High-speed PCI-E SSD storage has been all the rage for the past eighteen months, mainly since the introduction of relatively inexpensive models reliant on the M.2 interface. Compared to SATA drives they're fast, blisteringly so in some cases, and take up far less space in a PC which can make said systems more aesthetically pleasing. One factor which is less spoken about however is the heat they can generate, especially as they approach the limits of the M.2 Gen2 spec.
Heat concerns for high-speed SSDs aren't exactly revelatory. Models which utilise a PCI-Express slot, such as the Intel 750-series, have often been fitted with heatsinks to manage the heat the generated in much the same approach you'd take for any piece of high-performance silicon. The issue however could potentially be particularly acute for M.2 SSDs due to relatively little air-flow above and around the devices. Now MSI are addressing the problem head-on with the M.2 Shield, a neat feature their introducing in an upcoming motherboard range.
The M.2 Shield is pretty simple - a small heat shield is affixed to a motherboard's M.2 slot in a cantilevered fashion to be lowered into place when an M.2 SSD is installed. One side of the M.2 Shield is coated in thermal pads, and the other acts as a heatspreader which should help to dissipate heat. In theory, this will both improve long-term reliability and prevent short-term thermal throttling under heavy load. Currently, M.2 Shield-equipped slots appear to be compatible with SSDs conforming to upto the 80mm length specification.
If M.2 continues long-term as a standard (and isn't supplanted by the up and coming U.2 discrete drive interface) something like MSI's M.2 Shield could be a regular feature on enthusiast boards as the TDP of the drives increases. So long as it's compatible with a full range of M.2 drives it certainly seems like a clear winner.
Recent leaks of an upcoming motherboard chipset refresh from Intel mean that we're likely to see the MSI M.2 Shield sooner rather than later.