The Intel SSD 750 Series Review
Intel has a historically stellar track record in the SSD market with their full stable of consumer, enterprise and datacenter drives continually receiving top grades on our pages. One of the highlights has been the 730-series which combined –at the time- class leading performance, great endurance ratings and Intel’s iron-clad warranty structure. It also sparked a great deal of discussion when, just before the holiday season, Intel reduced its price by a good 30% across all capacity levels. While many snapped up the drives, others were left wondering if the fire-sale signaled a replacement was just around the corner and now we have the answer. Say hello to the new Intel 750-series SSDs.
The 750-series may be the spiritual successor to the 730 but it does things a bit differently. Gone is the standard SATA interface, focus on power consumption and compatibility with notebooks. In their place is a raw, unadulterated enthusiast drive architecture that utilizes an NVMe backbone and been built from the ground up to provide massive performance regardless of such niceties like efficiency or adherence to smaller form factors. We’ve already seen what NVMe can do when tied at the hip to Intel’s current enterprise-centric architectures so there’s potential for many of the benefits to now trickle down from the enterprise market into enthusiasts’ hands.
For the time being Intel will be offering the 750-series two primary capacities: 400GB and a massive 1.2TB. While both perform quite similarly to one another, price is what really separates the men from the boys in this case with the 400GB going for $389 while the 1.2TB hits a high water mark of $1029. In the grand scheme of things neither costs an astronomical amount when their class-leading performance is taken into account and both actually feature lower dollar per GB ratios than OCZ’s RevoDrive 350 and G.Skill’s Phoenix Blade.
At its heart the 750-series is in many ways DC P3700 which has been redesigned for use outside the enterprise market. This means it does away with the antiquated 'Advanced Host Controller Interface' (AHCI) standards and incorporates a new consumer orientated NVMe controller and the Non-Volatile Memory Host Controller Interface (NVMHCI) standard.
As the SATA interface as we know it becomes saturated, companies have been looking at other connectivity standards for system storage. In the eyes of many, those options primarily focused upon SATA Express, its small form factor M.2 standard and of course devices that interfaced with the system directly through a PCIe slot. Among these solutions there is one common denominator: the PCIe bus is being utilized to boost throughput far past what previous generation connectivity standards could achieve. While the triple-port SATA Express connector seen last year has thus far failed to gain much interest as evidenced by the dearth of products implementing it, M.2 and PCIe-based storage devices are out in the wild and gradually nibbling away at SATA 3’s dominance.
With the 750-series’ introduction, Intel is muddying the waters by drastically varying the way it interfaces with your system from one model to another. Much like its enterprise-centric P3700 sibling, should you choose the add-in card form factor, Intel’s 750-series comes equipped with a standard X4 PCIe 3.0 connector, interfacing directly with a motherboard’s compatible PCI-E slots. Both capacities will be offered in this form.
These 400GB and 1.2TB drives will also come in a potentially more convenient and compact 2.5”, 15mm Z-height design which uses an SFF-8639 plug alongside a SFF-8643 adapter rather than the typical SATA Express host-side connector we’re accustomed to. This causes some unique challenges on the connectivity front but also expands the amount of bandwidth on tap by an order of magnitude. Regardless of the form factor, the 750-series has some very particular bandwidth needs that will limit platform compatibility to X99-based systems but we’ll get further into that particular nugget a bit later. Other than those factors, both drives are literally clones of one another.
Even with just a quick glance at the 750's specifications you can see that this radical switch in underlying architecture results in massive changes - mostly for the good. While the these new drives do not support any encryption abilities and write endurance is a fraction of what’s offered on the P3700, the improved read and write performance makes comparisons to its 730-series predecessor almost impossible. Don’t expect this to be a paper launch either since we’ve been told the 400GB and 1.2TB capacities will be available in their 2.5” and add-in versions starting today.
At launch Intel’s 750-series will be in two very different competitive positions as well. The performance figures certainly aren’t unique in the PCIe storage market since drives like OCZ’s RevoDrive 350 and G.Skill’s Phoenix Blade are able to match or even beat it in some metrics, though none currently come close to its price per GB ratio. On the other hand, Intel is offering up a titanic amount of performance for anyone looking into a 2.5” drive since nothing in that segment comes remotely close. What remains to be seen is how these competitors respond to Intel’s thrown gauntlet.
With all of these things being said, it becomes abundantly obvious that Intel’s 750-series targets the enthusiast and semi-professional markets with laser-like precision. For most users a “standard” SATA-based drive will cost substantially less while still providing adequate everyday performance. They’ll have time to wait until NVMe-based alternatives begin reaching lower price points. For everyone else, the 750-series seems to offer a tantalizing blend of next-generation performance alongside a relatively inexpensive price.
|Latest Reviews in Storage|