Checking out PCIe SSDs, both the full sized version and the bite sized ones

Subject: Storage | April 7, 2015 - 02:49 PM |
Tagged: Plextor M6e, XP941, Samsung, DC P3700, Intel, PCIe SSD, M.2

The Tech Report have updated their storage testbed to properly benchmark PCIe SSDs, the M.2 versions as well as ones such as Intel's DC P3700 which takes up a full slot.  They contrast the performance with 10 popular SATA drives to give you an idea of the difference performance a PCI SSD will give you.  The rather expensive DC P3700 dominates almost every test they performed, apart from boot times in Windows 8.1 which are still well under 1 minute.  Read through the review with your own usage patterns in mind, in many cases a SATA SSD is still a great choice for many gamers and are much more affordable.  Then again, if you can afford a $2500 SSD, Intel's offering is definitely king.

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"SSDs have been bumping up against the limits of the Serial ATA interface for a while, but they don't have to be stuck behind the 6Gbps link. Native PCIe drives with way more bandwidth have made their way onto the market over the past year. We've tackled a trio of them—Plextor's M6e, Samsung's XP941, and Intel's server-grade DC P3700—with a fresh slate of benchmarks to see how the new breed stacks up against the SATA incumbents."

Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:

Storage

Intel Compute Stick Starts Pre-order: Bay Trail and Windows 8.1 for $149

Subject: Systems | April 6, 2015 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: Intel, compute stick, Bay Trail-D

Back at CES in January Intel shared with us a preview of the company's latest new platform form factor, the Compute Stick. That's the formal, official name, a follow up from the same team that brought us the NUC (Next Unit of Computing). The Compute Stick is a thumb-drive-shaped, full PC integration that has a physical HDMI connection to plug directly into your TV.

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The specifications remain unchanged from what we learned at CES:

The Intel Compute Stick, aptly named, seems to fit somewhere between these two devices. It is an HDMI dongle enclosing an x86, quad-core, computer with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Intel eventually plans to have the device powered by the HDMI port, but it currently requires power over micro USB. Besides power, it also has a standard USB (Type A-Female) port and a micro SD card slot. It also has 802.11n wireless networking inside it. Being a full Windows device, you can stream media, browse the web, and use many other applications on it.

This week the devices have started showing up for pre-order on Newegg.com and even Amazon.com.

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Newegg.com has a specific pre-order going but it looks like Amazon is still on the waiting list process. Interestingly, a quick search for "compute stick" on Amazon reveals a host of other very similar devices, the most popular of which are sold as the MeeGoPad Stick with a price tag of ~$109. I'm not sure what those products will ship with when it comes to an operating system and some reviews indicate that the Windows version installed is not activated, so go in at your own risk.

As for the official Intel sold Compute Stick, I'm excited to try one out. The device includes a Bay Trail quad-core CPU, a single micro-USB port for power, a full-sized USB 2.0 port for connectivity (webcam, etc.) as well as a MicroSD slot for storage expansion. The device embeds Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth so you'll be able to connect to a network and get wireless keyboards and mice up and running easily.

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The amount of capability you get for $149, including a full copy of Windows 8.1 with Bing, is astounding and, if it lives up the hype, could be a great replacement for a Google Chromecast or a Kindle Fire TV. Look for a review very soon!

PCPer Live! Intel SSD Live Stream and Giveaway!

Subject: General Tech, Storage, Shows and Expos | April 2, 2015 - 08:19 PM |
Tagged: video, sdd, live, Intel, giveaway, contest

UPDATE: The secret is out! Today's live stream will focus on the new Intel SSD 750 Series products, which Allyn posted our review of just a few minutes ago. Be sure you read up on that story and prepare your questions for our event that starts in less than three hours!

UPDATE 2: If you missed the live streaming event today, you can find the reply embedded directly below. You can't win any of the prizes at this point (sorry!) but there is a ton of information for you to gleam from the discussion. That includes a history of Intel's SSD technology, how flash works and what the new SSD 750 Series has to offer with PCIe and NVMe. Enjoy!

