Subject: Storage | August 14, 2015 - 04:44 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: FMS 2015, silicon motion, SM2260, SM2256, SM2246EN, pcie, NVMe, ssd, controller
We’ve reviewed a few Silicon Motion SSDs in the past (Angelbird | Corsair Force LX | Crucial BX100), and I have always been impressed with their advances in SSD controller technology. Their SM2246EN SATA controller was launched two years ago, and strived to be a very efficient and performant unit. Based on our reviews that turned out to be true, and this allowed Silicon Motion to slide into the void left by SandForce, who repeatedly delayed their newer developments and forced the many companies who were sourcing their parts to look elsewhere.
The many SSDs using Silicon Motion’s SM2246EN controller.
Silicon motion pushed this further with their SM2256, which we first saw at the 2014 Flash Memory Summit and later saw driving SLC/TLC hybrid flash at this past Consumer Electronics Show. While the SM2256 makes its way into more and more products, I was glad to see an important addition to their lineup at this year’s FMS:
Finally we see Silicon Motion doing a PCIe controller! This is the SM2260, seen here in the M.2 form factor…
…and here in SATA Express. While the latter will likely not be as popular due to the more limited PCIe lanes present in SATA Express, I’m sure we will see this controller appearing in many PCIe devices very soon. The stated performance figures may be a bit shy of currently comparing SSDs like the Intel SSD 750 and Samsung SM951, but with the recent introduction of Z170 motherboards and RST PCIe RAID, it is now easier to RAID a smaller capacity pair of these devices, increasing the performance of slower units. Further, the point of the SM2260 is likely to get a low cost NVMe PCIe SSD controller into the hands of SSD makers, which can only mean good things for those looking to make the move away from SATA.
I’ve included Silicon Motion’s FMS press blast after the break.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2015 - 10:24 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, Steam Controller, microsoft, E3 2015, E3 15, E3, controller
And, of course, Xbox One... but I can assume who is the bulk of my audience.
Microsoft announced the Xbox One Elite Controller at E3, which includes support for Windows 10. This is part of their initiative to amend relations with the PC gaming industry. They seem to be going about it by focusing on the high-end gamer first. If not, then I wonder why they chose a $150 controller as a leading product.
At that price, you could literally purchase three Steam Controllers from Valve instead of a single one of these, but whether you should... depends. In all honesty, I might end up purchasing both and doing a comparison between them over a variety of games. Of course, my primary input device is the mouse and keyboard for most games, but I occasionally add an early model Xbox 360 wired controller to the mix for Saint's Row, Grand Theft Auto, NASCAR 2003, and a few other titles.
The real disappointment is its D-Pad, though. It just cannot reliably send a single direction without sometimes accidentally sending others. This gets worse in games that are styled in the “8-bit” and “16-bit” era. I actually need to play most of those on a keyboard, which is a terrible experience. Valve's implementation looks interesting with the cross-shaped thumbpad, but Microsoft's new version has options: an old-fashioned cross as well as a nine-sectioned cup, called a “faceted D-pad”.
That leads into the main design of Microsoft's controller: customization. Two switches on the back of the controller allow the range of trigger motion to be limited on the fly. This is designed for games like Grand Theft Auto, where the player wants precise control over throttle and brake, but would prefer to rapidly max-out the trigger as fast as possible when shooting a weapon. With this controller, you flip the switch when you leave the car and, what normally would be some fraction of its range, would be considered “bottoming out” and it would apparently even physically stop the trigger from pushing in further. According to the website, the threshold is user-customizable. I did not use it personally because I wasn't at E3.
Like Valve's controller, it has optional rear paddles near the grips. They are stainless steel apparently, and can be used to compensate for weird button combinations by mapping them to fingers that normally just clutch the device itself. In Valve's version, there is just two while Microsoft's allows for up to four. Microsoft also allows you to detach them, rather than just disable them.
This is when we get to software customization. Valve claims that the Steam Controller can be bound to many events across mouse, keyboard, and gamepad buttons and axises. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be keeping within the range of buttons found on a standard Xbox One controller. This is concerning to me because it means that extended inputs will be redundant, which is fine for an Xbox One game but could be annoying for a PC title that has many independent, simpler commands. This might be a limitation of XINPUT, which supposedly cannot address more than 10 buttons. I thought I remembered that limit being extended, but that seems to be true even in the MSDN documentation. Even still, the driver could address the extra functions as a secondary virtual device (keyboards, etc.) but Microsoft doesn't seem to want to. As a final note, Valve also allows the end of both triggers to be considered a clicky button, while Microsoft just recognizes it as a bottomed-out axis.
The Xbox One Elite Controller will ship in October for $149.99. A wireless adapter for the PC will not be required if you use the included USB Micro cable, but add that to the price if you want it wireless. Add batteries on top of that, because it takes AA. They include a pair of disposable AA, but that is obviously not a permanent solution.
Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | March 6, 2015 - 03:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, microsoft, gdc 15, GDC, controller
During his keynote speech, Phil Spencer of Microsoft announced a wireless adapter for PC. It can apparently be used to connect any wireless Xbox One peripheral on Windows 10. If you watch the presentation, the statement occurred at about 36 minutes and 30 seconds in. It was just a brief acknowledgement of its existence this year.
A similar device existed for the Xbox 360, pictured above, and I used it heavily with controller-friendly games (until the adapter died abruptly). I was not a fan of the directional pad, of course, but the rest of the controller suited the games that I play without a mouse and keyboard. I also used the adapter with the Xbox 360 wireless headset, which was surprisingly good (especially at removing speaker noise).
On the same day, Neowin acquired a leak that claims the company is looking to create a new Xbox One controller. They expect that, if the project doesn't get killed internally, we will see the new controller at E3 2015 in June. The design is supposed to focus on first person shooters and driving titles, but nothing else is known about it. We'll see.
Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2015 - 01:54 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller, peripheral, gdc 2015, gdc 15, gaming, controller
Valve has given the elusive (vaporous? heh, I'll leave the good puns to Scott) Steam Controller a release date and several refinements to the design. Slated for a November 2015 launch, the Steam Controller will ship with most of the Steam Machines offered by OEMs. Users will also be able to purchase controllers directly from Valve (via Steam) for $49.99.
The final controller features a curved design with lots of rounded edges (no sharp angles here), large handles and dual circular programmable trackpads. The four button d-pad has been replaced by an analog stick while the four A, B, X, and Y buttons sit where a second thumb stick traditionally resides.
A circular Steam button and two smaller buttons finish out the face controls.
The two large (and despite my impressions from photos apparently ergonomic) handles each host two dual stage (analog and/or digital) triggers on the top and a button on the underside of the controller.
The Steam Controller is powered by two replaceable AA batteries and is wireless.
Users will be able to create and save custom configurations to their Steam profiles as well as share those custom settings with other Steam users. This should make adoption a bit easier since you will be able to jump into games with a recommended configuration that other users report works well. Or at least it will be a better starting point for your own custom settings rather than being thrown to the wolves with a new and unfamiliar controller. I think it is going to take practice to get good at this even with the jumpstart on suggested configurations though.
It will be available in November (Steam Store page link) for $49.99 which is just cheap enough that I will likely pick one up just to try it out and see what the hype is about. If it is as comfortable as some writers (who have gotten hands on time with them at GDC) are claiming, I’m willing to give it a shot now that it includes a thumb stick (I think I need to be eased into this dual trackpad setup).
Engadget has several more photos from the GDC show floor that are worth checking out.
What do you think about the final Steam Controller?
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 03:55 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, xbox, xbone, xbox one, controller, gamepad
A few months ago, Microsoft released 32- and 64-bit drivers for their Xbox One controller on Windows 7 and Windows 8. This was for wireless controllers attached by micro-USB to a PC. Now, Microsoft announced a new controller for Windows: the same controller, only bundled with the required cable. In fact, it can still connect wirelessly... to an Xbox One, not a PC.
The bundle will cost $59.95 (MSRP) and be available starting in November. As far as I can tell, the PC cannot update the Xbox One Controller's firmware; for that, you apparently need an Xbox One handy. It is possible that Microsoft will implement this, or already has and no-one is talking about it, but you might want to hold off until we know for a fact. One update adjusts analog stick sensitivity; this could be important, especially if you have multiple controllers at different patch levels. Yes, some PC games allow local multiplayer.
Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2014 - 05:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: usb, peripherals, input, gaming mouse, gaming keyboard, controller
The Tech Report delves into their favourite peripherals available on the market in this article, covering displays, keyboards, mice and all the other goodies you can attach to your PC. The brand new G-SYNC 1440p monitor from ASUS of course makes an appearance but there is much more covered than just your display. A half dozen wired keyboards and three wireless ones made the grade along with a similar number of mice and even controllers are ranked to give you an informed choice about the current market. They even delve into external audio and storage options so if you have a few unused USB ports head on over and see if you can't find something to fill them.
