Intel bridges the U.2 gap with an M.2 cable for its 750 Series SSD

Intel recently sent us a 400GB, 2.5" version of its 750 Series SSD as part of its Broadwell-E review kit. We didn't think much of it at the time, but it turns out the drive we received is a little special. To make this formerly-U.2-cabled drive more accessible to system builders, Intel will soon be offering a version of the 2.5" 750 Series SSD with the M.2 adapter cable you see below.

The adapter basically grafts the U.2 cable we examined in our original 750 Series review onto an M.2 2280 card that can slip into the much more common M.2 slot on modern motherboards. Builders will still need to hook up the SATA power connector toward the business end of the drive to get it fully up and running.

With this move, the blue team's storage division appears to be positioning the 2.5" 750 Series drive as an alternative to M.2 NVMe SSDs. That's not an entirely crazy notion. The folks over at Puget Systems published an analysis of M.2 NVMe SSD throttling today, and only the remotely-mounted 2.5" 750 Series drive completely avoided thermal throttling during Puget's testing. It's worth noting that Puget's tests simulate an extreme scenario that many users are unlikely to encounter in regular use, but if you know you need your NVMe drive to perform up to its maximum potential all of the time, a remotely-mountable 2.5" drive with a beefy heatsink like this 750 Series SSD could be the right choice.

Either way, expect a lineup of 2.5" 750 Series SSDs with the M.2 adapter to hit the market soon. They'll be sold in tandem with the U.2-cabled versions already on the market. Buyers will need to make sure they're selecting the 750 Series drive with the cable they want from here on out.

Comments closed
    • NeoForever
    • 5 years ago

    Geoff’s (Asus’s) take on this.
    [url<]http://edgeup.asus.com/2016/06/m-2-ssd-throttling-tests-vindicate-asus-motherboard-designs/[/url<]

      • DrCR
      • 5 years ago

      Awesome, thanks for sharing.

      • chuckula
      • 5 years ago

      Yay Geoff!

    • smilingcrow
    • 5 years ago

    I blame Bono, the Edge and the gang for giving away their album on iTunes for the poor uptake of U.2 drives.

    I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, in terms of an ideal desktop SSD interface.
    In the Name of Love, let’s stop this interface madness.
    Where the Streets Have No Name, and the PCIe resources have not enough lanes.
    With or without you, an ode to the demise of SATA.
    Mysterious Ways, of the desktop I/O gods.
    Sunday Bloody Sunday, and the shops are closed and I can’t buy a bloody U.2 to M.2 adapter.
    New Year’s Day, and another new PCIe connector is released.
    Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of, agh there’s no free power cable for my new U.2 drive.
    Desire, one interface to slay them all.
    Beautiful Day, at last we have ONE cable that does it all.

    • tipoo
    • 5 years ago

    One million percent describes what happened to storage interfaces in the last few years.
    [url<]https://xkcd.com/927/[/url<] But it's the Serial ATA International Organizations fault, putting out SATA-Express late and after PCI-E SSDs already provided more bandwidth than it could deal with.

    • DPete27
    • 5 years ago

    1) Here’s a novel idea: manufacturers should put heatspreaders on their M.2 SSDs!!! Problem solved. I mean…they already slap heatspreaders on RAM where it’s not even necessary.

    2) That U.2 to M.2 cable looks like a cobble job. That will never stick (no pun intended)

      • Jeff Kampman
      • 5 years ago

      It might not look it in the pictures, but it’s quite a solid piece of gear. Not cheap-feeling in the least.

        • DPete27
        • 5 years ago

        I wasn’t implying the product was chintzy, just that it’s a clumsy solution.

        I suppose we had SAS for enterprise and SATA for consumers, now we’ve got SATA-express and M.2 for consumers, why not introduce a third standard (U.2) that does the same thing.

