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Looking For 2.5" PCIe NVMe SSD

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Dan View Drop Down
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    Posted: 29 Oct 2015 at 10:09pm
Hi,

Recently, I built a system for myself using an ASRock Z170 Gaming ITX/ac motherboard.  For an operating (Win10) system drive, I installed a Samsung SM951, 256GB M.2 PCIe 3.0 NVMe stick.  This stick drive installs on the back of the motherboard in an M.2 slot.  The computer is working properly.  Fast, too.

I'm now thinking about building a system for my son using the same motherboard.  For an operating system drive, for this build, I would like to use a 2.5" PCIe NVMe 3.0 x 4 SSD.  The motherboard has a SATA and SATA Express connectors that will accommodate such a drive, using the proper cable of course.

I looked around for such a 2.5" drive, and I found slim pickings.  The few available seem to be geared toward enterprise customers, and very expensive.

On Newegg I found one that is somewhat affordable.  It's an Intel 750 2.5" 400 GB NVMe 3.0 x 4 MLC for $380, with a free U.2 connector (not a SATAe cable connector).  That free cable would need to be connected to the back of the motherboard I plan to use.  I suppose I could find the proper cable to connect it to the SATAe connectors on the top of the motherboard, so no big problem there.

Anyway, here is my question:  Has anyone found more choices for such 2.5" PCIe NVMe 3.0 x 4 SSDs?  If so, please share the information.  I know, there is no end of the choices for 2.5" SATA III SSDs.

Thanks,

Dan


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Nov 2015 at 2:15am
Well, I looked around some more on the Internet using Google.  I've concluded there is no such drive as that which I was looking for.  That is, a SATAe SSD that uses all three such SATA Express ports on my motherboard.  That Intel 750 drive I was looking at on Newegg seems not to be designed for use with the SATAe ports, as best I can tell.

Asus had, or has, a prototype drive, its Hyper Express SSD, but seems nothing has come of that device, at least not that I could find.  I didn't find it for sale anywhere.

That Asus Hyper Express drive would connect to the SATA Express ports on my motherboard, described above.  That's the port with two regular SATA ports and another small port, for a total of three ports.  I never did figure out what that extra third port is for.

That type connection doesn't provide the bandwidth that any PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4 connected drive would provide.  I suppose that's the reason nothing has become of SATA Express drives.  Anyone have any insight into this situation?

I'm always looking for good information.

Thaks,

Dan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Xaltar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Nov 2015 at 2:47am
It seems SATAe never really took off, there is not a lot out there and with M.2 now I don't see much happening on the SATAe front. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Nov 2015 at 8:52am
I've been thinking again, dangerous I know.  Here's what I'm thinking:  I like the idea of the Intel 750 SSD, which requires an U.2 connection on the motherboard.

My motherboard, being a small form factor, has the M.2 socket on the underside.  Thus it seems there is no room to attach an adapter card for a U.2 to M.2 conversion.

What I would need is an extension cable that would extend from under the motherboard.  The cable would have a M.2 plug and one end and the U.2 port on the other end.

This cable would replace the U.2 to M.2 adapter card.  Now I could connect the Intel 750 to the U.2 port end of the cable that extends from under the board. 

I searched the Internet using Google, but I found no such cable.  Anyone know of such a cable? 

Dan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Nov 2015 at 1:25am
I found a Mini-ITX motherboard with a U.2 connector on top of the motherboard.  It's the Asus ROG Maximus VIII Impact.  The bad news is that it costs $249.  So, I suppose if one has a Mini-ITX board and needs, or wants, to use a SSD that requires a U.2 connection, then that board appears to be the only choice available at this time.

All other Mini-ITX boards that I've seen only have a M.2 connector on the underside, making attaching a U.2 to M.2 adapter problematic for lack of clearance.  Maybe one could modify how the motherboard is secured to the case to get by this clearance problem, and thus use a U.2 to M.2 adapter anyway.

I'll keep this Asus board in mind.

Dan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Nov 2015 at 3:04pm
The Intel 750 in the 2.5" form factor is the only NVMe SSD of that type as of this date.

The only NVMe SSDs available for PC use are made by Intel and Samsung, and until the 950 Pro is released, the NVMe SM951 is barely available and suffers from write speed issues with the Windows NVMe driver. Note that Windows 7 does not have an NVMe driver built in, so installing Win 7 on an NVMe SSD won't work.

