Crucial T700 NVMe SSD
Oct 06, 2023
With the latest generation of CPUs from both AMD and Intel came motherboards that can handle the new PCIe 5.0 standard. Since even the most powerful graphics cards don't fully utilise the bandwidth and are still PCIe 4.0, the storage capacity immediately comes to mind.
Because while speed is important, we have to be honest and say that they are already more than quick enough, and you should instead focus on bandwidth, because it's now so large that you can have multiple devices running at full speed simultaneously. This typically means that where motherboards used to have one PCIe 4.0 port, maybe two, and the rest 3.0, they now typically have a 5.0 connection and the rest 4.0, as there is simply enough bandwidth to mount four or even five faster NVMe drives simultaneously.
While we do have double the speed of PCIe 4.0, the number of lanes is far more important, because each lane has a limit, which is why you also have ports called x4 and x16, with four and 16 lanes respectively. And since each lane can now handle 32 Gigatransfers per second instead of 16, it's really fast. One Gigatransfer is equivalent to eight Gigabytes for those of us who prefer that standard, but there are still physical limitations, in this case 128 GB/S if you use a PCIe 5.0 x32 connection. And that's purely theoretical. In practice, most high-end motherboards will have an x16 connection that provides 64 GB/S - but not on NVMe, they typically run x4, and will therefore have a maximum of 16 GB/S as a theoretical maximum.
In addition, the PCIe x16 connector on your graphics card is now able to help supply power to the card, which in itself is insane. But perhaps more importantly, fewer lanes are needed to run at higher speeds, which in turn allows for more NVMe connections, which is important as drives are typically only available in 2TB maximum. Motherboards like MSI's MEG Z790 Godlike have no less than seven connections, and you can add more through expansion cards, but I'd say that 7 x4TB NVMe drives should cover most people's needs and empty their wallets.
So, as a normal gamer, do you need to pull something like 12 GB/s when gaming? No, you don't. Absolutely not. But there is a bit of future-proofing (well, the PCIe 6.0 standard already exists and is expected to be implemented late next year) and your NVMe drive, like a mechanical hard drive, doesn't have an unlimited lifespan if you use it hard.
This is where the T700 comes in. Crucial's T700 simply has an ingenious design in that its cooling ribs on the top and metal plate underneath the drive itself are pushed back a few millimetres compared to pretty much everything else. It sounds trivial, but in practice it means that you can actually get to the mounting hole that is otherwise just as covered, and it's virtually impossible to install on modern motherboards that all have a small plastic latch to hold the drive in place so it's "toolless". Obviously, no one has actually tried to build with the thing, because it's the same problem on pretty much every motherboard I've had in my hands for the last six months - but now Crucial has been kind enough to solve the problem for them.
Here I would normally add something about how stupid this monolithic, massive chunk of aluminium is - but it's actually necessary. NVMe drives, or rather, the chip that controls it all, as well as the tiny memory cells in the drive itself, are finicky little bastards who don't want to be too hot, or too cold either. In fact, the final performance depends on the temperature of the drive from what I can tell from our tests.
The T700 idles at 49 degrees, but push it, and you will see it jump to 64-65 degrees and very occasionally 68 degrees, and small jumps up to 71 degrees after hard testing. That's within the range, but also shows why cooling is so important for these drives.
The drive itself is made with the world's first 232-layer TLC NAND from Micron - quite a jump from their 176-layer model, not surprising since Crucial is Micron's own brand. The crazy thing is that the internal speed of the memory itself is over 2 Gb/s, and it's actually made with AI, real-time analytics and cloud computing as the primary purpose, far beyond what you can actually utilise in a home computer.
However, prices are not great, but could be worse, just under £320 for 2TB, around £555 for 4TB, and just over £166 for 1TB - with prices varying quite significantly depending on whether it's with or without a heatsink cooling solution. The 4TB version is the cheapest per unit of storage, but it's also a lot of money.
The funny thing is that there are few SSDs that can deliver over 10,000 MB/s like Crucial, and here it's over 12,000 MB/s read speed - this does not mean that the products are not in stores, but simply that the market is not exactly overflowing with PCI 5.0 drives. The 2TB version we've been allowed to borrow has a TBW of 1200 TB, which means that the drive will fail under warranty if you write at least 644 GB a day, every day, for five years straight. Half that for the 1TB version, double that for the 4TB version.
We measured read speeds of 12385 MB/s and write speeds of 11478 MB/s. A slightly higher score could probably have been achieved with better cooling and repetition of the process, but it's acceptable either way as it's less than 0.2%.
What can I say, it's expensive, but it's also the fastest on the market right now, it's available in 4TB variants for once, and there's an opportunity to save a little money if you buy the uncooled version.
We're finally playing with PCIe 5.0 storage - and it's fast! Very fast!
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