Adata Teases First SMI-Powered PCIe 5.0 SSD, New CXL DDR5 Card

SSD

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Adata’s booth at CES 2023 held a few surprises, including the first SMI-powered PCIe 5.0 SSD, which peaks at a blistering 14 GB/s, a new CXL 1.1 DDR5 device, and the company’s new portable SSD that won a CES innovation award for computer peripherals. The display also confirmed that SMI's PCIe 5.0 SSD controllers will be faster than the Phison E26-powered models that will come to market over the next few months. 

Adata was one of the early SSD pioneers and has a history of using nearly every type of SSD controller available. However, because Silicon Motion’s future 2508 controller is still far off on the horizon, it was surprising to see the peak speeds it can achieve with Adata’s configuration. The preview gives a good view of how PCIe 5.0 SSDs other than those powered by Phison’s E26, which dominates the current crop of new PCIe 5.0 drives, will perform.

The 12nm Silicon Motion (SMI) SM 2508 SSD controller powers Adata’s as-yet unbranded ‘XPG PCIe GEN5 SSD.’ The drive offers up to 14 GB/s of sequential read throughput, saturating the PCIe 5 bus, and 12 GB/s of sequential write throughput, 200 MB/s faster than SSDs powered by the E26.

Adata also claims that its drive will serve up 2 million random read/write IOPS, beating the Phison E26 by half a million IOPS in random write workloads. This level of performance is impressive as both the SM 2508 and E26 are eight-channel controllers. 

Adata plans to field up to 8TB SSDs with the controller but hasn’t specified which type of NAND it used to reach this level of performance. However, the company will qualify multiple types of NAND with the controller.

The M.2 bus now supports up to 11.5W of power to an M.2 SSD, and we expect that PCIe 5.0 SSDs will begin to push up to those higher power limits. PCIe 5.0 SSDs will need beefier cooling to deliver the utmost performance, and now we’re also seeing plenty of signs that active cooling will be required for high-powered models, just like the early Phison E26 sample we recently tested.

Adata’s SMI-powered SSD will have an integrated fan built right into the heatsink, but even though these types of small fans typically produce a high-pitched whine, Adata says the noise level is negligible. That makes sense given that the fan is nestled below an upper covering that has an air channel with openings at either end, as you can see in the pictures above. That should contain any meaningful noise from the fan.

Adata also touts that the heatsink is the ‘world’s first’ to use a crystallization treatment that purportedly lowers temperatures and helps with thermal dissipation. This drive is sandwiched between the heatsink and a stainless-steel base plate (the baseplate and heatsink latch together).

We’re looking forward to putting the drive to the test, but Adata isn’t ready to comment yet on final specs, pricing, or availability. We followed up with SMI representatives who tell us that they expect the controller to be in mass production in early 2024, so it looks like Adata’s SSD will be a bit further out on the horizon than expected. SMI will also bring a cut-down four-channel version of the SM2508, the SM 2507, to market in 2024. Meanwhile, SMI has its full-featured 16-channel MonTitan PCIe 5.0 x8 SSD controller sampling to data center customers, with full production to begin this quarter. 

We also spotted Adata's new CXL 1.1 memory module, which can come packing up to 512GB of DDR5 memory that communicates over a PCIe 5.0 x4 bus. This module comes in the E3.S form factor, so it can plug into arrangements similar to the 2.5" NVMe drive bays you see on the front of a server, or into custom-built backplanes inside a separate chassis. 

A single RISC-V powered Montage MXC (M88MX5891) CXL memory expander ties the DDR5 memory chips together, allowing 32, 64, 128, 256, or 512GB of DRAM to be placed on a single device that is roughly the same size as a 2.5" U.2 SSD. The controller supports the CXL 1.1 and 2.0 RAS spec, with CXL.mem and CXl.io protocols on the menu for memory expansion. 