Earlier this month we spotted a new and potentially very exciting SSD while looking through some PAX East coverage around the web. It appears to be a PCI Express based Intel SSD, likely based on the same technology as the P3700-series of NVMe drives released last June. And today, if you take a look at this Intel promotional landing page you'll see a timer and countdown that ends on April 2nd.

Sounds like something must be up, huh?

Well, in totally unrelated news, PC Perspective and Intel are partnering together for a live stream to discuss "SSD related topics" on April 2nd.

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Intel SSD Live Stream and Giveaway

12pm PT / 3pm ET - April 2nd

PC Perspective Live! Page

Need a reminder? Join our live mailing list!

Joining us for the live event will be Intel's Bryn Pilney and Kei Kobayashi, making a follow up appearance after jumping on stage with us at Quakecon 2014. During the event we'll discuss some of the history of Intel's move into the SSD market, how consumers benefit from Intel development and technology and a certain new product that will be making an appearnce on that same day.

And of course, what's a live stream event without some hardware to give away?!? Here's what we have on the docket for those that attend:

  • 2 x Intel 180GB 530 Series SSDs
  • 2 x Intel 480GB 730 Series SSDs
  • 2 x Intel 400GB 750 Series SSDs

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Huge thanks to Intel for supporting our viewers and readers with hardware to giveaway!

The event will take place Thursday, April 2nd at 3pm ET / 12pm PT at http://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience, asking questions for me and Intel to answer live. To win the prizes you will have to be watching the live stream, with exact details of the methodology for handing out the goods coming at the time of the event.

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If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from Intel?

So join us! Set your calendar for this coming Thursday at 3pm ET / 12pm PT and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live mailing list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!

Podcast #343 - DX12 Performance, Dissecting G-SYNC and FreeSync, Intel 3D NAND and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2015 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, dx12, 3dmark, freesync, g-sync, Intel, 3d nand, 20nm, 28nm, micron, nvidia, shield, Tegra X1, raptr, 850 EVO, msata, M.2

PC Perspective Podcast #343 - 04/02/2015

Join us this week as we discuss DX12 Performance, Dissecting G-SYNC and FreeSync, Intel 3D NAND and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts:Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Editor's note: We are hosting a live stream event with our friends at Intel's SSD group today to discuss the new SSD 750 Series launch and to giveaway a couple of the 400GB units as well! Be sure you stop by to ask quesitons, learn about the technology and have a chance to win some hardware!!

Introduction:

Intel has a habit of overlapping their enterprise and consumer product lines. Their initial X25-M was marketed to both consumer and enterprise, with heavier workloads reserved for the X25-E. Their SSD 320 Series was also spec'd for both consumer and enterprise usage. Their most recent SSD 730 Series was actually an overclocked version of their SSD DC S3500 units. Clearly this is an established trend for Intel, so when they dominated flash memory performance with the SSD DC P3700 launch last year, pretty much everyone following these sorts of things eagerly waited in anticipation of a consumer release.

While they were hard to find outside of enterprise supply chains, some dedicated users picked up that enterprise part for their enthusiast systems, but many were disappointed as the P3700's enterprise hardware and firmware conflicted with many consumer motherboards' BIOS, rendering it unbootable for some and causing address space conflicts for others. In short, the P3700 was a great product that simply did not function properly with most consumer motherboards. All anyone could do was wait for Intel to spin a consumer product from this enterprise part, and that day is today:

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This is the add-in card version of the new Intel SSD 750 Series that brings NVMe technology and insane performance levels to consumers at a cost that is more affordable than you might think.

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As with the enterprise variant, Intel chose to launch the SSD 750 Series in the familiar HHHL PCIe x4 form factor as well as a 2.5" SFF-8639 packaging. The 2.5" model contains the exact same set of components, just rearranged into a smaller device.

