I was quite impressed by the two 512GB XP941 SSDs I received from Samsung for testing, leaving me wondering about what is next, but then ADATA upped the ante with their flagship consumer SSD in M.2 form-factor. Enter the SR1020NP
The ADATA SR1020NP PCIe 2.0 x4 (Socket 3 with M key) is based on the LSI-SandForce 3739 and wired to MLC NAND flash, with up to twice the capacity of the Samsung XP941 and transfer rates of up to 1.8GB/s, which is only 200MB/s short of the theoretical 2GB/s limit. Much faster than the Samsung XP941. I’ll start testing/benchmarking it a.s.a.p.
The Samsung XP941 can only be used as boot drive in a MacPro (not the latest model), with the latest ASRock Z97 Extreme6 motherboard, and Asus motherboards will soon, thankfully, also support the Samsung XP941 SSD with a new UEFI BIOS update – the M.2 socket on the Asus motherboards will only support PCIe x2, but it should also support PCIe host adapters like the Lycom DT-120 to be had for £8.38 including VAT (plus shipping).
Edit: RAMCITY, the Upgrade Experts™ from down under – yeah that is Australia – sells the same card for AUD$25.99 + shipping. Do note that the price for international orders will be 10% lower (NO VAT).
Additionally. You can order your Samsung XP491’s in 128GB, 256GB and 256GB right away. No delay, and they offer an excellent service and warranty I am told.
Other motherboard vendors should soon follow this initiative, so you won’t have to replace the factory AHCI driver with GUID: 8F5A2E02-538C-4D59-B920-C4786ACBC552 in the UEFI BIOS with the one from the MacPro6,1 or ASRock Z97 Extreme6 motherboard BIOS – I found a SAMSUNG_M2_DXE Driver* with GUID: 1AC7EE15-1290-402C-80E9-F45A86E43F71 in the UEFI BIOS. Replacing and/or adding a driver is not that difficult in my opinion, but a vanilla solution is preferred here for wide adoption.
Note: I don’t have the new Asus UEFI BIOS (yet) so I don’t know if the ADATA SR1020NP is supported or not. I guess it should work, or not of course. We’ll see when the update arrives here.
* This hack has been confirmed to work by “barren” in this post over at insanelymac.com
System Information on a MacPro shows the drive under SATA/SATAExpress, as Generic AHCI Controller instead of Apple SSD Controller, which is quite normal since the vendor-id/vendor-id and subsystem-id combo doesn’t match with what AppleAHCIPort.kext is checking for i.e. 0x144d, 0x1600 and 0x9183 (et all). Not to mention that the drive is not connected via Thunderbolt and thus it isn’t showing up as a SATA Express Controller. Not that it really matters, since we hack folks know how to fix the ID’s, by setting them from the DSDT or injecting them as EFI device-properties😉
Note: The name, “Apple” in the above example, can also be “Generic” or “Thunderbolt” depending on the type of the controller.
AHCI versus NVMe
A next step, in the near future I presume, would be the addition of the nvmexpress driver for UEFI BIOS. That and a port of the Linux client driver would make everything even faster and more power efficient. Like this isn’t fast enough already.
Edit: Samsung has a new product in the pipeline, the SM951 with a PCIe 2.0/3.0 x4 interface. This new product will offer a sequential read speed of up to 1600 MB/s and a sequential write speed of up to 1000 MB/s with current PCIe 2.0 motherboards, and 2150 MB/s and 1550 MB/s respectively when installed in a PCI Express 3.0 x4 Lane Host adapter like the Lycom DT-120.
Pricing and Availability
The ADATA SR1020NP is not yet available and thus a price is yet to be revealed, but that should change during/after Computex Taipei (3-4 june 2014). I’ll start saving, because I want two of them, and since the Samsung 512GB modules are bloody expensive already… this is going to hurt my wallet. A lot more even!
With the old Mac Pro you can upgrade your RAM, Graphics card(s) and (hard)drives. Some even went as far as replacing the processor(s). Now your Mac Pro can get a new second life, with help of a Lycom DT-120 adapter card with a Samsung module. Soon adding ADATA as an alternative. With up to 1TB modules. A pretty sweet deal for your ‘old’ Mac Pro. Which may still be fast enough for what you do with it.
The AsRock Z97 Extreme6 motherboard (read this review) and Lycom DT-120 host adapter are currently the two best options to add Ultra M.2 X4 support to a hackintosh, but there is a catch. The Intel Z97 chipset supports 16 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, with help of the (Haswell) microprocessors, and the lane configuration (also) depends on the number of installed PCIe (graphics) cards and other devices. This is not optimal, but it will become less of an issue with Intel’s next generation X99 chipset (getting more lanes). For now we have to accept the (somewhat) reduced bandwidth. Not that I mind, because I use the IGPU only (I’m not a gamer) and thus it does not apply to my setup.
Ok. I installed the ADATA SR1020NP SSD and tried to boot with it in the Lycom DT-120 on a Z68 motherboard. No joy of course. Then I mod the UEFI BIOS and now the good old Intel i5-2500K, with stock frequency settings, boots up in under 10 seconds. But hold on. The same UEFI BIOS mod in the UEFI BIOS of a Gigabyte motherboard, with fast boot enabled, made it in 3 seconds. That is insane fast! I admit that I lost USB support, but that should be fixable😉
p.s. This is not a review of the ADATA SR1020NP. Nope. I’ll leave that up to other people, happily, when the NDA is lifted🙂