      • BurntMyBacon
      • 5 years ago

      Or they could just manufacture U.2 (SFF-8639) drives. Market it to enterprise and release it for sale at retail. More motherboard manufacturers would probably support it once there are more drives available. Once enough support is there, they could release consumer targeted drives. Note: the heat sinks required to keep these M.2 devices cool would limit the ability to use them in some space constrained applications. So if you are already going to limit the target audience, then why not just go directly to U.2 and avoid the issue altogether.

      M.2 was the obvious and uncontested choice for space constrained applications. Given that it already had a market, it was easy for desktop board manufacturers to justify supporting a standard that already had devices available. However, for a standard PC, it uses more board space than PCIe x4 slots or (more importantly) U.2 connectors. Full ATX standard boards often come with one M.2 socket, but getting more than that is difficult and secondary M.2s are not ideally placed. I’ve only ever heard of (not actually seen) a board that can fit up to three M.2 sockets. You can fit many more U.2 (SFF-8639) connectors on a board (check out the enterprise space).

        • continuum
        • 5 years ago

        M.2 and U.2 FTW. I am happy to see SATA Express go the way of the dodo, particularly given its limited bandwidth.

    • Thresher
    • 5 years ago

    These different formats and interfaces confuse the hell out of me.

    I’m probably more informed than the average consumer on things like this, but storage is not something I’ve paid a lot of attention to since I put a couple of SSDs in my main gaming rig.

    Why has this transition been so horrible?

      • tipoo
      • 5 years ago

      SATA-IO was late to the party with SATA Express offering lower peak speeds than PCI-E implementations already did. It’s gotten messy because of it and now for very high bandwidth SSDs the mobile m.2 is ironically better than SATA express despite being made for laptops.

      Imo, SATA can die. NVMe and PCI-E are the way to go.

        • Krogoth
        • 5 years ago

        SATA Express was actually trying to bridge legacy SATA/PATA devices while providing enough headroom for upcoming solid-state media.

        Unfortunately, it failed to achieve either goal in its first attempt. U.2 is SATA-IO’s the second attempt to remedy this.

    • Zizy
    • 5 years ago

    Uhm, what is the point of U.2? M.2 in different form factor that requires separate power?
    So the only use case is to have cables from your motherboard to huge disk arrays, as it would be an inconvenience to change box layout.
    But wouldn’t it be much simpler to just use Thunderbolt 3 (probably quite expensive) or create yet another alt mode for USB-C (which shouldn’t be as costly)? No separate power needed and as another side benefit the same drive can be easily internal or external.

      • bhtooefr
      • 5 years ago

      Thermal management. U.2 can stay far cooler, whereas most M.2 installations overheat and throttle under heavy load.

    • f0d
    • 5 years ago

    im not too keen on the tiny M.2 form factor, you cant get many of them on a motherboard which limits how many drives you can have and as someone who likes to stuff his computer full of drives its a big downside for me

    • Bensam123
    • 5 years ago

    Hard drive specs have went to a weird place in the last couple years. As of the end of SATA and the start of SATA-Express it seems as though everything has went all willy nilly.

    NVME seems to be the new metric of speed, specifically in the form of M2s (instead of PCIE cards) weirdly enough. The SATAe connector apparently never was up to the spec of M.2 slots, so now we have U.2, which has 4x lanes instead of 2x lanes.

    I can understand M.2 becoming commonplace on laptops, I don’t understand why they snuck into desktop motherboards though. There should’ve been a distinction between the two with desktop parts using a M.2 equivalent connection… which was SATAe. Now apparently not being satisfied with speed of it Intel is throwing U.2 into it which has the capabilities of a M.2 socket.

    I’m not sure why Intel didn’t work with the SATA guys to ratify this instead of doing it themselves. I hope this turns into SATAe-2 instead of just U.2.

    I wonder when they’ll start adding heatsinks to ‘desktop’ m.2 drives…

      • cmrcmk
      • 5 years ago

      I think we’re moving away from storage-specific interfaces and SATA-IO hasn’t kept up. Indeed if we are moving storage devices straight into the PC’s nervous system, SATA-IO might need to start winding down.

