we were also able to get an ASUS A88X-Pro system with an AMD A10-7850K to boot from the Intel 750. While it doesn't make much sense to put a $400 or $1050 SSD (for the 400GB and 1.2TB capacities respectively) in a system that is most likely sub-$500 , it's a good sign to see that AMD chipsets haven't fallen behind. If we ever see a new AM3+ chipset it should provide the same feature-set.

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Overall if you don't have a motherboard that you see specifically listed as having NVMe boot support from the manufacturer, then don't count on it being able to boot. While more updates may come for things like X79 or Z87 boards, we haven't seen any yet, so it's a crap shoot.

The Intel SSD 750 Series still functions great as a secondary drive in almost any modern system if you want to go that route with the smaller SSD holding you probably already own holding only the Operating System.


April 16, 2015 | 07:12 AM - Posted by Dom (not verified)

i havent been able to get a solid answer anywhere, so i was hoping either Allyn or Ryan would be able to help on this.

would it be possible to convert a PCIe AHCI SSD such as the Plextor M6e to an NVMe SSD? or is it a hardware thing that separates AHCI and NVMe, at first i thought it was just software stopping it, and that you wouldnt be able to do it because it'd wipe the SSD and reshuffle some stuf, but now im thinking it may be a hardware difference which is going to stop this.

also do you think we'll see NVMe version of the M6e, low cost NVMe SSDs?

April 17, 2015 | 02:21 AM - Posted by CrazySurfaNZ (not verified)

AHCI and NVMe are the language the controller of the SSD talks when communicating with the system, so I don't think there would be any way to convert it. It's significantly different architecturally and the controller has to be built from the ground up with that 'language' in mind.

my 2c.

April 16, 2015 | 11:07 AM - Posted by Stephen B. (not verified)

Thanks for the information. I'm curious as to which board revision the DZ87KLT-75K you tested, I have a DZ87KLT-75K on my main machine and its a version 305 which should have C2 stepping of the Z87 chipset even though software like CPU-Z and AIDA64 Extreme indicate that its C1, if you have a revision 305 please help me find out that info, as for me i know it has C2 stepping.

Other thing is i AIDA64 Extreme and other software do not exactly read the Intel Visual BIOS on the DZ87KLT-75K correctly especially memory details it seems those software are optimized for other BIOSes only please help me clarify this too

April 16, 2015 | 01:25 PM - Posted by aparsh335i (not verified)

Excellent presentation Ryan. Your public speaking skills have gotten really good over the years.

April 16, 2015 | 04:36 PM - Posted by djotter

That poll from Asus is kinda cool. Would be nice to know that I could upgrade to NVMe on my Z87 Gryphon in the future.

April 16, 2015 | 06:24 PM - Posted by Jet Fusion

Speed is very nice, but to be very honest i am more interested in more storage capacity around the 400-500 Mb/s than ultra ludricus spaceball speeds.

A double SSD 500 Mb/s solution for both OS and games installs with a SATA or USB mechanical drive for storage on the side is more than enough for most scrubs like me.
There just ins't any applications or just the OS that demands more read/write speed from a house, garden and kitchen machine.

April 16, 2015 | 08:45 PM - Posted by vailr

There's apparently a new NVMe version of Samsung's SM951 M.2 form factor SSD's.
http://betanews.com/2015/04/14/samsung-starts-production-on-sm951-worlds...
The 512 Gb model numbers: MZ-HPV5120 for the non-NVMe version, while MZ-VPV5120 is the NVMe version. Any idea why Samsung would want to offer two practically identical SSD's, one NVMe and the other non-NVMe?
Online purchase links for the non-NVMe SM951 models can be found via links in this Anandtech article dated April 7: http://www.anandtech.com/show/9145/samsung-sm951-pcie-ssd-now-available

April 17, 2015 | 02:22 AM - Posted by CrazySurfaNZ (not verified)

My guess is the SM951 was being held back by AHCI, and I would expect an NVMe version of it to show improved benchmark scores.

April 17, 2015 | 06:41 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

We are working on a review for this today.

April 17, 2015 | 03:16 PM - Posted by elgrandeburro

I would love to see Z87 boards fully support booting from PCIe NVME.

January 28, 2016 | 10:30 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

there are very thorough guides for adding nvme support to older intel boards

April 17, 2015 | 07:07 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Thanks for this. It is greatly appreciated and useful.

