Monday, November 10, 2014

Adata SP900 M.2 SATA Solid State Disk

Subtitle: At last I bought a NGFF Hard Disk

So after waiting over 1.5 years too long I have finally taken the plunge and bought a NGFF (New Generation Form Factor) aka M.2 format Hard disk.

The Conspiracy Factor
For almost 2 years many new Ultra compact laptops have come with NGFF aka M.2 miniature hard disks.   The conspiracy (IMHO) is that these are largely unavailable to buy in the retail market.

Some companies like Crucial UK, even take the piss further and show (bottom diagram, middle) a picture of the M.2 drive they do not sell.   I even emailed them and asked why they have for over 6 months have had a picture of an unobtainable product!   Hmm.

Product Types Sizing  

The product line itself is a little confusing because the same disk can talk to the computer using either the PCI interface or the SATA interfaces, PCI being a lot faster.    Most PCI disk cards will also talk SATA.

My Lenovo U430 touch laptop socket looked like a PCI connector but the manual said SATA interface so I bought a SATA product.

Also there are a set of standard lengths.   I opened up the case and measured it to be 42mm!  But other common lengths are 60mm and 80mm.  Check wikipedia for the full list.

Next to a Micro SD card and iPod nano you can see how ridiculously small this disk drive is.

Oh yes, the best part is it is only 3 grams in weight.  I like!

Eventually I found this Adata SP900 on ebay.  This is one of Marcus's Christmas presents to himself for 2014. 

Since we live in Switzerland, these goods are not available here, I had to order, wait for the delivery from Asia, Import, pay taxes, enjoy.

The trusty Lenovo U430 touch laptop, which has waited over 1 year for me to find a suitable M.2 SATA card.

This is the 42mm long slot into which the M2 card should fit.

Because a mounting screw was not included! Time to consult the Marcus and Agata jewellery box which as good Engineers you will see is full of screws.

With my improvised screw here is the disk installed.

The Lenovo BIOS has no difficulty in recognising the disk and I installed Windows 8.1, then Centos 64bit Server Linux onto this card without any issue.

Some Performance
All Windows benchmarked performed with caching off.

 About 250MB/second read and 150MB/sec write sustained

And Linux Too

[root@lenc ~]# hdparm --verbose -t /dev/sda

 Timing buffered disk reads: 1178 MB in  3.00 seconds = 392.20 MB/sec
[root@lenc ~]# 

Some Summary Points

  • M2 hard disks are clearly the near future for lighter, fast hard disks in laptops and other Ultra Portable devices
  • Check new X99 Motherboards which have PCIx4 slots.   Example
  • You can retrofit you current laptop if you have a M2 slot, but be careful to order the right length and type of card.  Note the M2 interface is not the mSATA interface!
  • There is still a worldwide conspiracy  :-) to deprive me and other enthusiasts from free M.2 hard disk supply.  Will the guilty manufacturers please stop it.
  • The best and really only supply for M.2 at the moment is eBay
  • I got 250MB/sec read and 150MB/sec write without any optimisation or tweaking from the Adata card  (Manufacturer claims this card can perform at lot faster to 500MB/sec).   The speeds I achieved on day 1 are quite adequate for my needs, regardless.