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Intel 750 NVMe 400GB U.2 SSD Bootable RAID 0 Report

Intel 750 NVMe 400GB U.2 SSD Bootable RAID 0 Report
A bootable Intel 750 NVMe array? Not only is it possible, but it's also actually quite simple; let's take a close look.
By: Jon Coulter | RAID in Storage | Posted: Apr 12, 2016 1:08 pm

Introduction

 

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Most enthusiasts are familiar with Intel's mighty 750 Series NVMe PCIe Gen 3x4 SSDs. We tend to think of the 750 series in terms of an Add-In-Card (AIC) form factor. However, Intel's 750 Series SSDs, as well as most of their enterprise NVMe SSDs are also available in a 2.5" form factor. All 2.5" NVMe SSDs have a common connector known as an SFF-8639, or U.2 connector. A U.2 Connector provides four lanes of PCIe Gen 3.0, theoretically capable of up to 4GB/s bandwidth in each direction.

 

 

U.2 SSDs are desirable in the enterprise space for a whole host of reasons, the most important of which is that U.2 SSDs are hot-swappable; AIC SSDs are not. In the enterprise space, U.2 SSDs usually interface to custom backplanes. In the consumer space, U.2 SSDs primarily interface with the host via mini-SAS ports and specialized cabling. As it stands right now, there are very few consumer motherboards that have built-in mini-SAS connections, so adapters are typically required.

 

In gamer/enthusiast circles, U.2 SSDs are more desirable than add-in-PCIe cards because you will not need to give up a PCIe slot. In the case of Intel Z170-based motherboards, you don't need to give up any of the CPU lanes associated with that slot if the drive is routed through the Z170 chipset. So, how exactly do you go about getting a mini-SAS connector routed through the Z170 chipset? Well, it has to go through a built-in M.2 Gen 3x4 slot that is routed through the Z170 (DMI 3.0) chipset via a mini-SAS to M.2 adapter.

 

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There are a variety of mini-SAS to M.2 adapters on the market. One would think that the adapter is just a passive piece of hardware, and it should not matter what brand you use. Well, that line of thinking turns out to be incorrect. We found that we could not use ASUS brand mini-SAS to M.2 adapters with ASRock motherboards. GIGABYTE brand mini-SAS adapters are more universal and will work with some non-GIGABYTE motherboards. However, the design of the GIGABYTE adapter may be undesirable because the vertical position of the mini-SAS connection can conflict with video cards in some cases. We suggest using an adapter that is the same brand as your motherboard.

 

Intel's Z170 chipset is bandwidth limited to roughly 3.6GB/s sequential throughput. While DMI 3.0 doesn't deliver enough bandwidth to fully exploit all of the read performance available from multiple NVMe SSDs running as a RAID array, it does allow for a bootable NVMe array. Why do you want a bootable NVMe array? Simple really, think of RAID 0 as the SLI of storage. If you want the fastest OS disk available, then you want a bootable NVMe RAID 0 array.

 

Intel's 750 series SSDs are known for kicking out the highest IOPS of any consumer SSD to date. The 750 Series SSDs are also well known for unmatched performance with sustained mixed random workloads such as our 4K 70/30 steady state mixed workload test.

 

We believe a bootable two-drive array composed of affordable 400GB Intel 750 U.2 NVMe SSDs should deliver the goods. Let's get into the report so we can show you why we believe that for the ultimate in OS disk performance, RAID 0 is back on top.

 

 

Specifications

 

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Intel's 750 Series SSD is available in three capacities 400GB, 800GB, and 1.2TB. All capacities are available in two form factors, a half-length, half-height AIC with a single slot Gen 3x4 connector and a 2.5" x 15mm z-height standard form factor with a U.2 (SFF-8639) compatible connector.

 

Sequential R/W performance for the 400GB 750 is listed at 2200/900 MB/s. 4K random read performance is listed at up to 430,000 IOPS. 4K random write performance is listed at up to 230,000 IOPS. Both available form factors (AIC & 2.5") carry identical performance ratings.

 

Enhanced power-loss protection is provided by onboard capacitors. Data protection is enhanced by up to 32GB of the drive's memory dedicated to XOR internal data parity. Endurance is rated at up to 70GB per day or 219 TBW (Terabytes Written). Power consumption is listed at 12W active / 4W idle. The 400GB 750 Series carries an MSRP of $389 (current street pricing is much lower). Intel backs their 750 Series SSDs with a five-year limited warranty.

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