Sony VAIO Pro 13 Ultrabook M.2 Native PCIe SSD Review – 1GB/s Performance Fastest Ultra Speed To Date

SONY ULTRABOOK PRO 13 CONFIGURATIONS DIFFER

A few weeks back, we published our review of the Sony VAIO Pro 13 ultrabook where we discovered that there were two different configurations of the VAIO being shipped, that with a SATA 3 M.2 SSD and that with a native M.2 PCIe SSD.  Not only did the system that we received contain a SATA M.2 SSD, but also, a quick check of the internet revealed that there were several Sony VAIO Pro 13 customers just as surprised…and disapppointed. In subsequent conversations with Sony, we learned that certain pre-configured Sony Pro 13 models shipped with the M.2 SATA SSD, vice the native M.2 PCIe SSD.

Just as a point of clarification, M.2 is the official name give to these new ‘gumstick’ style SSDs and replaces the former working term of NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor). M.2 is derived from the female M.2 connector that can accomodate either male connector shown below, the PCIe interface represented by the left connector and the SATA 3 interface represented by the right.  The interface refers to the electrical connection so a SATA 3 M.2 SSD has a SATA 3 electrical interface which transfers data through the SATA 3 port (550MB/s), whereas a PCIe M.2 SSD has a PCIe electrical interface that connects via the PCIe lanes (500MB/s per lane).

M.2 Differences

WHY SSD PERFORMANCE MATTERS

This is not the first time that something similar to this has happened and, for the most part, its occurrence is the result of the lack of SSD knowledge today’s consumer has.  For instance, most are unaware that SSD contained systems typically start in 15 seconds, are visibly faster than HDD systems, are completely silent, much cooler, have a longer battery life, and are much less likely to crash if a portable system is dropped.  Knowing this, should it be displayed that a system contains a SATA M.2 SSD, capable of speeds of just over 500MB/s, rather than the advertised native M.2 PCIe SSD, capable of more than twice that speed at 1.2GB/s?  We think so.

IMG_7875

UNDERSTANDING M.2 SSD PERFORMANCE

SATA 3 has a bottle neck that restricts data speeds to just over 500MB/s, whereas, PCIe 2.0 can provide speeds more than twice that. Depending on whether your VAIO Pro 13 was a standard or customized configuration, SSD data transfer may occur through the SATA port (SATA 3 interface) or the PCIe lanes (PCIe interface).  Examining the Samsung XP941 M.2 PCIe SSD that is contained in systems such as the Pro 13 and 2013 MBA (reviewed), it utilizes 4 (x4) PCIe lanes which could allow speeds up to 2GB/s. We were able to get our hands on a XP941 for our own testing, where it reached speeds of 1.2GB/s and over 100K IOPS.  To offer an idea of the performance we are speaking of, this chart depicts performance of the top 5 single form factor SSDs we have ever tested:

M.2 Comparison 2

Looking at this chart, the performance increase of the XP941 is obvious.  Not seen here are the IOPS results, all except the Samsung XP941 (Mac) being very close to, or just over, the 100,000 read IOPS mark.  While in a Mac environment, the XP941 topped out at an unheard of 118807 read IOPS.

EXAMINING SONY’S NEW VAIO PRO 13 ULTRABOOK

As we covered the exterior and interior components of the Sony VAIO Pro 13 in our previous report, we will only glance over a few of the highs and lows that we noted in that report.  The Sony VAIO Pro 13 is the smallest and lightest 13.3″ ultrabook on the market today, at just .68″ high and 2.34lbs, this the inevitable result of its carbon fibre exterior.  Not only does it include a very attractive 1920x1080p IPS touchscreen with  TRILUMINOS display, but also, it can be configured with a 4th gen Intel® Core™ i5-4200U (1.60GHz / 2.60GHz) or i7-4500U (1.80GHz / 3.00GHz) processor, 4 or 8GB DDR3L-1600MHz memory, a 128, 256 or 512GB SSD.

