At present, PCIe Gen4 specifications and 8 lanes are commonly found in entry-level and mid-range cards. Nevertheless, these cards are designed to be inserted into a full-sized 16-lane slot. Consequently, graphics cards like the RTX 4060 series and Radeon RX 7600 have a full-sized connector, but not all lanes are electrically connected.
Tony Yu, the General Manager at ASUS, shared a video featuring a concept graphics card called the RTX 4060 Ti Dual. This card offers a potential solution to the issue of unused PCIe lanes. ASUS has devised a method that allows these unused lanes to be utilized for other devices, such as high-speed SSD storage. In the video, they showcased a concept RTX 4060 Ti GPU with a Samsung 980 PRO 2TB SSD attached to the backside.
Installing SSDs on motherboards nowadays often poses challenges due to their inconvenient and cramped placements. Accessing them often necessitates removing graphics cards or even large CPU coolers. On the other hand, installing M.2 SSDs on a graphics card would provide users with much more convenient access.
Additionally, it is crucial to consider the power requirements of the graphics card. However, this should not be a significant issue, as it would not exceed 10W at maximum, which can easily be handled by an RTX 4060 Ti with just a single 8-pin power connector.
Tony discusses all the aspects of such an installation, including the potential heat concerns associated with connecting an SSD to a graphics card. Interestingly, it has been observed that the temperature actually decreased by approximately 10 degrees Celsius, and the performance impact is minimal. For instance, the peak sustained read speed went from 6.9 GB/s to 6.8 GB/s.
This improvement can be attributed to modifications made to the PCB, allowing airflow from the GPU cooler to reach the SSD. In fact, the cooler is directly attached to the SSD using thermal pads. The GPU and SSD share a large cooler, and one can imagine that this arrangement would become even more efficient with triple-fan configurations.
It is important to note that the ASUS RTX 4060 Ti is not the pioneering graphics card to incorporate on-board SSDs. AMD had previously explored this concept several years ago with the professional-grade Radeon SSG, which was based on the Vega architecture. However, the implementation of on-board SSDs in that case served a different purpose and was less convenient to replace. Nevertheless, we can hope that this idea will be embraced more extensively by the mid-range GPU segment in the future.
— Everest (@Olrak29_) July 1, 2023
Via Tony from ASUS