MSI gaming motherboards built on the next generation 200-Series chipset platform will address thermal throttling issues on high-performance M.2 SSDs. MSI calls the included component "M.2 Shield," according to a tweet from the company today.
Motherboard surface space is limited with modern products and especially gaming-focused units. Many gamers and power users demand the latest technology. It's difficult to pack technology like Thunderbolt, ample USB, PCIe, U.2, and M.2 storage in such a constrained space. Most motherboard manufacturers have tucked the M.2 slots between PCIe slots, the only natural place where the 22 x 80mm devices fit nicely. The problem is that video cards, some generating up to 300 watts of heat output, sit in the PCIe slots and radiate that heat to the M.2 storage devices.
M.2 form factor NVMe SSDs have their own heat issues. The small circuit board sizes have less copper surface area than 2.5" form factor SSDs. The limited surface area means the controller heat spreads to the NAND flash, a component susceptible to increased degradation and wear from heat. SSD controllers can take up to (and even over) 100 degrees C in some cases, but only in short bursts. The components not designed for the high temperatures are the NAND flash and DRAM. SSD and flash processor designers built in safeguards that lower performance to decrease controller temperatures.
Until a few weeks ago, I would have doubted that a thin aluminum heatsink could make a dent in the temperature of a high-performance SSD. After testing the new Plextor M8Pe(G) M.2 SSD with a heatsink, though, it's become clear that a thin heatsink with a thick thermal transfer material pad can lower temperatures, but it still requires air flow to be effective.
In this chart from the Plextor M8Pe 1TB NVMe SSD review, you can see three M8Pe SSDs writing sequential data. The M8Pe(Y) uses a PCIe adapter bracket with a dense heatsink. The M8Pe(G) uses a thin aluminum heatsink like the one MSI showed in its November 29 tweet. The M8PeGN doesn't use a heatsink at all and shows thermal throttling conditions.
|Header Cell - Column 0||128GB||256GB||512GB||1TB|
|M8Pe(G) M.2 Heatsink||$89.99||$119.99||$199.99||$429.99|
|M8PeGN M.2 Bare||$74.99||$114.99||$189.99||$414.99|
If you buy a new MSI gaming series motherboard with the heatsink, it means your next high-performance NVMe SSD could cost less. Because Plextor is the only company selling M.2 form factor products with a heatsink, it means other products may perform a little better under extended use.