LABS TEST:

NEXT-GEN­ER­A­TION SOLID STATE DRIVES

Custom PC - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW LAM­BERT AND ORESTIS BASTOUNIS

When In­tel launched the Z97 chipset, moth­er­boards started to fea­ture a new type of con­nec­tor called M.2. Its main use so far has been for SSDs, with one of the main ad­van­tages be­ing its abil­ity to carry data across ei­ther the SATA or PCI-E bus, with the lat­ter offering the po­ten­tial for much faster trans­fer speeds than you get from a stan­dard 2.5in SATA SSD.

M.2 stor­age de­vices are much smaller, squeez­ing the NAND flash, con­troller and mem­ory cache onto a stick that mea­sures 22mm wide and (usu­ally) 80mm long. The con­nec­tor de­liv­ers both power and data, and needs no ex­tra ca­bling, en­abling you to fit a whole PC into even smaller cases, or en­tirely re­move the drive caging from your chas­sis, giv­ing you ex­tra room for wa­ter-cool­ing kit, or what­ever takes your fancy.

There’s more to M.2 though. Along with this new form fac­tor, a new bus pro­to­col called NVMe has been de­signed to re­place AHCI, a stan­dard in­tro­duced over ten years ago for con­nect­ing stor­age de­vices to a PC. It sup­ports much longer com­mand queues, and re­duces over­heads for su­pe­rior trans­fer speeds and lower la­tency. At this early stage, M.2 com­ple­ments rather than re­places tra­di­tional SATA ports, but it also co-ex­ists with PCI-E add-in cards, which can of­fer the same faster speeds.

Th­ese new stan­dards, con­nec­tors and de­vice sizes have made PC stor­age more in­ter­est­ing, but also a lit­tle con­fus­ing. As such, over the next few pages, we’ll not only re­view sev­eral M.2 and PCI-E SSDs, but also ex­plain how M.2 works and the dif­fer­ences be­tween drives.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.