PCIe 5.0 SSDs could require active cooling to curb thermal throttling

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,229   +158
Staff member
The big picture: Early solid state drives were touted as being more energy efficient than their spinning hard drive counterparts. As speeds ramped up with each successive generation, so too did power requirements and heat output. Some higher-end Gen 4 drives already benefit greatly from dedicated cooling, and we're likely to see that trend become more widespread with future SSDs.

Thermal management is going to be more important than ever as PCIe 5 devices start hitting the market.

Sebastien Jean, chief technical officer at Phison, discussed the situation in recent interviews with StorageReview and MSI Insider.

"As the speed continues to go up with each new generation, our challenge will continue to be to manage the heat," Jean said.

As a general rule of thumb, Jean notes that each additional GB/s of speed an SSD delivers requires about one extra watt of power. "We're trying to stick within roughly the same power envelope as a 7 GB/s SSD as we scale up to 14 GB/s by making a lot of other changes," Jean added.

One way to reduce power requirements is to cut back on the number of NAND channels used by the SSD.

"In practical terms, you no longer need eight channels to saturate the Gen4 and even Gen5 PCIe interface. You can potentially saturate the host interface with four NAND channels, and reducing the number of back-end channels reduces the total SSD power by typically 20 to 30 percent," Jean said.

Another method is to use a smaller process node – for example, going from 16nm to 7nm. Phison notes that smaller process nodes can operate at higher frequencies with lower voltage. Drives on smaller nodes also require less energy to toggle transistors, further reducing power used and ultimately, heat generated.

Despite the improvements, Jean said he expects to see passive heatsinks with Gen 5 devices. "Eventually, we'll need to have a fan that's pushing air right over the heatsink, too," he added.

While not ideal, passive / active cooling is certainly doable with most desktop configurations. Laptops and small-for-factor desktops, however, could present more of a challenge due to their extremely limited footprints.

Permalink to story.

 

letsgoiowa

Posts: 71   +143
Seems reasonable. Remember your history, kids! CPUs and GPUs frequently used to run passively with minimal heatsinks or tiny little fans. Now we have 360mm+ water cooling loops to handle the 600w+ heat they put out!
If we want faster and faster drives, it only makes sense if they'll start needing their own cooling. Or, we could continue to integrate them into water cooling loops. It's starting to make a lot more sense seeing power requirements go vertical with CPUs and GPUs these days.
Heck, even the X570 chipset had its own teeny tiny fan recently.
Want MOAR POWER? Gotta get more cooling.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 2,216   +4,268
Actually what they require is a different form factor altogether: m.2 was really not conceived to have as much power as it has at this point, so maybe more consumer products should ship with u.2 headers instead of m.2 headers so it's as fast as m.2 but as convenient as 2.5 drives because even though those also usually don't have good ventilation, I'd be far easier to put in way more cooling (active or otherwise) inside a 2.5" or 3.5" form factor.
 

defaultluser

Posts: 434   +348
Seems reasonable. Remember your history, kids! CPUs and GPUs frequently used to run passively with minimal heatsinks or tiny little fans. Now we have 360mm+ water cooling loops to handle the 600w+ heat they put out!
If we want faster and faster drives, it only makes sense if they'll start needing their own cooling. Or, we could continue to integrate them into water cooling loops. It's starting to make a lot more sense seeing power requirements go vertical with CPUs and GPUs these days.
Heck, even the X570 chipset had its own teeny tiny fan recently.
Want MOAR POWER? Gotta get more cooling.

Its true - this is what happens when you have a backlog caused by PCIe 4 development delay , and you're rushing-out the next -generation in only two years time!
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 1,118   +820
With all this data transfer etc - hopefully AMD/Intel can up the motherboards next gen to take advantage - most users won't need this power . But 1 to 3 M2 slots ( normally 2 seem a limitation - especially given black friday sales ).
Though you can get adaptors to put in more .
Simply incredible the bandwidth now .
Glance at a YT of someone trying to repair a bunch of GPUs - what was interesting the length of some wires on board was super important for timing.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,414   +5,724
It's not the NAND that gets hot, it's the controllers (and getting warm for NAND actually benefits long term data storage, oddly).

What we need is better M.2 design so the controllers can be cooled properly. Integrated heat spreaders soldered to the controller would go a long way to fixing this issue.
 

merikafyeah

Posts: 335   +324
If I've learned anything from magnetic hard drives, even a little bit of air moving over it goes a really long way in terms of cooling, but with the placement of most m.2 drives on motherboards (and laptops) there's hardly any direct airflow. Put a small heatsink on an m.2 drive and even an 80mm fan is more than enough to cool it if it's positioned properly.

HDDs that are cooled by the case's front intake fans never overheat even with the fans on low rpm in a poorly vented cupboard in the peak of California's summer heat with no AC. I know this from experience! That's 4 hard drives being cooled directly by one 120mm fan.
 

ypsylon

Posts: 520   +541
I have no idea why, x2-lanes NVMe died by now. It was relatively popular when Gen.3 was mainstay of PCIe. Especially Kingston produced a lot of them. It never really caught the masses, but it should. As bandwidth of PCIe increases so demand for lanes decreases with lower transfer speeds. For Gen 5 x16 slot that's 16 x1 lanes at Gen3 speed.

