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Intel 750 PCIe SSD Review (1.2TB) – 1st Consumer 2.4GB/s NVMe SSD Set To Change The Industry

You know how we said in previous reviews that the enthusiast market hasn’t had much action and is just starting to take off? Well, right when we thought we were starting to see some fast PCIe SSDs, Intel decides to step in and release a beast. “A beast you say?” Yes, a fast, high capacity, NVMe, PCIe lane destroying beast! A beast of which those stories about things that go bump in the night could not have prepared you for. Let us introduce you to Intel’s latest disruptive monstrosity, the 1.2TB Intel 750 PCIe SSD.

Glorious isn’t it? We sure think so, and not just because of looks or capacity, but the speed it pushes and the technology behind it. By utilizing PCIe 3.0 x4 and Intel’s latest 18-channel NVMe flash controller, the Intel 750 was able to achieve speeds of nearly 2.7GB/s during our testing! That is more than four times that of the highest end SATA 6GB/s SSDs on the market, and even faster than the fastest M.2 PCIe SSDs available! This type of performance is an enthusiast’s dream come true!

Intel 750 1.2TB Main

After the Intel DC P3700 series received so much attention by enthusiasts in our review , it was only a matter of time until Intel released a consumer variant. Not only is the Intel 750 the first consumer released NVMe SSD, but also, it is Intel’s first PCIe Gen3 x4 SSD developed for the client enthusiast and workstation market. That is right, a powerhouse SSD envisioned for high-end systems and not your typical mom and pop’s builds. If you are looking for bleeding edge performance and top value in the consumer segment, look no further. Just wait until you see the price! This Intel PCIe SSD simply takes the crown.

WHY NVME OVER PCIE AND SATA?

We have covered PCIe and NVMe SSDs a few times in the past. These two technologies are much more apparent in the enterprise class segment of the market, however, there are benefits to us in the consumer segment. For those who are not in the know, we will cover these technologies once again.

PCIe NVMe

The PCIe interface allows for SSDs to achieve faster overall throughput as they are not limited by the SATA interface. The latest PCIe Gen3 architecture furthers performance by removing much of the overhead that there was in PCIe Gen2, as well as doubling the bandwidth. With PCIe 2.0, there was basically a 20% loss in performance due to 8-bit to 10-bit encoding. Also, bandwidth is limited to about 500MB/s per lane. With PCIe 3.0, they removed the 8-bit to 10-bit encoding scheme and replaced it with a more efficient 128-bit to 130-bit encoding scheme. This drops the overhead from 20% down to a mere 1.54%. In terms of bandwidth, it is effectively doubled from the 500MB/s to 1GB/s per lane. Thus, overall PCIe 3.0 allows for actual transfer speeds of about 985MB/s per lane versus about 400MB/s over PCIe 2.0.

Intel 750 1.2TB PCIe X4

Now, let’s move onto NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) and explain why it came about and how it benefits us. Years ago before flash went mainstream, there was the AHCI interface. This was designed for use with high latency, slow performing hard drives. SSDs, on the other hand, are low latency, high speed devices. The AHCI logical interface for SSDs, while highly compatible, is very inefficient. NVMe was built from the ground up to replace the AHCI logical interface over the PCIe bus to allow greater performance out of flash storage devices. It better exploits parallelism, and provides lower latency due to a streamlined storage stack. Its command structure is much smaller as it has ten admin commands for queues and transport and three I/O commands for SSD functionality. With less latency there is also a reduction in CPU cycle usage by over 50%.

Overall, NVMe allows for a cooler running machine, higher IOPS, much better reliability. The fact that NVMe is a native technology agnostic protocol from which manufacturers can build on, rather than work around as they do with SATA, make this host controller interface a standard for years to come when NAND flash becomes a thing of the past.

With these two technologies combined with a direct path to the CPU, end users can expect more speed and responsiveness out of their storage. In terms of OS support, Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 both support NVMe straight out of the box, however, older versions need a driver for support. Other operating systems such as Linux and even Chrome OS support NVMe as well.