April 18, 2015 | 09:53 AM - Posted by Earnest Bunbury

I would like a 750 connected to the M.2 on my ROG Max Hero VII! Make it so number one!

April 18, 2015 | 10:14 PM - Posted by MRFS (not verified)

I may be out on the bleeding edge aka lunatic fringe here; nevertheless, the ASUS "Hyper Kit" implies to me a visible future of RAID controllers with compatible SFF-8643 ports, so we can experiment with multiple Intel 750s in various RAID modes. THAT would be the "compatibility" question I would like PCPer to address next. For example, a low-end Areca model ARC-1883i-NC supports 2 x SFF-8643 and RAID modes 0, 1,1E, 3, 5, 6, 10, 30, 50, 60 or JBOD. After all, if upstream bandwidth is the new limiting factor, then with PCIe 3.0 chipsets, x8 edge connectors should double the raw bandwidth of x4 edge connectors. MRFS

April 18, 2015 | 10:29 PM - Posted by MRFS (not verified)

e.g. this cable assumes there is no backplane:

http://www.pc-pitstop.com/sas_cables_adapters/8682-1m.asp

And, the extra Z height of the 2.5" Intel 750 will limit the number of 5.25" enclosure that have room to accommodate four per bay.

MRFS

April 20, 2015 | 11:36 AM - Posted by Ravagon (not verified)

I was wondering if you use one of these RAID card from Adaptec to connect the Intel 2.5" SSD 750.

http://www.adaptec.com/en-us/support/raid/sas_raid/sas-7805/

Allyn can you please try it out and see if it is compatible solution for all of us who doesn't have an NVMe motherboard.

April 22, 2015 | 01:59 PM - Posted by mutatio

Great review, Ken! I was intrigued to see your inclusion of the Z68-UD3H-B3 and CPU as those are my specs. I'm actually interested in seeing if Samsung's AHCI SM951 is bootable on the same Z68 board. Any chance you have a sense if that will work? For example, will an AHCI SSD boot on the board as opposed to NVMe, or is the board unable to do any AHCI/PCIe booting? Crossing fingers for a reply. It'd be great to see a similar compatibility test for the AHCI and NVMe versions of the SM951. wink wink nudge nudge. :-)

April 27, 2015 | 10:27 AM - Posted by Oliver2kx (not verified)

Hi, I have the 750 series 400gb pcie add in card perfectly working at top speed on my X79 Rampage IV Formula. My bios is 3101. I unpluged every other drive and put boot dealy to 0sec and csm compatibility to disable and installed windows 8.1 after on it. Than in win I installed the nvme driver and checked with atto benchmark and I reach over the top speed of the specs for the 400gb version. So the answer is YES it works on the X79. The 3101 is an old driver, maybe the reason...

June 12, 2015 | 05:30 PM - Posted by imsims (not verified)

hi!
i have an 3930k on asus sabertooth x79

please why you say 3960x support 2.0 only?
even if it is not 3.0 certified it support 3.0 pci so the 3930k and asus x79 motherboard.

@oliver2kk

i would like to buy a intel 750 or samsung sm951
could you confirm it will boot on asus x79 sabertooth?
may be same firmware of your rampage IV.

on your system speed is full pci 3.0?

thank you very much for answer

June 23, 2015 | 12:10 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

https://pcdiy.asus.com/2015/04/asus-nvme-support-poll-voice-your-opinion/

July 26, 2015 | 09:28 AM - Posted by Steve N (not verified)

Do the NvMe boot drivers come with the Intel 750 drive driver disc for Win 7 64bit install
I was going to use the Asus Sabertooth X99 board

August 6, 2015 | 04:33 AM - Posted by manuel (not verified)

Hi folks,

one question to the 750ssd. i have the "sabertooth r2.0" MB and i want to use 750ssd by intel as bootable device! is this possible at full at speed?

thx

August 27, 2015 | 01:01 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Ken, you can try to make a Intel 750 NVMe SSD to boot of a Z68 and X79 Motherboard by modding the BIOS. Read the tutorial here: http://www.overclock.net/t/1571271/tutorial-how-to-add-nvme-support-on-a...

November 5, 2015 | 03:44 AM - Posted by Neville Pillay

Hi ALL
Can someone please help me,
The ssd optimizer in intel toolbox is blank
also i cant see my serial number of the 750 series,
Win 8.1 boot fine.
under system information,reads standard NVM EXPRESS CONTROLLER,IS THIS CORRECT.

Thanks all

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