Compute Express Link (CXL) devices allow server processors to address remotely-placed memories, DDR5 in this case, as local memory. The typical latency impact weighs in around that of a standard NUMA hop, so it is entirely tenable for many types of workloads that prize extra memory capacity. Adata is ready to produce these cards today with various flavors of memory, but they are reserved for custom orders for large hyperscalers and the like, so you won't see them at retail. You can read all of the nitty-gritty details of the CXL spec here

AMD's EPYC Genoa and Intel's Sapphire Rapids both support CXL, so we should expect these types of devices to find plenty of users over the coming years. 

Adata's SE920 picked up a CES award at the show. The device has a USB4 interface that operates at 40Gbps. An Asmedia ASM2464PD controller powers the drive to deliver up to 3,800/3,2000 MB/s of sequential read/write throughput. 

The cover is slidable, and the drive can function in either the closed format (first and second pictures) or be expanded to open up a larger recess in the middle of the drive (third and fourth pics). Expanding the drive opens up the air channels in the middle of the device and engages a small interior fan (not seen here) that cools the device by expelling air through the small holes at the top of the device. That's useful during long file transfers that require the utmost performance. The drive connects to the host via a USB-C connection.

The SE920 will retail for roughly $150 to $170 for the 1TB model and $300 for the 2TB model. We can expect to see them on shelves before the end of April.  

Update 1/12/2023: Corrected the article to reflect that the SM 2508 is an eight-channel controller. 

Paul Alcorn
Deputy Managing Editor

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.

  • DotNetMaster777
    CES innovation award it is good start ! !

    Could it be possible to buy new SDD device soon ? ? ? ?

    How this new SSD can be pre-order ? ? ?
    Reply
  • HideOut
    You are really talking about an item that the controller wont even go into production for over a year, and thats if there is no delays? So its summer 2024, AT BEST.
    Reply
  • mikewinddale
    but they are reserved for custom orders for large hyperscalers and the like, so you won't see them at retail.

    I hope that someone makes them retail. I needed 512 GB of RAM for a research project, but most of the time, I only need about 64 GB. So I had to build a ThreadRipper Pro system with some hella expensive RDIMMs, even though most of the time, a Ryzen would suffice for me.

    It would be nice to be able to build a consumer-grade Ryzen system with a more pedestrian amount of RAM (say, 128 GB), and then install 512 GB of slower CXL for the rare time that more RAM is needed. I assume that the PCIe 5.0 x4 CXL will be cheaper per GB than straight DDR5 DIMMs.

    AMD says it is bringing CXL to consumer CPUs, so I would love to be able to pair a Ryzen with ECC DIMMs and CXL memory. https://www.tomshardware.com/news/amd-working-to-bring-cxl-technology-to-consumer-cpus
    Reply
  • ArcBlade
    "SM 2508 is only a four-channel controller "
    That's wrong.
    SM 2508 is an 8CH controller, since you can not get a 14GB/s seq. read/write speed in 4 channels with today's best 2400MT/s NAND.

    The same mistake hits https://www.tomshardware.com/news/pcie-5-ssds-due-this-year too.

    @Admin
    Reply
  • bit_user
    HideOut said:
    You are really talking about an item that the controller wont even go into production for over a year, and thats if there is no delays? So its summer 2024, AT BEST.
    I find it rather perplexing they've announced and are showing a prototype of a product that won't be available for over a year. It makes me wonder if someone made a mistake on the year, and it's just getting copied/pasted everywhere.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    mikewinddale said:
    I assume that the PCIe 5.0 x4 CXL will be cheaper per GB than straight DDR5 DIMMs.
    The CXL memory itself will likely be more expensive due to the need for a special PCIe-DDR5 bridge chip. You would save on the total platform cost from not needing to go server/TR4Pro to get the extra memory assuming consumer platforms can talk CXL.

    As for going consumer, I have been hypothesizing for a few years that once Intel and AMD start putting 8+GB of on-package memory of some sort (ex.: HBM stacks with the 'base die' functionality embedded in the active interposer or the HBM dies stacked directly on IOD/CCD/GCD/etc. dies to reduce costs and latency), DDR5/6 may get dropped in favor of extra PCIe/CXL lanes for CXL memory or other uses.
    Reply
  • Mandark
    Who cares? This is adata we’re talking about. And I will never buy one no matter what they say or do because they’re hot garbage and they always will be.
    Reply