COMPATIBILITY AND EASE OF INSTALLATION

When testing the Intel 750, we were able to install Windows 8.1 onto the device with ease. No special drivers or additional software were needed, and it was detected immediately during the storage selection prompt during installation. In order to install the OS onto the Intel 750, we first went into the UEFI, disabled CSM support and booted off our install media via the “UEFI: <install media name>” option. After Windows installed, the main boot option shows as “Windows Boot Manager.” This also means that it can be utilized with both hardware fast boot modes and Windows fast boot feature. The only issue we encountered was that it had longer boot times than typical SATA drives. Check out our review to see our analysis on boot time utilizing the 400GB model to learn more.

Intel 750 1.2TB Full Length

Bootability verification goes for both our Z97 and X99 systems. Beyond these, we are unable to verify system support. Intel lists OS support for Windows 7 64-bit, Windows 8 64-bit, and Windows 8.1 64-bit and it requires motherboards to have UEFI 2.3.1 or later.

SPECIFICATIONS, PRICING, AND AVAILABILITY

The Intel 750 series of SSDs are available in two form factors, 2.5″ 15mm with a SFF-8639 connector and the half-height, half-length (HHHL) add-in card form factor such as we have on our bench today. The 2.5″ form factor will be better utilized in prosumer server and client systems rather than your typical desktop PC. Capacities are available in 400GB and 1.2TB. This seems quite limited but here’s the kicker; the MSRP on the Intel 750 Series is $389.00 for the 400GB and $1029.00 for the 1.2TB. That is right, Intel is releasing this SSD into the retail market at or under $1 per GB! Sequential read and write for the 1.2TB model is rated for up 2,400/1,200MB/s for while random 4K performance is rated for up to 440K/290K IOPS read/write. The 400GB model is rated for up to 2,200MB/s read and 900MB/s write and up to 430K/230K IOPS read/write. Intel is definitely pushing the boundaries by offering such a great price to performance ratio.

Intel 750 1.2TB NVMe Intel ToolBox

Intel is also including an updated version of the Intel Toolbox with the release of their 750 Series NVMe SSD. It includes a bunch of useful tools and features such as SSD health monitoring, diagnostic scans, a firmware updater, a secure erase function, and a system tuner.

In terms of power, the 2.5″, and add-in card form factors, utilize both the 3.3v and 12V rails, rather than the 5V rail as we see with most consumer SATA SSDs. These are rated for an average read and write wattage of 12W read and 9W write for the 400GB model and up to 22W read and 10W write for the 1.2TB model at a QD128 under sequential read and write workloads with 64KB data. Both have an idle power draw of 4W.

This SSD features your standard TRIM and garbage collection support as well as power-loss protection, however, it does not come with any type of hardware encryption; Intel has saved that feature for its enterprise class SSDs. Finally, the endurance is rated for up to a maximum of 219TB written and the Intel 750 series is backed by a 5-year limited warranty.

  • Obsidian71

    You guys are replacing my keyboard. I just drooled all over it

    • Haha, time for one of those water proof ones! Trust me, I found myself drooling uncontrollably after first receiving this SSD as well! I think that I even forgot how to speak for a bit.

      • darpa21214

        Is it true that in the real world a user will notice no difference between an Intel 750 and a Samsung 850 pro or any other SSD for that mater?

      • It depends on what your real world use is. Everyone has different workloads. If you are editing media heavily such as video and 4K video for that matter, yes there is a difference. If you are just a power user who does a lot of typical desktop tasks you are better off with a SATA SSD.

      • darpa21214

        So for a person with an overclocked 5820K, 16gb of ram, four 4 TB HDs full of movies, who plays games and reads the internet, a 400gb 750 would be a waste of $150 over a Samsung 850 pro 512gb? or should I just blow the $150? I am not the price sensitive.

      • Well…if you are one who likes the best and the fastest (evident by the OC), you might just have to have the 750 but, for what you describe, there will be no performance difference from the other SSD. Not being price sensitive, I’de be grabbing the 750 personally though…just sayin’.

      • Dash

        It’s not going to help you with movies or surfing the web if you’re already running on SSD. It will benefit game loading times, but probably not by a noticeable amount.

