Intel 750 Series 1.2TB NVMe PCIe SSD Review

Intel is still playing by the 2014 playbook, re-purposing datacenter technology to fit your desktop and budget. This time, the company is reaching for its top-shelf controller technology to guarantee a winner.

Despite Samsung's enthusiastic claim of offering the first consumer-orientated NVMe SSD, Intel ends up with the checkered flag. PCIe-based SSDs represent the pinnacle of storage performance. But in the seven years since Fusion-io released its ioDrive, few native PCIe-based solid-state drives have surfaced. The enterprise segment, where the ioDrive resides, prioritizes performance over cost. The rest of us live in a world where $5000 PCs (much less single components) are rare. 

The enterprise drives storage with large R&D budgets, and desktop derivatives often follow with less aggressive specifications. Intel and its competitors already have NVMe products in datacenters. They're so fast that we often find them in cache systems as tier 0.

Intel's SSD 750 is a client-oriented high-performance SSD based on the same controller used in the DC 3700/3600/3500 families. This latest series was designed for use in workstation environments or enthusiasts who demand the best possible storage experience. The 750 Series utilizes Non-Volatile Memory Express technology to deliver exceptional performance with low system resource overhead. Given the pedigree and feature set, you don't even need to ask if the SSD 750 is fast. Do you need to ask a Lamborghini owner if his car is quick?

The half- and full-height cards offer more surface area than a 2.5" drive to mount components, which is good because Intel's third-generation controller with NVMe optimization uses more channels to the flash than typical eight-channel processors in this space. The performance comes from reading and writing to 18 flash packages at one time on the 1.2TB model we're testing today. Intel does manage to stuff these components into a 2.5" version with stacked PCBs as well, but the add-in card with its larger surface cooling area requires less airflow to keep the drive happy.

Technical Specifications

Intel released the SSD 750 Series in two form factors and two capacity sizes for a total of four product SKUs. Most will purchase this drive in its traditional half-height half-length (HHHL) PCIe card form factor. As mentioned, Intel also has a 2.5" 15mm model (SFF-8639 connector) for system integrators to use in small form factor designs. The two capacity sizes could be somewhat contentious: 400GB and 1.2TB. The 750 Series suffers a wide gap in pricing between the 400GB ($389) and 1.2TB ($1029) models. We would love to see an 800GB version fill this space at less than $800. The 750 Series ships with a half-height and full-height adapter bracket, as well as USB media with the drivers and Intel's SSD Toolbox utility software. Both capacities should be available by the end of April 2015.

Under the large heat sink is the same third-gen controller modified for NVMe. It employs 18 channels to read and write to the flash. The low-overheard command set paired with the large number of channels and Intel's 20nm MLC ONFi NAND flash delver sequential read performance at up to 2400 MB/s. It's difficult to say that with a straight face; I feel the corners of my lips pressing against my ears. The SSD 750 Series doesn't let up when it comes to sequential writes either, at least on the 1.2TB model. Intel claims 1200 MB/s sequential write performance. The 400GB model purportedly achieves 2200 MB/s sequential reads and 900 MB/s sequential writes. Those numbers remain aggressive, even though the 400GB model only uses half as many channels to the flash.

Intel claims 4KB random read performance just shy of a half a million IOPS (440,000 to be precise, though at this level, who's counting?). The 4KB random write IOPS peak at 290,000. The 400GB model is nearly as fast with random data: 430,000 read IOPS and 230,000 in writes.

Normally, when enterprise components make the transition to the desktop, issues arise due to heat and power consumption. The Intel SSD 750 Series didn't have any problems in these areas during our testing. We reached out to Intel to find out what process node the controller was built on, but the company wants to keep that information private. Still, we asked because the 750's controller is the coolest NVMe-capable processor we've tested to date. With moderate airflow in your system, the drive remains cool, even under heavy loads. The 2.5" model requires three times the cooling capacity due to its smaller form factor and more compact design.

At idle, the 750 Series products consume just 4W of power. That jumps to 25W under heavy load. The consumption is more than a typical SATA-based SSD, but the power to IOPS ratio is very good. Compared to SATA-based products, the SSD 750 is four times faster at peak performance.

The Intel 750 Series is covered by a five-year warranty and is rated at 70GB written per day.

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  • mapesdhs
    Typo on the 1st page, it states, "Up To 22400 MB/s" for sequential read.
    Presumably that's supposed to be 2400. ;)

    Ian.

    PS. Would be handy to include just one good normal SATA SSD as
    a comparison reference, eg. 850 Pro 512GB.
    7
  • CRamseyer
    Thanks Ian, we'll get the typo fixed ASAP.

    Let me see what I can do about putting a 2.5" performance drive in the charts. I'm building new charts now for PCIe-based devices.

    Looks for the other SM951 capacity sizes and Predator soon.
    6
  • tridon
    Quote:

    PS. Would be handy to include just one good normal SATA SSD as
    a comparison reference, eg. 850 Pro 512GB.