"In this second edition of the peripheral staff picks, we've reworked the display section with the latest 4K and G-Sync monitors in mind. We've also updated the other sections to account for price fluctuations, changes in product availability, and findings from our latest round of reviews. The result should be, we hope, a more informative and up-to-date resource for your back-to-school shopping needs."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Roccat Kone Pure Military Edition @ HardwareHeaven
- Roccat Kone Pure and Roccat Sense 2mm Camo Charge @ Kitguru
- GAMDIAS HADES Extension Mouse @ HardwareHeaven
- Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury Gaming Mouse Review @ Legit Reviews
- Genius F-1000 Arcade Stick for PC/PS3 Review @ Modders-Inc
- ROCCAT Ryos MK Pro Mechanical Keyboard @ Benchmark Reviews
- i-Rocks K10 USB Gaming keyboard @ Kitguru
- Tesoro Lobera Supreme Full Color Illumination Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review @ NikKTech
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | August 6, 2014 - 03:03 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, pcie, NVMe, Marvell, FMS 2014, FMS, controller, 88SS1093
Marvell is notorious for being the first to bring a 6Gb/sec SATA controller to market, and they continue to do very well in that area. Their very capable 88SS9189 controller powers the Crucial MX100 and M550, as well as the ADATA SP920.
Today they have announced a newer controller, the 88SS1093. Despite the confusing numbering, the 88SS1093 has a PCIe 3.0 x4 host interface and will support the full NVMe protocol. The provided specs are on the light side, as performance of this controller will ultimately depend on the speed and parallelism of the attached flash, but its sure to be a decent performer. I suspect it would behave like their SATA part, only no longer bottlenecked by SATA 6Gb/sec speeds.
More to follow as I hope to see this controller in person on the exhibition hall (which opens to press in a few hours). Full press blast after the break.
*** Update ***
Apologies as there was no photo to be taken - Marvell had no booth at the exibition space at FMS.
Subject: Storage | August 12, 2013 - 09:00 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: ssd, silicon motion, sata, controller
You may very well have never heard of Silicon Motion (SMI), a major priducer of flash memory controllers, even if you've followed the SSD industry for a while. This is primarily because the vast majority of their products have been tailored for the devices that folks tend to not crack open during review, namely USB memory sticks, eMMC devices, and SD / CF cards:
Creating controllers in those arenas will tend to force a company to do a few things very well:
- Handle a very limited number of flash channels with the greatest speed possible, due to packaging requirements for very small devices.
- Operate at the lowest power draw possible as to meet the current draw limits of the host interface.
This has resulted in SMI developing a 6Gb/sec SSD controller, dubbed the SM2246EN, using the above techniques:
The block diagram shows what appears to be a fairly standard 4-channel configuration, though there are fewer steps in the pipeline as compared to SandForce and other controllers, which should help decrease latency and improve efficiency. There is also no compression engine, which means power consumption should be further reduced.
Read on for further details on specs and power consumption, followed by the full press blast.
Marvell, a storage technology company founded in 1995, today announced a new SSD controller in the form of the 88SS9187 that supports many of the latest storage technologies and is set to debut in several products this year.
The new 88SS9187 SSD controller is reportedly powered by a powerful embedded processor and supports the SATA 3.1 (6Gbps) interface as well as a NAND flash interface that is capable of up to 200 MB/s per channel. Also, the Marvell controller can support on-chip RAID functionality as well as Adaptive Read and Write Scheme technology in the ECC (error correction code) engine.
Marvell also claims that the 88SS9187 controller supports the DDR3 DRAM interface for "up to 1 G byte memory," and approximately 500 MB/s of sequential write performance under dirty drive conditions. The claim that the new controller will provide Random read and write IOPS with minimum over provisioning and performance degradations (where provisioning is used to provide a buffer for wear leveling algorithms and extra space for the drive controller to work with to increase performance). The Vice President of Marketing for Marvell's Storage Business Group Alan Armstrong, stated that the new 88SS9187 controller will enable SSD manufacturers "to fully customize their products to meet specific customer demands and distinguish their products based on price, performance, power and functionality."
They plan for the new controller to have an impact in both the consumer and enterprise markets and have announced that additional partners will integrate the 88SS9187 controller into their SSDs later this year. For now though, they have only stated that a "significant number" of popular SSD manufacturers will have drives ready in the immediate future. More information is available here.
Subject: Storage | February 16, 2012 - 09:51 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: Xtensa, VIA, Tensilica, ssd, DPU, controller
VIA has always been known for the 'slow and steady' approach to computing. They might not have the quickest stuff around, but they certainly tend to have the lowest power draw. While we haven't seen many releases from VIA as of late, they appear to be gearing up for a rediscovered purpose for their mantra - Solid State Storage.
VIA has brought on a company called Tensilica, who make a System on a Chip (SoC) architecture that has been purpose built for moving data around. The system, dubbed the Xtensa dataplane processor (DPU), has some particular math strengths that would be very beneficial if applied to the realm of an SSD controller. For example, the DPU is capable of performing multiple simultaneous table lookups within a single clock cycle. This is handy for increasing the IOPS rating of an SSD, since wear leveling and write amplification are handled by remapping the LBA's (sectors) to flash memory space. Each IO results in a necessary table lookup, which the DPU can perform very quickly.