Intel SSD 750 Series 1.2TB PCIe and 2.5" SFF Review - NVMe for the Consumer
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!!
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:
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.
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.
Despite being 2.5", this is not a SATA device. While the connector may look similar, it is *very* different:
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:
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.
You may be asking 'Why bother?'. Well, enthusiasts like multiple GPU configurations, and workstation systems may have their PCIe slots loaded with other devices. Since many new systems come with a capable M.2 slot, the 2.5" model could be installed on the usual mounting bracket inside a case and simply wired to the motherboard using this special cable.
It is also possible to connect the 2.5" model directly to a standard PCIe slot, but a special (and currently rare) adapter is required. Here is one provided to us by SerialCables.com:
The PCI-AD-x439-01 provided to us by SerialCables.com is a pricy option as this is a very new adapter type, but we suspect prices will come down with simpler adapter designs in the future. While writing this we spotted a lower cost PCI-AD-x439-01HF edition that also includes a cooling fan.
Yeah, you read that right. 440,000 IOPS. The only disappointment in the specs is the lack of an 800GB model. That seems to be a good sweet spot capacity for enthusiasts, with 400GB being too small for some and 1.2TB of flash potentially to expensive for others.
We received early samples of these products, and consumer packaging is not yet available. We will add a photo of their consumer packaging once we have one on hand.