Its an Intel product review!! Sorry I just got a bit over excited there, after all its my first ever Intel product review & my excitement is justified so bear with me.
Intel has been a pioneer in computer technology and is a name very well known for its consumer grade CPU chips & equally or sometimes much better server grade equipment. One such stride in technology came in-terms of the first ever consumer grade NVMe or Non Volatile Memory Express SSD called the Intel 750 series PCIe SSDs. I'm lucky to have one with me today and this one is the 400GB variant though a 1.2Tb variant is also available.
Since the 1.2Tb variant is not only way way and I mean way expensive than any of the SATA SSDs in the market today amounting to double the price and also because a very small slice of consumers will ever need that kind of speed and storage combination, Intel released a 400GB version of the 750 Series PCIe SSD which is more pocket friendly and costs almost a $1 per GB of capacity.
So lets jump in the specifications first and then we'll look further more.
For those who are new, the spec sheet speaks volumes about what we are dealing with over here. Its an insanely fast storage drive. The Intel 750 series PCIe SSD comes in a 2.5″ 15mm and Half Height Half Length (HHHL) PCIe 3.0 x4 add-in card (AIC) form factors. The 2.5″ model doesn’t use a conventional SATA or even a SATA express connector, however, it uses an SFF-8639 connector (now called U.2). Mine is however a PCIe 3.0X4 connector SSD and is pretty much a plug and play drive utilizing one of the PCIe slots on your motherboard.
Packing and Contents
The drive comes in a sleek & simple cardboard box boasting the same color scheme as that of Intel processors of blue and white with a yellow haze on top. The front is mainly occupied by a fade image of the SSD itself complimented by the product name and capacity mentioned clearly in bold on top.
The back has all the stats laid out to you with warranty details etc making it a simple packing for a revolutionary product which I really appreciate.
Inside you will find a couple of things along with the SSD resting securely in a blister pack. Along with the SSD you are provided a driver CD, a paper notice asking you to download the latest drivers from the Intel website and a half size PCIe bracket just in case you need one, the drive though comes with a full size PCIe bracket pre-fitted with. I wonder why Intel provided me with a sticker of the SSD aswell!
Closer Look -- Inside Out
The Intel 750 Series NVMe SSD is a single PCB unit enclosed inside a thin but strong aluminum envelop. The front is accentuated by the crisp Intel logo and the name of the drive giving it a premium look which it rightfully deserves. The back is also covered by an aluminum sheet but is plain with no decorations.
Once you open the five screws at the bottom you can open up the enclosure carefully to reveal the actual PCB present inside. Clearly showing that its a three layer unit. To remove the top cover you need to be very careful yet strong on your finger tips to avoid any breaks!
Looking at the PCB you'll find the 9-channel Intel CH29AE41AB0 PCIe flash controller placed in the center which runs at 400Mhz and gives the 750 series its unmatched read/write speed since it has 9 channels in contrast to the 4 or 8 that other drives offer making dense parallelism possible and giving it an edge over others. But all this comes at a cost of around 12W power consumption, now you know why you need heat dissipation fins on this drive!
On one corner we can see two 330V Nichicon UD Series aluminum electrolytic capacitors which keep the drive powered on in-case of a sudden power loss helping in flight data to reach and store on NAND drives safely. A welcome move by Intel indicating that they care and value the data of enthusiasts/gamers as much as they do for server or data center users.
On the top and bottom sides, the PCB is populated by 18 Intel-Micron's 20nm 128Gbit MLC NAND chips which interestingly occupy all the available space on the board. The front chips are quad die of 16GiB capacity each whereas the back ones are single die of 8GiB capacity each giving a total raw capacity of 436GB out of which 372GB is usable making 14.6% reserved for over-provisioning. This arrangement equates to 90 NAND dies in 36 packages on the 400GB variant of the 750 Series SSD.
For DRAM purpose Intel has employed 1024MB Micron DDR3 operating at 1600Mhz CL11 which gives the 750 Series SSD the ability to reach such ground breaking speeds.
Benchmarks and Test ResultsInstalling the Intel 750 Series 400GB NVMe PCIe SSD is a child's play and you have to simply pop in the drive in one of the PCIe sockets on your motherboard, install the provided driver for the drive and you are good to go. Windows 8.1 or higher will recognize the drive out of the box but still installing the driver is a fail safe all together.
