NGFF spec promises smaller SSDs

Move over, mSATA. Intel has a new standard for ultra-small-form factor SSDs. Dubbed the Next Generation Form Factor, or NGFF, the standard should enable drives that are smaller than existing mSATA models. mSATA offerings typically have a footprint of 51 x 30 mm and a thickness of around 5 mm. The smallest NGFF designs will be 42 x 22 mm and less than 3 mm thick. There are provisions for double-sided cards under 4 mm thick and larger versions up to 110 mm long. According to Intel, the new form factor allows for a more efficient distribution of NAND chips, which should enable capacities up to 512GB.

NGFF isn’t just for SSDs. In addition to supporting Serial ATA drives, the add-in card format can accommodate PCIe devices. There will be three kinds of sockets. SSDs will be available with Socket 2 and Socket 3 interfaces, which will offer two and four lanes of PCIe connectivity, respectively. A Socket 1 interface will exist for Wi-Fi cards only; presumably, it will have a single PCIe lane attached.

The mSATA connector is already mechanically compatible with Mini PCI Express slots, but those are limited to a single lane. NGFF’s support for multiple lanes will provide more bandwidth for future devices. It’s unclear whether SATA-based SSDs will be able to take advantage of the additional lanes. However, future drives with native PCIe connectivity should have no problem. Indeed, Intel indicates that Socket 3 is designed exclusively for storage devices.

Socket 3 SSDs are a ways off, but we should see Socket 2 models as early as next year. Intel expects SSD caches and smaller drives to stick to Type 2242 NGFF cards, which meaure 42 x 22 mm. Larger SSDs will likely use Type 2280 cards that stretch out to 80 mm long. It would be nice if notebook makers stuck to those two formats—and made the cards accessible to end users to facilitate easy upgrades.

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    • meno
    • 7 years ago

    I use mPCIE long ago in my EEEPC901 and very happy with it as it is very cheap to replace it for 32G or even to 64G thanks to those little Chineeses.

    But in my HTPC I liked to use LOW profile (DDR RAM height) bootable SSD to put directly into the PCIE 2.0 x16 slot.

    I seen OCZ already made it for x4 slot (similar to the Slot3 version in NGFF?) long ago, but it was too high to fit into pizza box style HTPC I like. And price was prohibitive.

    Now they made to fit into x8 slot, again for Severs and for big money:

    [url<][/url<] What is the advantage of NGFF over PCIE2.0 x slots, that are already available (but not used) in ITX motherboards? Can we put x2 or x4 SSD cards (that hopefully little Chineeses will produce once) into x16 slot?

    • willmore
    • 7 years ago

    Prediction: This will be in the next really thin/small Mac. It will also be soldered in *and* stuck on with VHB tape.

    • UberGerbil
    • 7 years ago

    If “Socket 1” is WiFi-specific, is there a provision for an antenna connector in that one as well?

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Ewww… Shame on you Intel. Only provide ONE option that fits everything or motherboard manufacturers wont use it on laptops. They’ll just take the easy way out. With Wifi cards on laptops now days you usually can just pop them out and pop in a mini-sata drive. If there is more then one socket, you can simply place it in there. With msata and wireless cards, they were all roughly similar in size or the area around them is cleared out so you can potentially put larger cards in there. If socket one is designed only for wireless devices, you can no longer do that.

    A good question here is: Are socket 3 devices compatible with socket 1 sockets? That’s really what I’m worried about more then anything. If this turns into product segmentation it wont bode well for consumers.

      • FakeAlGore
      • 7 years ago

      From what I can tell, it looks like it’s one socket design with just a varying number of PCIe lanes connected to it.

      The actual socket, perhaps: [url<][/url<] An article that heavily implies the number of PCIe lanes determines the socket: [url<],2817,2409710,00.asp[/url<] So it looks like Socket 1 has a single PCIe lane. Socket 2 has 2. Socket 3 has 4.

    • oldog
    • 7 years ago

    Lovely article today in the WSJ about the glory/gory days of hard discs and floppies. Great read.

    If you’re interested. Google- “Michael Malone: Remembrance of Computer Disks Past”

    (The direct link requires a subscription)

      • pedro
      • 7 years ago

      Excellent, thanks for that.

    • ludi
    • 7 years ago

    Suddenly, sockets have single-digit numeric designations again.

    [i<]That[/i<] takes me back.

      • Farting Bob
      • 7 years ago

      Socket A lives!

    • glacius555
    • 7 years ago

    Hmm.. I am not exactly an engineer or IT professional, but I could imagine enough NAND for an OS installation on a MB, placed where SB is today, maybe?

    If Apple buys albeit slower chips $9 for 16GB, installing 128GB does not sound too crazy, IMO.

    • halbhh2
    • 7 years ago

    We are rapidly advancing towards my idea of a computer on a stick (like a large thumb drive, that you take with you to various places where you use a public display (like on the back of an airline seat). Monitors are stationary, computers mobile. You need never take it from your pocket. Of course, at this point, the evolution would more likely be a future phone becoming this. It has a small display, but wireless to larger displays, etc. I guess it is very inevitable, since Intel has already done the wireless to display thing.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 7 years ago

      Miracast is supported by all the big phone / tabletSoC designers. It’s obviously not common place yet, but point being that wireless display has already been standardized.

      Intel’s thing is interesting, but likely to become pointless even for their own CPUs. As they were showing with the new Atom, it makes a lot more sense to just go with something like WiGig and make literally everything wireless across one standard.

      So yes, the “computer on a stick” is almost here. The next Atom will also have stacked RAM. Moving to memristors or phase change memory that can replace flash will even allow separate storage chips to be done away with.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 7 years ago

      That already exists with ARM-based ‘computers on a stick.’ That plus ‘cloud’ (personally – yuck, but whatever) for storage and you’re there.

      The future is today!

    • BIF
    • 7 years ago

    Here we go again…

    When it comes to “removable parts”, smaller is better, but only to a point.

    MicroSD cards suck. I know, I know…SSDs are not the same. But when they become so small that I need a jeweler’s loupe to plug one in, then that’s it, I’m going back to stone tablets.

      • demani
      • 7 years ago

      For some reason I am just picturing Moses coming down with the commandments in his arms…on iPads. It’s a very loose connection, but stone tablets…

      And then the History Of The World scene where he drops the third tablet and it becomes 10 (from 15). And just cursing the cost and the lack of a good case.

        • sircharles32
        • 7 years ago

        Alright, you get a +1 for that one.
        Made my day.

        • yogibbear
        • 7 years ago

        Unfortunately the real commandments were flash based… so he had to just make them up.

    • yogibbear
    • 7 years ago

    Can’t wait to get my hands on the Next Next Generation Form Factor!

      • ermo
      • 7 years ago

      … Mk II

    • Welch
    • 7 years ago

    Just make them have higher capacities for 1/2 the price. KThxBye

      • Firestarter
      • 7 years ago

      Missing the point there, you are.

      • rrr
      • 7 years ago

      Bye and don’t come back. We won’t miss you.

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