Just days before hopping on the plane for Computex 2018 one of our readers asked about a USB to NVMe adapter. We thought, no one would make that. Why would anyone release that product with all of the Thunderbolt 3 drives coming out with a large bandwidth advantage?
JMicron proved us wrong. Apparently, there are a lot of people who want a USB to PCIe bridge chip for storage to take full advantage of the 10Gb/s bus bandwidth without using two SATA drives in RAID 0. The final product will be smaller, lighter, and more robust that what companies currently ship.
The combination also delivers higher performance without any complicated setup, options, or configuration needed to get the most out of the drive. Testing in the JMicron suite with the reference design adapter paired with a Samsung 970 Pro produced excellent results. The performance we observed would easily put this drive at the top of our portable USB SSD performance charts.
JMicron also gave us a quick look at performance with other SSDs like the Intel 900P using Optane memory, and popular low-cost models like the Western Digital Black 3D NVMe. The sequential performance was limited by the chipset and bus, but they all worked. The point wasn't to show the performance, it was to show how diverse the bridge chip is with other products.
It doesn't take a full PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD to saturate the bus. If a company were to release a DIY standalone enclosure without a drive installed, a MyDigitalSSD SBX or similar low-cost NVMe SSD with a PCIe 3.0 x2 interface would still leverage the full 10Gb/s bandwidth available.
The next goal is to turn the reference design into a shipping product. The company also brought along a proposed design from a company called Axisplus based in Taiwan. Axisplus will release the AP-583 before the end of the year in select markets. The design uses an all-aluminum housing with an unknown SSD inside from the factory. Capacities range from 240GB to 960GB, but we didn't learn anything on pricing or availability.
We have a reference design board in our travel bag for testing in the near future. It will be interesting to see how the JMicron reference design compares to products like the TEKQ Rapide Portable SSD that uses Thunderbolt 3.