Vaio Open Screen On

Although choosing a pre-configured system may result in your receipt of this system with a SATA M.2 SSD, vice M.2 PCIe SSD, lies at the top of our list of concerns, we also found that the Sony VAIO Pro 13 is not absent of heat or fan noise with the systems fan running constantly.  The heat vents are on the left side of the unit so, when resting on your lap during work or late night use on the couch, you will definitely feel the heat on the left side of the Pro 13.  Even with this constant fan use, testing of both received Sony VAIO systems resulted in over 6 hours battery life through constant and typical use.

Something else that we should point out is that the memory is integrated into the system board and not removable.  For this reason, we would strongly advise that the upgrade from 4 to 8GB during initial configuration is a must.  Let’s take a closer look at the Samsung XP941 M.2 PCIe SSD:

VAIO XP941 256GB PCIe SSD

Looking at the XP941, the front displays the Samsung 3-core eight channel MDX (300MHz) controller which is custom designed for PCIe and eliminates the bottlenecks seen in SATA 3.  Beside the controller is 512MB LP (low power) DDR2 Samsung DRAM cache, along with 2 modules of Samsung’s 64Gb MLC NAND flash memory, each module having a RAW capacity of 128GB.

XP941 256GB PCB Front

Total available user capacity is slightly less than 256GB capacity once the SSD has been formatted and system files have been installed.  The user can expect somewhere in the area of 221GB of available storage space.

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aex
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aex

Hi, You say in the report that you were surprised by the power on count and the power hours count. Imagine my surprise to find that my brand new OCZ Vector had six power ons, twelve hours and – wait for it – 4.67 Terabytes of NAND writes on the clock ! OCZ say that is due to testing but they make no mention of it in the owner manual , or anywhere else that I could find. Considering that the warranty is limited to 36 odd TB ( again not mentioned in the owner manual) then they should tell… Read more »

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Many companies do burn-in testing and none that we are aware of speak to it in any manuals or literature, albeit 4.67TB might be a bit excessive. It is hard to speak to the size of the write without knowing the size of the drive.

EricZ318
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EricZ318

I own 2 SSD from Crucial, and they have always come with 100% life.
Maybe Crucial is reseting SMART info after factory test, but i find not acceptable to receive a new ssd with 89% life. Maybe they are sending some refurbished device !

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

No…wouldnt think so.

dravo1
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dravo1

It’s quite possible that during the manufacturing process the controller chip itself is placed in a tester and run through tests using test NAND and/or simulated data feeds. After passing it is then inserted onto the actual SSD card. I don’t believe there’s a way to erase the counters on the controller.

boogerlad
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boogerlad

That adapter looks very interesting. Is one ngff slot hooked up to the slot on the pcb, and the other ngff slot hooked up to the ribbon cable pci-e?

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

It is capable of that, however, we only use it as a straight plug in to the PCIe slot when the M.2 is installed on the board. Quick and easy.

Nexitus
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Nexitus

Is there a way to find out which module you have without opening up the VAIO Pro?

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

Yes conducting any of the tests we conduct is a given. Also, Crystal Disk Info or Anvil will fully identify the SSD.

iCrunch
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iCrunch

With the PCIe SSD that’s in my iMac, I “only” get 720MB/s reads, 640MB/s writes. I just installed Win 8.1 Pro on it and I wonder what test results I will get with all the Windows utilities. I also wonder if the new iMacs have the same “specially configured” versions of the XP941 that are found in the Mid 2013 MacBook Airs. Apple wouldn’t need to artifically things down in an iMac, though, would they? The thermal considerations that apply in the ultra compact notebooks are not present here, the new and slimmer (2012) design notwithstanding. This thing doesn’t even… Read more »

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

What size is your SSD?

pezcore350
Guest
pezcore350

How can you warn us of the differences between the preconfigured (SATA SSD) and the customized (PCIe SSD) ones and then recommend an Amazon.com purchase?

If the only way to guarantee a PCIe drive is to customize it from Sony, then that is the ONLY way to buy this ultrabook.

Les@TheSSDReview
Guest

There have been a number of purchases from that link, regardless of the review and our opinion with respect to the storage medium. Our position is not to take away the opportunity to purchase pre-configured systems, but rather, provide the consumer with the best buying position possible. Visibly, there is not a person that could see a difference between either system in typical use.

Thank you for jumping in and provided your thoughts!