Those Gen5 NVMe controller furnaces are ridiculous. Except enterprise segment, rest would benefit more from cheap-o 16TB NVMe at Gen3 with 16x1 or 8x2 lanes than 1 silly expensive x4 2TB at Gen5 speed (probably also $hit like QLC or PLC). Progress is nice and good, but this is getting beyond stupid. Will Noctua NH-D15 be included with Gen.5 NVMe?

I'm really starting to look for more Gen3 drives still available to stock up for next couple years. Especially MLC I've seen 970 Pros in stores, shame no 2TB, but 1TB will do too. Still rocking 512GB 950 Pro as system drive which is simply indestructible in 4th rendering rig on the bounce, it's 6-7 years old and barely 2% used with 10% overprovisioning just to be on safe side. 950Pros are notoriously hot, but chilling at cool 27C right now, no radiators, just case airflow.

BTW: anyone remember waterblocks for Intel750? Yeah that was stupid back then. Gen5/6/7 you'll be forced into liquid cooling or sub-zero chillers. It's mental. I think M.2 is reaching the limit of usefulness as a standard. Time to think of something more suited for the job.
 

Kosmoz

Posts: 600   +1,110
For gamers (not talking about other uses) who needs PCIe 5?

After seeing MS Direct Storage demo in Forspoken, I actually don't think I need a PCIe 3 SDD, let alone a PCIe 5...

A SATA SDD will suffice because I can take the loss of extra 2 seconds over an NVMe drive... I mean come on people are ridiculous. You can't wait 4 seconds to load, you need to pay double or triple $$$ for a 2 seconds load??? Really...

In worst case I will need a Gen 3 Nvme and that should be enough for years. All these Gen 4s, and now Gen 5s are not useful for gamers at all, they are just carrots on a stick for gamer fools to waste more money on. They are useful for data related work and pro-sumers, but not for gamers.

If this video shows what's coming:
 

Puiu

Posts: 5,627   +4,600
TechSpot Elite
For gamers (not talking about other uses) who needs PCIe 5?

After seeing MS Direct Storage demo in Forspoken, I actually don't think I need a PCIe 3 SDD, let alone a PCIe 5...

A SATA SDD will suffice because I can take the loss of extra 2 seconds over an NVMe drive... I mean come on people are ridiculous. You can't wait 4 seconds to load, you need to pay double or triple $$$ for a 2 seconds load??? Really...

In worst case I will need a Gen 3 Nvme and that should be enough for years. All these Gen 4s, and now Gen 5s are not useful for gamers at all, they are just carrots on a stick for gamer fools to waste more money on. They are useful for data related work and pro-sumers, but not for gamers.

If this video shows what's coming:
It's a case of chicken and egg. Someone has to be first. Eventually we'll use up all of the resources available. I remember this exact argument being made with SSDs.
 

Kosmoz

Posts: 600   +1,110
It's a case of chicken and egg. Someone has to be first. Eventually we'll use up all of the resources available. I remember this exact argument being made with SSDs.
"Eventually", sure, but when?

We are waiting for years for this and we got to Gen 5 now and still a Gen 3 is not used to it's fullest on the PC side (PS5 has a fully utilized Gen 4 though).

So yeah, I'm not gonna bother buying those expensive Gen 4 and 5 ones for a few more years at least.
 

trparky

Posts: 1,095   +1,244
Now they need to fix the mistake of how these are attached to the mobo. The current design is HORRIBLE, easily broken and not sturdy/secure IMO. If we're going to have to cool them, I'd rather see a socketed design like a CPU just on a smaller scale.
Wait. What? How is the current implementation as fragile as you say it is? I've installed a number of m.2 SSDs and they're easy to install.
 

netman

Posts: 798   +350
Water cooling and Large CPU-like heat sink for M.2 SSDs are not a solution for small form factor and laptop PCs...A flat heat pipe with active phase change could be a solution...!
 

Vanderlinde

Posts: 148   +102
Now they need to fix the mistake of how these are attached to the mobo. The current design is HORRIBLE, easily broken and not sturdy/secure IMO. If we're going to have to cool them, I'd rather see a socketed design like a CPU just on a smaller scale.

What? They are linked as close as possible to the CPU due to the PCI-Express lane it requires.

Sata is just obsolete at this point; and will never accomplish the full speeds a NVME PCI-E SSD will get.

HDDs that are cooled by the case's front intake fans never overheat even with the fans on low rpm in a poorly vented cupboard in the peak of California's summer heat with no AC. I know this from experience! That's 4 hard drives being cooled directly by one 120mm fan.

In hot summers I actually put thermal paste in between the HDD's and casing. It worked, lol. It distributed the heat from the HDD's perfectly onto the case. But spinning tech is old now. I have a bunch of samsung drives that still operate with a size of 320GB a piece.

Excellent build quality, I cant say that about Seagate or WD.