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Despite being 2.5", this is not a SATA device. While the connector may look similar, it is *very* different:

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As you can see above, SFF-8639 further extends on the familiar SATA power and data connections, which had already been extended a few times to add additional SAS data lines. The new spec adds a complete row of pins on the back side of the connector to support four lanes of PCIe. This means the SFF variant of the SSD 750 will perform identically to the PCIe half-height card version. Since SFF-8639 was born as an enterprise spec, one question remains - how do you connect it to a consumer desktop motherboard? Well, desktop motherboards are coming with M.2 ports that can support up to PCIe 3.0 x4, so all you really need is a simple way to get from point A to point B:

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Pictured above (left) is the ASUS 'Hyper Kit' adapter PCB, which was sampled to us with their new Sabertooth X99 motherboard just for testing these new 2.5" devices. The connector you see at the right may look familiar, as it is an internal Mini-SAS HD (SFF-8643) cable commonly used with high end SAS RAID cards. Intel is basically borrowing the physical spec, but rewiring those four SAS lanes over to the PCIe pins of the SFF-8639 connector at the other end of the cable.

Continue reading our review of the Intel SSD 750 Series NVMe 1.2TB PCIe drives!!

Intel's low end refresh, the die shrunk Braswell family

Subject: General Tech | April 1, 2015 - 07:56 PM |
Tagged: celeron, N3000, N3050, pentium, Intel, 14 nm, N3150, N3700, Airmont

Intel has released four low powered 14 nm Braswell SoCs, with Airmont cores and Generation 8 graphics to replace the current Bay Trail-D processors currently being sold. There are two Celeron models with two cores as well as Celeron and Pentium model with 4 cores, that is also the number of threads available as these processors do not support HyperThreading.  The base frequencies range from 1.04GHz base and 2.08GHz boost clock to the top end Pentium running at 1.6GHz base and 2.4 GHz boost.  All but the low end Celeron model will run at a 6W TDP, with the lowest clocked Celeron running at 4W.  You can expect to see these in lower end laptops and desktops very soon.  Follow the links from The Register for a bit more information on Intel's new low powered SoCs.

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"CPU World reports that Intel will offer four new Atom products based on its 14-nanometer "Braswell" process, to be marketed under the Celeron and Pentium brands."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Gigabyte's Z97X Gaming 7, a decent motherboard all around

Subject: Motherboards | March 30, 2015 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, Z97X Gaming 7, z97, Intel

The Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 7 motherboard offers a nice balance between price and performance, at $172 it is a bit pricey but when on sale for around the $150 mark it is a great deal.  The onboard audio provided by Realtek's ALC1150 produced very good sound and while the Qualcomm Killer NIC E2201 doesn't offer benefits over a more generic NIC there are those who prefer the software which comes with it.  The board overclocked very well for [H] manually, providing noticeable boosts with solid performance, however the EasyTune software provided them with some issues.  Check out the full review right here.

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"GIGABYTE's Z97X Gaming 7 promises solid overclocking and performance. The feature list for the Z97X Gaming 7 is long and includes gamer focused features like a dedicated audio amplifier, Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3 support and more. We've had mixed results with the GIGABYTE lately, so the real question is; does it work?"

Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:

Motherboards

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Learn a bit more about Knights Landing

Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2015 - 02:23 PM |
Tagged: Xeon Phi, silvermont, knights landing, Intel

Today a bit more information about Intel's upcoming Knights Landing platform appeared at The Register.  The 60 core and 240 thread figure is quoted once again though now we know there is over 8 billion transistors on the chip, which does not include the 16 GB of near memory also present on the package.  The processor will support six memory channel, three each in two memory controllers on the die, with a total of 384 GB of far memory.  The terms near and far are new, representing onboard and external memory respectively.  There is a lot more information you can dig into by following the link on The Register to this long article posted at The Platform.

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"Intel has set some rumours to rest, giving a media and analyst briefing outlining details of its coming 60-plus core Knights Landing Xeon Phi chip."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Intel / Micron Announce 3D NAND Production with Industry's Highest Density: >10TB on a 2.5" SSD

Subject: Storage | March 26, 2015 - 02:12 PM |
Tagged: storage, ssd, planar, nand, micron, M.2, Intel, imft, floating-gate, 3d nand

Intel and Micron are jointly announcing new 3D NAND technology that will radically increase solid-storage capacity going forward. The companies have indicated that moving to this technology will allow for the type of rapid increases in capacity that are consistent with Moore’s Law.