      But in the interim, a lot of companies/consortiums/SIGs/armchair quarterbacks have different ideas about how to package PCIe lanes but none of them seem to think they should run it through SATA-IO which would normally consolidate the ideas into a new, universal standard. Thus we’re moving toward [url<]https://xkcd.com/927/.[/url<]

        • Bensam123
        • 5 years ago

        Yup, hope they work something out with SATA to get U.2 made into the ‘goto’.

      • BurntMyBacon
      • 5 years ago

      The problem with SATA-Express is that by the time it launched, there were more than a few PCIe SSD Cards available. Unfortunately, the creators of SATA-Express didn’t see fit to give it enough bandwidth to handle the technology that was already available. The bandwidth they gave it would allow for a significant increase in throughput and that would have been enough if there weren’t already a faster alternative in PCIe expansion cards.

      M.2 is basically a mobile form factor that made its way to the desktop. There are few good reasons to use SATA M.2 drives in PCs larger than mITX. If you aren’t space constrained, then you get better expandability and flexibility from the standard SATA counterparts. PCIe based M.2 slots are a way to effectively shrink PCIe expansion cards to fit into space constrained devices. As far as desktop motherboards are concerned, the M.2 drive takes up more space on a motherboard than a PCIe x4 slot. Lane allocation issues are the same with both. The popularity of M.2 in more portable devices drove more companies to release products leading to the inclusion of slots on desktop boards. Due to the ability to address both markets, I would expect these to stick around for a while, even if they aren’t the best option in the ideal sense.

      U.2 is actually a rename of SFF-8639, a standard connector already established in the enterprise space. The fastest 4 lane PCIe 3.0 M.2 slots are equivalent to U.2 in terms of speed and functionality. U.2 connectors take up less board space than PCIe x4 slots, M.2 drives, and even SATA-Express connectors. U.2 has the potential to allow for better expandability and flexibility than M.2 in systems that aren’t space constrained. Unfortunately, while this would be the most ideal SATA replacement, there hasn’t been a lot of support for this standard outside the enterprise space.

      Given the lack of PCIe lanes available on current consumer boards, I’d expect any of these standards to coexist with SATA. HDDs don’t really need the extra bandwidth anyways.

      Why not just a new version of SATA instead? I’d suggest reading up on NVMe and the benefits it offers over AHCI. The summary is, AHCI overhead is becoming a significant hindrance to achieving the optimal performance that flash drives are capable of.

        • Zizy
        • 5 years ago

        Unfortunately? Beh, nobody cares outside of enterprise. M.2 is as fast and works for laptops and small systems, so you won’t have problems getting the drives. SATA is cheap, everywhere and offers good enough speed for almost all tasks. Plus M.2 has less material needed so it should be cheaper to make than U.2 drive.
        I believe even on tech forums there are extremely few people that have > 2TB of SSD storage and even fewer that would really like beyond SATA speed on all their storage. You can already buy 1TB M.2 SSD (Toshiba, not sure about Samsung – but their tiny packages should enable even 2TB M.2 SSDs) and motherboards with 2x M.2 (for example GA-Z170X-UD3, 140 eur).
        So, why would anyone but enterprise care?

      • Krogoth
      • 5 years ago

      It is because we are in the middle of a massive paradigm shift in the storage world.

      Solid-state media has finally become cheap and robust enough to replace HDDs in most I/O situations. HDDs only hold-out is data density and $$$/TiB ratio in cloud/data-centers.

      • Beahmont
      • 5 years ago

      Isn’t U.2 just a rename of SFF-8639? If so, then Intel really isn’t going it alone and your complaint seems… off to put it mildly.

    • Deanjo
    • 5 years ago

    Good luck trying to fit that monstrosity in an ITX case. Hell I would rather try out my old PATA oragami skills than trying to plug that in an SFF case and not have stress points trying to fit it the enclosure.

    There must be some industry conpiracy in play that after nearly 50 years, the industry still sucks at making a good physical interconnect connectors.

      • BurntMyBacon
      • 5 years ago

      I don’t think space constrained form factors are the target market here.

