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


(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 particularly impressive given that the SM 2508 is only a four-channel controller, whereas the E26 is an eight-channel controller. 

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 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.  

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