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The way Intel and Micron are approaching 3D NAND is very different from existing 3D technologies from Samsung and now Toshiba. The implementation of floating-gate technology and “unique design choices” has produced startling densities of 256 Gb MLC, and a whopping 384 Gb with TLC. The choice to base this new 3D NAND on floating-gate technology allows development with a well-known entity, and benefits from the knowledge base that Intel and Micron have working with this technology on planar NAND over their long partnership.

What does this mean for consumers? This new 3D NAND enables greater than 10TB capacity on a standard 2.5” SSD, and 3.5TB on M.2 form-factor drives. These capacities are possible with the industry’s highest density 3D NAND, as the >3.5TB M.2 capacity can be achieved with just 5 packages of 16 stacked dies with 384 Gb TLC.

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A 3D NAND cross section from Allyn's Samsung 850 Pro review

While such high density might suggest reliance on ever-shrinking process technology (and the inherent loss of durability thus associated) Intel is likely using a larger process for this NAND. Though they would not comment on this, Intel could be using something roughly equivalent to 50nm flash with this new 3D NAND. In the past die shrinks have been used to increase capacity per die (and yields) such as IMFT's move to 20nm back in 2011, but with the ability to achieve greater capacity vertically using 3D cell technology a smaller process is not necessary to achieve greater density. Additionally, working with a larger process would allow for better endurance as, for example, 50nm MLC was on the order of 10,000 program/erase cycles. Samsung similarly moved to a larger process with with their initial 3D NAND, moving from their existing 20nm technology back to 30nm with 3D production.

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This announcement is also interesting considering Toshiba has just entered this space as well having announced 48-layer 128 Gb density 3D NAND, and like Samsung, they are moving away from floating-gate and using their own charge-trap implementation they are calling BiCS (Bit Cost Scaling). However with this Intel/Micron announcement the emphasis is on the ability to offer a 3x increase in capacity using the venerable floating-gate technology from planar NAND, which gives Intel / Micron an attractive position in the market - depending on price/performance of course. And while these very large capacity drives seem destined to be expensive at first, the cost structure is likely to be similar to current NAND. All of this remains to be seen, but this is indeed promising news for the future of flash storage as it will now scale up to (and beyond) spinning media capacity - unless 3D tech is implemented in hard drive production, that is.

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So when will Intel and Micron’s new technology enter the consumer market? It could be later this year as Intel and Micron have already begun sampling the new NAND to manufacturers. Manufacturing has started in Singapore, plus ground has also been broken at the IMFT fab in Utah to support production here in the United States.

Source: Intel

Rumor: Intel Is Now Powering Both Surface and Surface Pro

Subject: Processors, Mobile | March 25, 2015 - 09:51 PM |
Tagged: Intel, core m, atom, surface, Surface 2, Windows 8.1, windows 10

The stack of Microsoft tablet devices had high-end Intel Core processors hovering over ARM SoCs, the two separated by a simple “Pro” label (and Windows 8.x versus Windows RT). While the Pro line has been kept reasonably up to date, the lower tier has been stagnant for a while. That is apparently going to change. WinBeta believes that a new, non-Pro Surface will be announced soon, at or before BUILD 2015. Unlike previous Surface models, it will be powered by an x86 processor from Intel, either an Atom or a Core M.

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This also means it will run Windows 8.1.

The article claims, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that Windows RT is dead. No. But still, the device should be eligible for a Windows 10 upgrade when it launches, unlike the RT-based Surfaces. Whether that is a surprise depends on the direction you view it from. I would find it silly for Microsoft to release a new Surface device, months before an OS update, but design it to be incompatible with it. On the other hand, it would be the first non-Pro Surface to do so. Either way, it was reported.

The “Surface 3”, whatever it will be called, is expected to be a fanless design. VR-Zone expects that it will be similar to the 10.6-inch, 1080p form factor of the Surface 2, but that seems to be their speculation. That is about all that we know thus far.

Source: WinBeta