The HighPoint SSD6540 kit is so fast that it broke a set of my favorite benchmark charts.
SSD is in the name, but the SSD6540 isn't actually an SSD at all. The system is the first NVMe over cable external enclosure, a DAS or Direct-Attached Storage. A DAS can technically be anything from a thumb drive to a portable hard disk drive. We typically reserve the name for devices that have a special attribute, like high-speed Thunderbolt 3 connectivity, or a large box that holds several drives.
The SSD6540 isn't either of those. It features four times the data bandwidth of Thunderbolt 3. It's not a gargantuan box either like the LaCie 12big. The system comprises of a PCIe 3.0 x16 add-in card, 2 highly insulated cables, and a small black box to hold your U.2 SSDs.
Ah yes, U.2 SSDs. The form-factor in our dreams. To date, only Intel released consumer-grade SSDs in the U.2 form factor. The first was the SSD 750 Series. The second is what we used for this review, the Intel Optane SSD 900P, the fastest consumer storage in existence.
There are three major parts to the HighPoint SSD6540 system and it starts with the add-in card. The card uses a PLX PEX8747 bridge to send four PCI Express 3.0 x4 through the included 1 meter cables. The combination is virtually lossless and passes the full 128Gbps bandwidth. That is the same bandwidth of four high-speed NVMe SSDs.
On the other end of the cable is a brush aluminum enclosure with a 250-watt power supply, cooling and display. The intelligent display allows you to monitor and configure the system, or you can use the included graphical user interface software.
HighPoint built drives for Windows, Linux and MacOS. Installation is easier than adding a video card to your system. To get the full bandwidth, you need a system that can provide the card with all sixteen lanes.
Pricing, Warranty and Optional Hardware
We found the HighPoint SSD6540 on B&H for $999. The system includes a 3-year warranty and comes in a thick box with form-fitting foam to secure the adapter and external enclosure.
HighPoint ships the system with 1 meter SFF-8644 cables but offers 2-meter cables as an optional purchase.
A Closer Look
Outside of the SSDs, the HighPoint system is complete. You will need a PC with a full PCIe 3.0 x16 slot available and all of the bandwidth. Intel's X299 and X99 systems work really well as does AMD's Threadripper. Consumer platforms like Z370 will not work with a discrete video card installed. The platform will only utilize eight lanes in the second long PCIe slot with two cards installed.
The enclosure has a fan, but the system runs cool and quiet even under heavy workloads with the drives we chose for this test.
Last updated: Sep 25, 2019 at 12:26 am CDT
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