We've already published a preview of the new SanDisk A110 SSD in M.2 form factor. The performance data came from a system that we normally don't use for SSD reviews and on an operating system that we're still wrapping our head around. I'm now back in the lab with my own test tools, a slew of PCs validated for performance measurements and all of the software testing tools needed to produce an official review, so we are getting down to business. The only difficult part now is ending my use of NGFF or Next Generation Form Factor wording now that socket M.2 is the official standard for writing about the new form factor.
The SanDisk A110 PCIe SSD is an OEM specific product for mobile products like notebooks, ultrabooks and possibly tablets, should a manufacturer choose to adapt the M.2 2260 standard. The 2260 portion refers to the size - 22mm wide and 60mm long.
Socket M.2 started out with around 15 different sizes, but most manufacturers have chosen to implement just a few. Shown above, 2280, 2260, 2242 and 2230 are the sizes most of us will see in the consumer market. A few 100+ mm models may tip up in enterprise products where the additional surface area allows manufactures to fit more NAND packages. Unlike mSATA where one size ruled them all for the most part, socket M.2 sizes are actually important. The Lenovo ThinkPad S431 ships with a M.2 connector as long as you order the notebook with a cache drive from Lenovo directly. There isn't room for a 2280 and there may not be enough room for a 2260, even after you modify the standoff.
On the enthusiast side of the market, most will learn about M.2 from ASUS's new Z87 Republic of Gamers (ROG) product line. We tried to fit a M.2 2280 in a new Z87 Maximus VI Extreme, but the PWM heat sink got in the way. The only ASUS Maximus VI product that gives an unrestricted depth for the M.2 slot is the Maximus VI Impact, a Mini-ITX board. ASUS moved the Combo II daughterboard to the other side of the motherboard to make room for a full size power regulation standoff board.
The SanDisk A110 M.2 2260 fits in Maximus VI Extreme boards, but that doesn't mean everything plays nicely together. The A110 can use up to PCIe 2.0 x2 (lanes), but the ASUS Maximus VI boards only have one lane going to the M.2 socket. That means you're limited to around 500 MB/s with both SATA and PCIe based M.2 drives on Maximus VI motherboards.
As an enthusiast, I have to admit, I wouldn't let any of that stop my move to M.2 PCIe for my own personal desktop. While not available for purchase yet, adapter cards will start to tip up for test labs. We have several products for our lab from Bplus Technology, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a M.2 PCIe to PCIe 2.0 x2 lane adapter from them before too long.
The SanDisk A110 is a product for the OEM market and as such, we won't see them at Newegg and others. E-tailers that cater to the IT market may receive stock at some point. Let's take a look at the specifications and see what all of the buzz is about.
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