Review: Intel 750 NVMe PCIe 1.2TB SSD
Reviewed by: Wendy Robertson
Provided by: Intel
Firmware version: 8EV10135
Today I’m looking at something new. In fact this article will feature the world’s first SSD, aimed at the professional consumer, to utilise the new NVMe (Non Volatile Memory Express) interface. NVMe SSDs are PCIe based and are installed in a standard PCIe slot, or via the brand new U.2 connector. PCIe SSDs are not new, and have been around for several years. However, the PCIe SSDs of the past required a special controller which sat between the SSD hardware and the PCIe system bus, to allow SSD hardware and the PCIe bus to do the translation and communication between the two interfaces. This was of course a very complex and time consuming task, which inevitably led to increased latency.
NVMe is a native solution, with its own highly optimised protocol, which features a very much reduced command set, much lower latency when compared to AHCI, and is specifically optimised for Non Volatile Memory (FLASH memory).
Intel was kind enough to send me one of their brand new 750 series NVMe SSDs for review. In this case the 1.2TB PCIe version. There is also a 400GB version available, as well as U.2 connection versions.
So let’s find out how this new SSD performs in our range of tests.
Intel company information
Intel should need no introduction, but those of you who would like to find out more about Intel, can do so at their website.
The Intel 750 NVMe 1.2TB SSD
The review sample provided was the PCIe version, which is PCIe gen3, and uses 4 PCIe gen3 lanes for data transfer.
You simply install the Intel 750 NVMe SSD into a PCIe generation 3 PCIe slot with at least 4 PCIe lanes available, but for best results, you should install the Intel 750 NVMe SSD into a generation 3 x16 socket which is connected directly to the CPU.
Please note: To be able to boot from the Intel 750 NVMe SSD, you will require a motherboard which allows booting from NVMe. Many motherboard manufacturers have already updated their Z97 chipset motherboards to support booting from NVMe. Those with X99 chipset motherboards, should find they all support booting from NVMe.
There is apparently a workaround for motherboards which do not support booting from NVMe, to allow booting via EFI mode, but I have not tried this.
The SSD controller used in the Intel 750 series of SSDs is the mighty Intel CH29AE41AB0, which boasts 18 channels to the NAND array, and is in fact the same controller found in the Intel DC-3700 enterprise class SSDs. The firmware is of course optimised towards client use rather than the enterprise sector.
The NAND is Intel/Micron 20nm MLC.
Intel SSD Toolbox.
The toolbox allows the drive’s firmware to be updated, secure erased, optimised, and drive diagnostics. The toolbox also offers utilities to tune the PC for best performance, displaying system information, and viewing the Intel 750’s S.M.A.R.T. data.
If you are running Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 then NVMe SSDs are supported natively, and there is no need to find and install NVMe drivers. Intel however has made available their own optimised NVMe drivers, which offer improved performance, and allow some of the more specialised features of the Intel SSD Toolbox, such as secure erasing the Intel 750, to function properly. The Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 native drivers are more than enough to allow you to do a clean install of the operating system.
Does the SSD support TRIM?
To allow TRIM to function you first need an SSD that supports the TRIM command. You then need a storage stack that will allow the TRIM command to pass-through to the SSD, and this includes the driver.
Thankfully this is now very easy to check with some degree of reliability, using a small utility written by Vladimir Panteleev called TRIMCheck.
According to TRIMCheck, TRIM is functioning correctly on the Intel 750 NVMe 1.2TB SSD.
Let’s head to the next page where we take a look at our testing methods and the review PC….