        Also, a word of warning on the 5820K, it’s been crippled to only have 28 PCIe lanes. Which means if you’re ever thinking of Crossfire/SLI on your graphics card then may start running out of lanes.

        If you’re looking for a sensible decision, this isn’t it – but then, Haswell-E is probably not that sane either (I’ve got one, so I’m with you on that).

  • John Curtis

    So my revodrive 3 x2 failed a few days ago and I was eyeing the p3700 but its a bit pricey. Is there a good reason not to consider this thing now?

    • Up to you and your uses. The P3600 is rated for faster reads and writes, but a bit lower random writes. Then if you look at the endurance rating the P3600 is rated for 3 drive writes per day up to nearly 11PB TBW…not 219TB TBW. So the P3600 annihilates it in endurance if you need that for your workflow.

      • John Curtis

        Its a solid point on the endurance. Its for a workstation so I might trade in this case I might favor the p3600 but it’s pretty amazing that tech has gotten to the point where this is even a decision.

        Thanks for the note and great input as always!

      • No problem, good luck with your decision!

  • Technostica

    If you actually are running workstation loads then this might be useful otherwise judging by the real world benchmarks I’ve seen elsewhere this is a waste of money.

    • Yep, thus why it is targeted towards that market.

  • ShawnF

    The 2.5-inch form factor model interests me. It says it ships with an add-on card? Is the SSD tethered to this card or can we use other SAS/Sata Express cards from LSI to power this thing?

    • It comes with a SFF-8639 to SF-8643 cable. It is only compatible with a PCIe adapter of some sort such as an M.2 to SFF-8643. Currently the only supported motherboard for this SSD is the Asus X99 Sabertooth as it comes with an M.2 to SFF-8643 adapter. It will not work with SAS cards.

  • Guts

    Hi, can anyone help to verify how fast was the boot up timing as I get a wide range of result for the boot up timing.

    Techreport review claim 51 sec boot up which is slowest in all SSD and TT also claim that 750 is noticeable slower, yet the review here mentioned single digit boot up.

    Just how fast? Any software to keep the exact timing?

    • I had 9 seconds boot in the Z97 test system from power off to on after optimizing everything.

      • Guts

        Hmmm so is about as fast as SATA drive, but just not much faster?

      • Yeah, just about the same. The Samsung 850 Pro 128GB I have as the OS Drive normally boots from power off to desktop in about 8-10 seconds…even a bunch of other SSDs I’ve tested boot about the same.

      • Guts

        Well then, I guess this drive need some firmware update to really boost up the boost speed. Probably better future bios update as well.

    • Dash

      I suspect most of the delay in boot these days with SSD are BIOS/UEFI initialisations and or driver issues with Windows. All of which could vary from system to system.

  • Danny

    How about testing 2-4 of these in a raid?

    • Trevor

      Pretty sure there is no raid support yet. I think RAID is an AHCI thing, not sure if it exists on NVME.

      • Danny

        At least a windows software RAID to see how this performs for storage

  • Trevor

    What an incredible piece of tech! I can’t find a single retailer that has them in Canada! I was going to get a 730 series, but now, I’ll get the 750 for a few bucks more!

    Not many people talk about the flush-in-flight power loss protection, but this is a very rare feature on consumer SSDs and I really appreciate.

  • GE

    So how does this compare to the Kingstone HyperX Predator that you recently reviewed and I recently purchased?!

  • Pete13

    I second GE, how does this compare with the HyperX and some of the other high-end consumer pci-e solutions such as the G.skill phoenix and Mushkin Scorpion? What are the pros and cons? (other than a slightly lower $or£/gb)

    • There are a number of things that differentiate the Intel NVMe SSD from previous solutions, the first of which is the fact that the NVMe driver is part and parcel to Win 8 and above. What this means to boot times is that there is not a lengthy drive bios having to initiate prior to that of the motherboard. Because there are also less commands associated with NVMe, it naturally runs cooler at higher speeds and the best example we have seen of this so far is the performance of the newest Samsung M.2 SSD which reaches performance previously not possible without a heat sink on a M.2 drive. Lastly, performance is very much limited, even in a PCIE 3.0 x4 setup and the IOPs pulled off by this SSD without effort is the true reality of NVMe. Imagine that before long, we will be seeing ultra books such as the MBA pushing selling with performance specs above 2GB/s and similar IOPs which is absolute gold to those working with media, especially 4K video and higher.

