Solid-state overclocking is still "experimental"

Solid-state overclocking is still “experimental”

Solid-state overclocking is still “experimental”


Intel showed off the performance gains you can get by overclocking an SSD at this year’s IDF in San Francisco, but then admitted that it’s still a work in progress.

A few weeks ago, it was revealed that they would be showing it at an overclocking conference, and some enterprising lads dug around in Intel’s Extreme Tweaking Utility and found the code associated with it. Unfortunately, in the end we only got a very quick demo of the possibilities of SSD overclocking, but then I had a chance to chat with Dan Ragland, one of Intel’s senior system engineers.

“To be honest, we just played with it in the lab,” he explained. “We’re still in the experimental phase.”

In a brief demo, Ragland showed the results of overclocking the memory controller from the standard 400MHz to 625MHz. The extra clock speed ended up providing about a 10% performance boost in general AS SSD benchmarks.

I ask if the 10% applies to random read/write performance as well as sequential read/write performance, but due to the experimental nature of the whole process at the moment, he won’t be drawn to specific benefits.

“I gave you a snapshot of the benchmark and it’s going to be different,” he said. “In some areas, you’ll see half-understanding.”

Perhaps more important than any actual or perceived performance improvement is the stability of an overclocked SSD. For me, the benefits of overclocking my boot drive would be irrelevant if I couldn’t guarantee the integrity of my data.

So I contacted a representative from NAND Solutions Group (NSG) to see what guarantees they could give me about tampered drives. “Any risk of using data while overclocking the memory controller must be monitored,” he explained. “But we have those monitors.”

Then there are these “monitors,” which monitor the memory controller and the NAND chips themselves. If these systems begin to detect elevated stress levels inside the NAND, the software will alert them. In commercially available applications, possibly as part of the XTU software, it dials back overclocking to protect your drive.

Ragland also showed controls that offer different NAND frequencies, but if overclocking memory controllers is fraught with dangers, messing with NAND can be suicidal.

“Controller overclocking is what you want,” explained my new friend from NSG. “The intelligence is in the firmware, you don’t want to put too much pressure on the NAND.”

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Wilbert Wood
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