I'm using a Z170 chipset which won't be a problem nor will a X99 based system will be since it has 40 PCIe lanes to spare and using the drive along with a single or multi GPU will not compromise upon performance because the NVMe SSD needs 4 PCIe lanes for its own. A Z97 or H97 chipset system has only 16 lanes which would fall short if used with a powerful GPU configuration.
Our sincere thanks to Cooler Master, Gigabyte and Corsair for helping us in putting together this wonderful test system. The test system was as follows:
CPU: Intel i7 6700K quad core 4Ghz LGA 1151
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z170X Gaming G1
RAM: G.Skill Ripjaw 16GB (4x4) 3000Mhz DDR4
Graphics Card: Gigabyte R9 290X 4GB DDR5 Windforce 3xOC
Cooler: Corsair H110 280mm
Storage: Corsair Neutron GTX 480GB SSD -- Intel 750 series 400GB NVMe
PSU: Corsair AX860i 860W 80+ Platinum
Case: Cooler Master MasterCase 5
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64-Bit
TRIM CheckSince this is a very new SSD for us so it called for some new testing suits aswell, one such tool is TrimCheck which verifies if TRIM function on the drive is working perfectly or not.
The test shows that TRIM is perfectly working on the Intel SSD.
ATTO DiskATTO Disk Benchmark measures transfer rates across specific lengths for any storage system. ATTO uses RAW data, I set my transfer size from 0.5 to 8192kb. This is generally the most reliable benchmarks for today's SSDs
The results are magnificent and the drive is performing a little above than what is advertised by Intel.
CrystalDiskMark 5.0.2 x64CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that analyses different types of hard drive using incompressible data. Giving sequential benchmark write and read statistics in MB/s. A simple program that is very useful.
With an overwhelming 2372MB/s of read and 1047Mb/s of write speed, the Intel 750 series is blowing every benchmark out of the water!
Anvil Storage UtilityThe next test is Anvil Storage Utilities, which is a really great piece of software. It gives you scores for both read and write as well as a combined score. The benchmark displays test results for, not only throughput but also, IOPS and Disk Access Times.
The Intel 750 series 400GB is performing constantly with a read speed of 1986MB/s and write speed is rated at 978.03MB/s which is in sync with the advertised values. Read and Write IOPS have come at over 156K and 229K respectively.
AIDA64 Extreme EditionA monitoring and benchmarking tool which lets you stress and scale every component in your system. We had to run the complete storage suite on the Intel 750 Series 400GB to find out how well it is actually performing.
The 3.1GB/s read speed on the random read test is a staggering value and shows the true performance of the drive under stress coupled with just 0.02ms as the access time. Other than that all the graphs show a consistent read/write performance by the drive under various circumstances.
PCMark Vantage X64 HDD SuitePCMark Vantage can be used to test a variety of hardware but the HDD suite that consists of eight sub tests emulating real life scenarios and circumstances such as Window's Boot time or Music import/export is one of the most punishing yet productive suite. The results can be regarded very close to real life performance.
Total score came at 1,38058 and the lowest speed went at 286.3MB/s and highest was recorded at 2070.95MB/s which is a fabulous score for the drive.
PCMark 8 Professional EditionPCMark 8 Storage Test unlike PCMark Vantage scores and records the SSD performance through a set of application execution and related tasks such as Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office and even through games like Battlefield 3.
The test ran for over an hour and we were presented with impressive scores of 5007 and all applications were executed in respectable time frames.
My VerdictIntel has proved yet again that its still the king of the hill and will conquer any kingdom it'll set foot in! The Intel 750 Series 400GB NVMe PCIe SSD has put up some unprecedented and unexpected scores throughout our test journey. With read speed of over 2GB/s and write speed tipping just over 1GB/s its a drive to reckon with. And did I mention it came with a whooping 5 years warranty!
Not only is it the first ever consumer grade NVMe SSD but it is also the first SSD we've come across to boast a build quality, the quality of a tank. The heat spreaders keep it all cooled down even under full load and aluminum sheets give it a premium look along with the much needed rigidity.
The Intel 750 Series SSD offers high speeds, four times than those of a conventional SSD, with minimalistic latency thanks to its NVMe interface and is an ideal replacement for stacked RAID setup not only saving upon space inside a case but also on power and lowering heat generation. I recommend the 400GB Intel 750 to those who want to break through all storage bottlenecks achieving the ultimate gaming or editing experience & to even those who want to buy something for showing off.
I give it a 10/10