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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 Adapter with NVMe flash and 'cool' heatsink

Originally posted December 15th, 2015 by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
Updated December 28th, 2015 - added NVMe version of SM951

We have used various M.2 PCIe adapters to test SM951 flash blades, but most lack a heatsink (or a fully effective one). Angelbird has created a new M.2 NGFF PCIe adapter, the Wings PX1, with the most effective heatsink we have tested to date. And thanks to a new NVMe driver from MacVidCards, we were able to test it with both NVMe and AHCI flash blades.

GRAPH LEGEND
950 Pro Hack = Samsung 950 Pro 512G M.2 NVMe flash blade inside Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 adapter in 8x PCIe 3.0 slot of Hackintosh
SM951 NVMe Hack = Samsung SM951 512G M.2 NVMe flash blade inside Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 adapter in 8x PCIe 3.0 slot of Hackintosh
SM951 AHCI Hack = Samsung SM951 512G M.2 AHCI flash blade inside Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 adapter in 8x PCIe 3.0 slot of Hackintosh
950 Pro cMP = Samsung 950 Pro 512G M.2 NVMe flash blade inside Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 adapter in 4x PCIe 2.0 slot 3 of a 2010 Mac Pro tower
SM951 NVMe cMP = Samsung SM951 512G M.2 NVMe flash blade inside Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 adapter in 4x PCIe 2.0 slot 3 of a 2010 Mac Pro tower
SM951 AHCI cMP = Samsung SM951 512G M.2 AHCI flash blade inside Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 adapter in 4x PCIe 2.0 slot 3 of a 2010 Mac Pro tower
950 Pro TB2 = Samsung 950 Pro 512G M.2 NVMe flash blade inside Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 adapter in Helios 2 Thunderbolt Expander connected to TB2 port of iMac 5K
SM951 NVMe TB2 = Samsung SM951 512G M.2 NVMe flash blade inside Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 adapter in Helios 2 Thunderbolt Expander connected to TB2 port of iMac 5K
SM951 AHCI TB2 = Samsung SM951 512G M.2 AHCI flash blade inside Angelbird Wings PX1 M.2 adapter in Helios 2 Thunderbolt Expander connected to TB2 port of iMac 5K

LARGE SEQUENTIAL TRANSFER TEST
We used AJA System Test to benchmark file level sequential transfer speed using a 16GB test file (and 4K frame size).
LONGEST graph bar means the fastest overall in Megabytes per Second.

SMALL RANDOM TRANSFER TEST
We used a range of 4K to 1024K blocks in the Standard Random test in QuickBench as a predictor boot volume 'house keeping' performance and a simulation of an application that does multiple small random transfers.
LONGEST graph bar means the fastest overall in Megabytes per Second.

WHAT DID WE LEARN?
Without a good heatsink, the 950 Pro and SM951 will overheat under extended stress causing thermal down-throttling to kick in. Our stress test was the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test cycling over and over. After 10 minutes, the SM951 on a M.2 board with NO heatsink reached as high as 180F/82C -- or way beyond Samsung's maximum recommended temperature of 158F/70C. With the Angelbird Wings PX1, even after 20 minutes of stress, the temperature never rose above 122F/50C. No other manufacturer or home-grown heatsink we've tested achieves that heat dissipation effectiveness.

The transfer speeds attainable by the Samsung 950 Pro and SM951 depends on bandwidth of the PCIe slot in which the Wings PX1 M.2 adapter (or any other M.2 adapter) is installed. As expected, the large sequential READ speeds were 'through the roof' when we benchmarked using the x8 PCIe 3.0 slot of the Hackintosh. The inability to attain those speeds is frustrating for Mac Pro tower owners with x4 PCIe 2.0 slots and Mac owners using Thunderbolt2-to-x4-PCIe-2.0 expanders. Thunderbolt 3 can't arrive fast enough.

There is no 'native' support of third party NVMe flash blades by OS X. As of this week, a driver is available from MacVidCards that provides support for NVMe blades on all models of Mac running OS X. That driver enabled us to include the Samsung 950 Pro NVMe flash blade in our benchmarking. CAVEAT: MacVidCards states "...you will only be able to use (NVMe) drives for storage of data. You will most likely never be able to boot off of them, certainly not into OS X..."

If you are deciding between the AHCI and NVMe version of the SM951, you will note that the NVMe version is slightly faster for large sequential writes, small random reads, and small random writes. However, keep in mind that you can only use the AHCI version for an OS X boot volume.

The key features of the Angelbird Wings PX1 PCIe (Gen 1,2,3) M.2 adapter include

  • CNC-worked aluminum heatsink that prevents thermal down-throttling
  • Maximum Copper (TM) for optimal thermal dissipation
  • Full Signal integration by length and phase-matched data traces
  • HF shielding and Ground shielding
  • Support for both M.2 NVMe and AHCI implementations
  • Compatible with all NGFF standards from 2230 to 22110
  • Power stabilization
  • White LED backlighting

The Angelbird Wings PX1 adds another important performance enhancement to the Mac Pro tower to help extend its useful life. That along with the Amfeltec Squid PCI Express Carrier board with four flash blades and the ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Ti overclocked GPU has transformed our 2010 Mac Pro tower into a 'beastly hot rod.' All that's missing are the flames and exhaust pipes.

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WHERE TO BUY THE ANGELBIRD WINGS PX1

WHERE TO BUY SAMSUNG SM951 AHCI

WHERE TO BUY SAMSUNG 950 PRO NVME

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copyright 2015 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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