    For those of us that don't have these number in our heads, I get no real sense of how fast this really is compared to my ssd.
    3
  • unityole
    from what I see, intel with lower performance number is likely due to lower performance controller or flash or firmware, whichever it maybe we all know samsung like to clock controller/flash higher for better looking performance. reason that random write at QD1 is so fast probably because of NVMe. can't wait to see this go up against SM951 NVMe.
    0
  • unityole
    Quote:
    For those of us that don't have these number in our heads, I get no real sense of how fast this really is compared to my ssd.


    from HDD to SSD you see the huge latency drop by about 50x, where as fastest SSD compare to ram is maybe 30-50x dependent on ram/ssd. with NVMe can look forward to at least another 3x loss in latency.

    basically it'll be so much more snappier than your ssd for sure.
    4
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Does this quote from page 5 apply to this card: "In time, we hope to see a RAID 0 NVMe boot environment that would give this test a little more meaning."

    Is this card bootable in Windows 10 or not?
    1
  • CRamseyer
    I haven't tested it in Win 10 yet but I don't see MS going backwards with NVMe and not allowing it to boot.
    3
  • ralanahm
    Hi thank you for the article. If you ever reviewed a Mushkin scorpion deluxe could it be added to the chart? it has 2000 MB/s. the top one is a four 480-ssd raid on a card.

    http://poweredbymushkin.com/catalog/36-scorpion-deluxe-pcie-ssd
    0
  • Arabian Knight
    NVMe Samsung SM951 is coming soon . and I think it will outperform this card ;) ..
    0
  • atheus
    Maybe it's just me (I doubt it) — when I see an article on something like this the biggest question on my mind is what exactly am I going to get from going with something like this for a system build rather than 2.5" SATA SSD at less than half the price. In order to understand that, I've got to go dig out another article with 2.5" SSD stats and compare them there. Please consider putting the most prevalent main drive option of today into the charts next time you pop out a NVMe article.
    5
  • JoeMomma
    From what I have read about SSD speed, SATA3 is adequate for most people. A PCI-e storage or RAID will crush a 500Gb/s in benchmarks or workstation productivity apps pushing large file sizes. But for browsing, games and heavy use even Tom's tester said he could not "feel" the difference between a single SSD and a RAID that benchmarked much higher. Where I think NVMe shines is the ability to have a separate queue for each thread. I want the 400GB Intel 750 asap.
    0
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    Anonymous said:
    I haven't tested it in Win 10 yet but I don't see MS going backwards with NVMe and not allowing it to boot.


    Thank you Chris.
    0
  • jasonkaler
    What happens when you exceed the "70 GB Per Day" "endurance" ?
    At 1200 MB/s - that happens in one minute flat.
    0
  • danlw
    What exactly is "Service Time"? I read the TomsHardware article "How We Test HDDs And SSDs", but I'm still fuzzy on "Service Time". Using Battlefield 3 / WoW, for example, are those times how long it takes for the game to load? (I'm pretty sure Wow loads for me much faster than 57 seconds for me) What I'd like to see is a "Load Time" chart. Will an Intel 750 boot windows and load games faster than the other SSDs in the chart? That's where the value is for me - reducing load times.
    0
  • JQB45
    Quote:
    What happens when you exceed the "70 GB Per Day" "endurance" ?
    At 1200 MB/s - that happens in one minute flat.


    It will be fine so long as you don't do it to often. So write once to the drive and then as little as possible for the life of the drive and it will last a long time.
    0
  • Larry Litmanen
    What will be the boot time with this thing? 10 seconds? 5 seconds?
    0
  • kiniku
    Quote:

    PS. Would be handy to include just one good normal SATA SSD as
    a comparison reference, eg. 850 Pro 512GB.

    Quote:
    For those of us that don't have these number in our heads, I get no real sense of how fast this really is compared to my ssd.

    Yes. On all these sites it seems new SSD reviews these days contain droves of benchmark results and in the final words or conclusions it states something as ambiguous as "this is really fast!" Most of us already own an SSD. How about we move on from the magnetic drive era and give us SSD enthusiasts a conclusion. For example I enjoy the "diminished returns" comments in the monthly best CPU articles.
    3
  • unityole
    some people would be ok with just a 2.5" sata SSD. for people that are getting this, considering you are on a sata III ssd and you are trying to explain its just much better to have it over a sata I but they just wont budge because they dont think the difference is worth the cost, and they do have a point. sometimes its unnecessary to upgrade but we do it anyway.

    right now these pcie cost a lot, and it'll drop overtime, first it'll be 2.5" hopefully we see some tlc at 4TB a piece at 7 or 9.5mm, follow by these nvme ssd become available for majority of notebook.

    sata III compare to sata I is around 3 to 3.5x of sequential read/write performance, 4k increases by around 2-3x, and due to older gen SATA I ssd with older flash/controller/firmware etc, latency is about 2-3x higher. NVMe compare to sata III is about the same.
    1
  • Eggz
    Here's the Tom's review I've been waiting for! Great review!

    I am curious to know more about the "heavy conditioning" mentioned on the second-to-last page. It says that heavy conditioning the 750 changes the game entirely, but what exactly did achieving that entail?
    0
  • danlw
    Toms, you may want to investigate boot times. I read a review on another site, and the Intel 750 took significantly longer to boot than standard SATA drives - on the order of 10+ seconds longer to boot. I wonder if this was a configuration issue, or something about NVMe is not conducive to fast boots?
    0