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Aqua Computer Introduces kyroM.2 SSD Watercooler

M.2 SSD thermal throttling got you down? Aqua Computer has you covered with its new kyroM.2 coolers, which come in both water and air-cooled variants.  

The Aqua Computer solution begins with its standard PCIe 3.0 x4 adapter, which customers can purchase as a standalone device. The adapter, heatsink and water block support M-Key SSDs with 2280, 2260 and 2242 M.2 SSD form factors.

The bracket drops into a standard PCIe 3.0 x4 slot on the motherboard, and it should go without saying that this will not make its way into laptops. The adapter features hard gold contacts and impedance-controlled circuit paths.

The air-cooled version employs a passive anodized aluminum heatsink to cool the SSD. The solution also employs two thermal pads, one on each side of the SSD (as seen in the picture above), to cool single-sided and double-sided M.2 SSDs.

The water-cooled variant utilizes the same adapter but slaps on a custom-molded copper water block with G1/4 connection threads. The connectors face in both directions. The connector terminal is the same one used for Aqua Computer kyrographics blocks, which allows users to connect several blocks together.

The burning question is if we need an M.2 SSD water-cooler at all (beyond for aesthetic purposes).

Heat is the enemy of all things computer, and SSDs are no exception. The problem for SSDs is two-fold: Excessive heat will cause any component to fail, and NAND endurance also suffers under high heat conditions. The hotter the SSD, the shorter the lifespan of the NAND.

SSD manufacturers employ thermal throttling techniques to mitigate the effects of thermal stress, but there are varying types of throttling. All throttling mechanisms shut the SSD down if the heat becomes too great, but some SSDs throttle performance dynamically in an attempt to avoid total shutdown. In either case, there is a performance impact, and heat can (and does) reduce endurance.  

Many 2.5" SSDs employ thermal pads on the SSD controller, DRAM and NAND. The thermal pads mate with the SSD case, which then acts as a large heatsink that wicks heat away from the internal components. Thermal pads were common with many early SSDs, but the components on many new SSDs consume less power and thus do not require thermal pads. Large AIC (Add-In Card) PCIe SSDs, such as the Intel 750, do not have a standard casing. Instead, AIC SSDs employ large heatsinks to dissipate heat.

An M.2 SSD provides the ultimate in density, but unlike normal 2.5" and AIC SSDs, it does not have an associated casing or cooling apparatus. M.2 SSDs tend to find themselves in thermally punishing mobile and enterprise environments, but the M.2 specification does not accommodate a standardized heatsink/cooling approach. SSD vendors are experimenting with thermal inductive coatings and customized heatsinks but have yet to come up with a solid (or standardized) solution.

For a normal user, some (but not all), M.2 SSDs will throttle performance if the SSD is subjected to a heavy workload for an extended period of time (such as sequential reading or writing). Most users will never encounter these conditions--but it is a possibility that you might.

The decision on whether or not you need an SSD water block comes down to the use case and if you want the rig to look awesome.

There have been other AIC SSD water-cooling solutions in the past, such as the EKWB cooler for the Intel 750, but this is the first professional kit we have encountered for M.2 SSDs.

The adapter retails for 18,19 EUR (~$20 USD), the passive heatsink for 29,90 EUR (~$32 USD), and the water block for 67,90 EUR (~$74.99). The standalone adapter is available now, but the passive heatsink and water block require a 21-day lead time. 

Paul Alcorn is a Contributing Editor for Tom's Hardware, covering Storage. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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