(Source: MGM)
Unlockable ability will boost flash controller speed for faster reads and writes

Overclocking your DRAM memory remains one of the most popular aftermarket tweaks of enthusiasts.  The imperfect art of adjusting voltage and timings has long been able to offer snappier performance depending on your system's bottlenecks and the quality of memory sticks in the box.

While on the surface NAND flash storage resembles DRAM, it has thus far remained unavailable for overclocking ever since SSDs began to creep into the market in volume around 2003.

I. Ivy Bridge-E: Better Late Than Never

But that could soon change.  

Intel Corp. (INTC) quietly posted about a Sept. 10 technical presentation "AIOS001 - Overclocking Unlocked Intel® Core™ Processors for High Performance Gaming and Content Creation" at the 2013 Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in San Francisco, Calif.  At the presentation, it's expected to unveil the tardy 22 nm Ivy Bridge-E architecture Core i7-4000 and X79 platform, and with it SSD overclocking.  The presentation was first noted by EXP Review, a Chinese language hardware site.  A list of presentation topics comments:
  • Overclocking architecture of the Intel® Core™ i7-4xxx series processors on Intel® X79 Express Chipset based platforms
  • Overclocking architecture of the desktop and mobile 4th Generation Intel® Core processors
  • Live demonstrations and expert tips from an industry partner on how to push the limits of Intel® unlocked processors using software and hardware tools from the enthusiast ecosystem
  • One of the first public demonstrations of overclocking the Intel® Core™ i7 4xxx Extreme Edition processor
  • Demonstrating overclocking SSD technology
  • First public demonstration of AppTune beta based on Intel® Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel® XTU)
It's unclear whether the SSD overclock will be reserved for only the 22 nm Ivy Bridge-E series chips, or will be open to Haswell chips as well.  Intel typically uses its "E" series to introduce Xeon multicore editions of its architecture, and higher clocked desktop consume Core i7/Core i7 Extreme branded chips.

Ivy Bridge
The tardy Ivy Bridge-E platform is expected to be introduced at IDF, next month.

The Ivy Bridge-E launch is a bit late -- Intel launched Sandy Bridge-E in Nov. 2011, nearly eight months after the 32 nm Sandy Bridge's initial launch.  By contrast, the 22 nm Ivy Bridge launched in April 2012, but has seen no "extreme" update in nearly a year and a half (17 months).  At the head of the new consumer "Extreme" chips is rumored to be the Core i7 Extreme 4960X, a monster that packs 15 MB of L3 cache and is turbo-clocked to 4.0 GHz. 

II. SSD Overclocking -- SATA on Steroids or Hype?

When it comes to the SSD overclocking, the upcoming platform is expected to allow you to apply more voltage to your SSD controller to bump your read, write, and IOPS speed.  Performance will be capped at 4.8 Gbps (614 MB/s), though, due to the fundamental ceiling of the current SATA 3 standard implementation supported in Intel chipsets (The raw performance of SATA 3 is 6 Gbps).
Indilinx Barefoot 3 controllers
Indilinx Barefoot 3 SSD Controllers [Image Source: OCZ]

That still would seemingly suggest that overclocking SSDs could offer some impressive gains.

Currently the fastest SSD in terms of read speeds is Z-Drive R4 from OCZ Technology Group Inc. (OCZ), who boasts (under light load) a gaudy 547.3 MB/s (4.28 Gbps) read and 657.9 MB/s (5.14 Gbps) write; but there's a catch -- this pricey (~$2,800 USD) OCZ drive uses PCI Express.  High end SATA 3 drives from OCZ and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) score a more sluggish 290-320 MB/s (2.27-2.50 Gbps) read speed and 370-400 MB/s (2.89-3.13 Gbps) write speed, according to the latest numbers from AnandTech's benchmarking (again, light load).

Samsung 840 SSD
While it's clear that the current real world performance numbers are far from the theoretical 4.8 Gbps spec limit, skepticism is warranted.  It remains unclear whether simply how far current drives can be pushed with higher voltage and faster clock speeds to the controller.  Regardless of the real gains, this does mean we will see upcoming enthusiast SSD packaging with a focus on controller cooling with flashy finned heat spreaders, like we've seen in the enthusiast RAM market (case constraints may limit creativity for now, though).

Intel is working on a new chipset, which is rumored to be dubbed the 9 Series (Haswell Z97 and H97), which will support the fresh SATA Express standard, bumping transfer speeds to 8 or even 16 Gbps (819.2 MB/s or even 1.55 GB/s), perhaps.  The bus improvement is expected to drop ahead of BroadwellIntel's planned 14 nm die shrink.  
OCZ Vector
With more breathing room on the bus and fresh overclocking abilities, enthusiasts and industry performance tuners may finally have the freedom to achieve something they long wished for -- overclocking their SSD.

DailyTech will be reporting live from the Intel Developer Forum in two weeks, so hopefully we'll have more details for you shortly.

Sources: Intel, EXP Review

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