  • Ravish

    I am currently new to NVMe technology and trying to get a feel of it.I am looking forward to use NVMe SSD. But currently in dilemma as NVMe SSD is same as PCIe SSD?

    Also currently I am using SAS SSD in AHCI mode. Do I need any specific hardware/software to use it on my system (Fedora 20, kernel 3.13, RAM 4 GB).

    • Dash

      NVMe, as alluded to in the article is the protocol your OS talks to the drive in – currently we generally use AHCI.

      PCIe is a way of physically connecting the drive to your computer; currently we generally use SATA, before it was IDE.

      In terms of specific hardware, you’ll need a spare PCIe x4 (or greater) slot. If you want to be able to boot from it then your BIOS needs to be of the UEFI variety – if you have a X99 or Z97 chipset then you can be reasonably confident that you’ll be ok.

      I think Linux 3.13 will do it, but you’ll really want to go for 3.3 which has the Intel driver in the kernel.

  • Mephi

    The big question for me is just, can I boot it? I’ve got a Z87 based system (Gigabyte Sniper M5) and was really tempted by the HyperX, but this looks even better…

  • LiveJoX

    Samsung Starts Producing 3.2-Terabyte NVMe SSD Based on 3D V-NAND for Next-generation Enterprise Servers
    Seoul, Korea on Sep. 25. 2014

    The newly introduced 3.2TB NVMe SSD provides a sequential read speed of 3,000 megabytes per second (MB/s) and writes sequentially at up to 2,200MB/s. It also randomly reads at up to 750,000 IOPS (input output operations per second) and writes randomly at up to 130,000 IOPS.

    In addition, the 3.2TB SM1715 features outstanding reliability with 10 DWPDs (drive writes per day) for five years. This provides a level of reliability that enterprise server manufacturers have been requesting for their high-end storage solutions.

    The SM1715 comes in 1.6TB and 3.2TB versions, adding more NVMe options to a 2.5-inch NVMe XS1715 lineup that includes 800GB and 1.6TB versions.

    http://www.samsung.com/global/business/semiconductor/news-events/press-releases/detail?newsId=13701

  • Oddbjørn Kvalsund

    I just recieved my 750 yesterday and soon found myself slightly bummed out by the lacking NVMe BIOS-support in my ASUS P8Z77-V motherboard. I managed to get the drive working (albeit non-bootable) by placing it in the black PCIe 2.0 slot of the mainboard, but this is hardly a long term solution. I posted a question to the https://pcdiy.asus.com/ website regarding possible future support for these motherboards and this morning they had publised a poll to check the interest for BIOS/UEFI-support for NVMe’s. Please vote here if you (like me) would like to see this implemented! https://pcdiy.asus.com/2015/04/asus-nvme-support-poll-voice-your-opinion/

    • I just installed this in my ASRock X99 yesterday without any problem whatsoever. I actually think it was one of the quickest installations I have completed. I understand that ASUS has a huge fan base, but truly, with the way they have fallen with storage, I might be looking for compatibility first and foremost. Looking at the number of people that have had difficulties with the XP 941 and newest M.2 on our Forums alone, this should assist buyers in their final choices.

    • Had Enough With the BS

      How is this beast working in a 2.0 slot when everyone is stating is requires a 3.0 slot.

      Is the distinction that 2.0 is for storage; 3.0 for boot ?

  • StockStalker1

    Is it worth moving from 2x480GB 730 SSDs in raid 0 to a single 1.2TB 750?

  • NVMe_Fan

    Would the TRIM work if I place 3x 750 in the server and make Windows software RAID5 with it ?

  • Chad Capeland

    This seems to be basically a low-durability P3500? It’s a bit cheaper than the P3500, but not by a lot.

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