Why must you use a mini-ITX board? I've never used one, to many compromises just for the small size IMO.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Nov 2015 at 8:19pm
Parsec,

Yeah, one has to deal with compromises, all right, when using Mini-ITX systems.  I like those systems for several reasons, chief among them is the aesthetics, a personal judgment to be sure.

I like the way I can place the small case laying flat on my desktop with the monitor sitting on top of it.  Looks nice to me.  In addition, access to the power button, some USB ports and the CD/DVD ROM drive are all right in front of me, no need to reach these items on a case sitting elsewhere.

These cases do have limitations, though.  Everything in the case fits close to everything else.  One has to be willing to deal with limited access when building such a system.  Sausage fingers are not a plus.  Ha!  There are other limitations, as well, as one can see from my comments in this thread.

Even so, these limitations can be overcome to the point of ending with a system that can work well for many people.  One problem that cannot be overcome is if one prefers using multiple video cards.  In such a case, a Mini-ITX system is out of the question.  It all comes down to what one is trying to achieve.

Anyway, I recently put together a Mini-ITX system using a Samsung SM951 NVMe M.2 3.0 x4 SSD, connected to the underside of a ASRock Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac motherboard (Windows 10 Home).  I know little about speed issues with this drive, but I did a Crystal Disk speed test to see what results it showed.

I don't really understand the results.  I'll post a picture of it here for all to see and to comment on as they may wish.  Here is the link:  (I'm getting an error when making the link.  I'll finish this post now to see what the link looks like and return to fix any problem with it, if possible.)


Dan

I found the option to Edit.  The Tree icon doesn't work when I click on it.  Here is the direct like I copied from the image site and pasted here:

http://s26.postimg.org/9ghc20ye1/Crystal_Disk_A.png

Just copy and paste the link in the address window of your browser.

Another Edit finally got it to work:





Edited by Dan - 02 Nov 2015 at 10:44pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Nov 2015 at 4:12pm
I can explain that benchmark to you. It looks typical for an SM951, although I thought it would have done better than the AHCI SM951 in one area in particular.

This is an AHCI SM951 in an ASRock Z97 Extreme6 board:



The row labeled Seq, for Sequential read and write, is a test using one large file that is first written, and then read. Large means at least one MB, and is likely at least 100MB in size in this test. Your SM951 could read a large file at 1,498MB/s, call it 1.5GB/s. Specs are "Up To" 2,500MB/s Sequential Read. Write speed for the large file is 1,258MB/s. Specs are Up To 1500MB/s Sequential Write.

The row labeled Seq Q32T1, is another large file test, but this time with 32 consecutive requests to write and read the large file. So the write and read is done 32 times. Your result of 2,223MB/s is typical given what I have seen. You see very little improvement in the write speed, which may be related to the MSoft NVMe driver.

The row labeled 4K is a single, small file (4KB) write and read test, also called 4K Random test. This test is the hardest to get big results in, and mainly shows how well the drive can handle all the overhead and latency it may have. 51MB/s is a great result, but not much more than my AHCI SM951 at 49.6MB/s. NVMe is supposed to cut the overhead of 4K random reads, and do great on high queue depth IOs. Not seeing that in this result. Your 4K write speed is somewhat better, but not by that much.

The 4K Q32T1 test is where NVMe should be superior, and it is. 32 consecutive randomly located 4K file write and read IOs are performed. Over twice the speed of the AHCI version, and the write speed is better as well. In the real world PC usage, queue depth never exceeds 4, so the capability of NVMe is never used.

The specs of the new 950 Pro are really identical to the NVMe SM951, or worse in some cases.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Nov 2015 at 6:29pm
Thanks, Parsec, for the clarification.  I'm satisfied with those results for my Samsung SM951 SSD, hanging out on the back side of my motherboard.  I hope it doesn't feel discriminated against being relegated to such a seat in the rear.  Maybe someday it can sit in the front, with all the other SSDs.  A bigger motherboard could do the trick.  Cry

Dan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Nov 2015 at 1:40am
HA! Plus you can't see your nice SM951 mounted on the back of the board. That's a good idea for a small board, a necessity really.

The stealth nature of your Ultra M.2 slot could be used to surprise your friends with how fast your PC is when they can only see HDDs or SATA SSDs.

The SM951s can run warm, and if they get really hot (~70C) they throttle their speed. That rarely if ever happens, but is a reality. Can you check the temperature of your SM951?

The Crystal DiskInfo program shows the temperature of my SM951s. You can get it here:

http://crystalmark.info/download/index-e.html

I suggest using the Standard edition, portable version which does not need to be installed. The other versions have pretty Japanese girl anime pictures on the screens, if you like that. Pinch
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