      Still up-voted you due to the mental picture that invoked. (0_0)

      • Krogoth
      • 5 years ago

      The problem is that it is a PITA to create a new interconnect that still retains legacy compatibility. The legacy connectors were engineered in a time where ICs and electronics tech were immature and prone to signaling issues.

      SATA and SCSI will only die when HDDs become completely obsolete.

      • bhtooefr
      • 5 years ago

      It’ll still fit a hell of a lot better in my Mini-ITX case than things like this:

      [url<]http://media.gamersnexus.net/images/media/2016/motherboards/gigabyte/ASRock-Udot2-adapter.png[/url<]

    • blahsaysblah
    • 5 years ago

    They should just put vertical M.2 ports on MB. No power cables, no data cables.

    A-> There is this new and rarely seen 16 link PCIe slot seen on MBs in the wild. Having 16 links in close proximity (w/no less than 75 watts power) is possible.

    B-> M.2 card is 80mm high, video card is at least that since all the GPUs mention 80 or 90mm fans. Assume both connectors would consume same height(the PCIe connector and the M.2 connector)

      • biffzinker
      • 5 years ago

      How about a [url=https://www.amazon.com/JZLL-SFF-8639-Adapter-Intel-p3700/dp/B01D51HUUS?ie=UTF8&SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B01D51HUUS&linkCode=xm2&tag=duckduckgo-ffsb-20<]U.2 PCIe (SFF-8639) to PCI-E X4 3.0 Adapter U.2 NVMe SSD PCIe Card?[/url<]

        • blahsaysblah
        • 5 years ago

        Point is to replace SATA ports and move industry forward.

        You can easily add a 2230+ adapter to convert port to U.2.

        99% of folks would be covered with a few vertical M.2 and anyone else could use an M.2 mini-raid card or standard PCIe card.

    • albundy
    • 5 years ago

    had no idea m.2 drives got that hot. whats the point then?

      • DrCR
      • 5 years ago

      Well, some work argue that most needs will be of burst rather than sustained nature. But for a desktop, I simply can’t bring myself to by a M.2 gumstick — it just feels like an unnecessary trade off for a desktop.

      • blahsaysblah
      • 5 years ago

      The reviewer linked wasn’t that knowledgeable about storage. Didnt answer obvious questions.

      They didn’t attach their own thermal sensor to controller chip to verify when chip was throttling from heat versus out of over provisioned pages, needing to trim, blah blah…

      How long do you have to wait to get back to 80-90-100% speeds after its throttled?

      Btw, you dont write data non stop to a drive unless its a heavy hit database. Even most game installs dont get close to the amount of data they were writing. 99% of time, you have access to the super speeds. Its just something to be aware of.

    • DrCR
    • 5 years ago

    A step in the right direction. But I’m still waiting for motherboards to have as many U.2 interfaces as SATA ones (and enough PCIe lanes to go around).

    Here’s a bigger shot at this sort of M.2 to U.2 adapter:
    [url<]http://overclock3d.net/gfx/articles/2015/06/09073433503l.jpg[/url<] Edit: Info on [url=http://overclock3d.net/articles/storage/what_is_the_new_u_2_ssd_connection/1<]U.2[/url<] Info on [url=http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/02/understanding-m-2-the-interface-that-will-speed-up-your-next-ssd/<]M.2[/url<] Nutshell: Best case for both is PCIe x4 (M key M.2). (B key M.2 best case is x2.)

      • blahsaysblah
      • 5 years ago

      No more cables. U.2 should be enterprise only like SCSI cables. M.2 only for mere mortals.

    • Rza79
    • 5 years ago

    I wonder how much that sticker on M.2 drives deteriorates the heat dissipation.

    • Topinio
    • 5 years ago

    Nice, this drive was already my want to buy next and the bundled adapter is the cherry on top.

      • homerdog
      • 5 years ago

      For quite a while Newegg bundled U.2 to M.2 adapters with these drives. I didn’t realize they stopped doing that. Good on Intel for including it in the box.

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