We've seen a bunch of custom SSD form factors with the arrival of Ultrabooks as well as systems like the MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro. The need is simple: standard 7mm or 9.5mm SSDs are too big for some of these machines, and you don't actually need all of that volume to build a fast drive. mSATA cards work as a small form factor solution but they are only available in a single size. We need flexibility both on length (to allow for higher capacities) as well as on the interface side to enable higher performance. The NGFF specification gives us just that.

The spec allows for SATA, PCIe x2 or PCIe x4 interfaces. It also includes definitions for five different card lengths. 

The proposed spec includes two connector definitions: Socket 2 and Socket 3. Socket 2 allows for SATA or PCIe x2 interface for SSDs, WWAN or other non-storage devices. Socket 3 is strictly for high-performance storage, offering up to 4GB/s of bandwidth in a tiny little package. 

This is super exciting as far as I'm concerned. We've strayed too far from standardization and upgradability in the pursuit of ultimate mobility. Now all we need is a smaller form factor user replaceable memory standard.

Update: I just got some hands on shots with a few NGFF samples:

mSATA on the left, NGFF on the right

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  • euler007 - Tuesday, January 29, 2013 - link

    Man, Apple shareholders are really on edge. Reply
  • Casper42 - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    I wonder if it would be possible or really feasible to use these new SSDs as a higher tier cache on Enterprise and possibly consumer RAID controllers.
    Small enough that they could bolt one on to the Controller and either access it as SATA or maybe through a PLX type chip on the card.

    Intel has their Consumer side SSD as a cahe (Forgetting the name)
    HP introduces Smart Cache on their Gen8 line of Smart Array controllers
    3rd Parties like VeloBit's HyperCache can do this on almost any machine.

    Makes sense that the RAID controller (in those environments where you need one anyway) would be an intelligent place to put something like this.

    Or maybe not. If you have the RAID controller and NGFF separate, then anything mentioned above would still potentially work.

    Eh, just a thought (that didn't involve Apple)
    Reply
  • Casper42 - Monday, September 24, 2012 - link

    PS: I would also love to see in a year or two, both a traditional 9.5mm SATA slot AND this NGFF in a standard sized notebook (obviously too bulky for UltraBooks) and just ditch the Optical drive already. Isn't USB 2.0 faster than most if not all BluRay drives let alone DVD?

    Would raise the cost of the machine what, $5?, to include a USB DVD drive instead of a built in.

    Hell, Starbucks could even sell $30 USB DVD drives in store for people who forget theirs and absolutely have to have one in a hurry.
    Reply
  • Valantar - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    I know this post is really old, but I just came across it, and I'm not sure I'm very happy about what I see with the two incompatible(?) connectors. First of all, what is the problem with maintaining SATA compatibility on the type 3 connector? If anything, shouldn't this be possible to do on the controller/hardware side (mSATA ports supports both SATA and PCIe, no?)? Secondly, why have two different connectors at all? I understand the size/thickness argument, but seriously, that should be possible to overcome in basically any device with some good design/engieneering (considering the amount of air found inside most devices outside of smartphones, this should be solveable). All I see this resulting in is manufacturers going the cheap route with their laptops/tablets and using the "cache only" connector, rather than the faster type 3 connector and thus screwing consumers out of the option of upgrading to a higher capacity/performance SSD. At least a spec like this should make it mandatory for manufacturers to state both connector type and max card length in device specifications. Also, why make a spec for a 30mm card without ever mentioning it again, and specifically leaving it out of the proposed usage examples? The suggestion that SSDs use 42 or 80mm cards also leads me to think that 110mm cards (and thus the highest possible capacities) will both be incompatible with most devices and very rare (produced in small quantities), leading to exorbitant pricing both for devices supporting these and the SSDs themselves. Again, a bad idea. However, if the type 2 connector could see use as a replacement for the horribly slow eMMC storage used on many tablets today, that would be a worthwhile usage scenario, albeit the only one I see where the type 3 might not be possible. Reply
  • mkozakewich - Sunday, October 06, 2013 - link

    It's been a year and we've seen some good implementations. Do any of you have interest in using one of these as a kind of flash drive replacement? I was looking for some kind of M.2-to-USB-3.0 adapter caddy, but the only ones I found were big thick things. It would be handy if you could find samples of thin (8mm?) cases. Reply

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