Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging
Everyone expects SSD makers to keep pushing out higher and higher capacity SSDs, but the thing holding them back is sufficient market demand for that capacity. With that, it appears Samsung has decided it was high time for a 4TB model of their 850 EVO. Today we will be looking at this huge capacity point, and paying close attention to any performance dips that sometimes result in pushing a given SSD controller / architecture to extreme capacities.
This new 4TB model benefits from the higher density of Samsung’s 48-layer V-NAND. We performed a side-by-side comparison of 32 and 48 layer products back in March, and found the newer flash to reduce Latency Percentile profiles closer to MLC-equipped Pro model than the 32-layer (TLC) EVO:
Latency Percentile showing reduced latency of Samsung’s new 48-layer V-NAND
We’ll be looking into all of this in today’s review, along with trying our hand at some new mixed paced workload testing, so let’s get to it!
Introduction, Dynamic Write Acceleration, and Packaging
Micron joined Intel in announcing their joint venture production of IMFT 3D NAND just a bit over a year ago. The industry was naturally excited since IMFT has historically enabled relatively efficient production, ultimately resulting in reduced SSD prices over time. I suspect this time things will be no different as IMFT's 3D Flash has been aiming high die capacities since its inception, and I suspect their second generation will *double* per-die capacities while keeping speeds reasonable thanks to a quad-plane design implemented from the start of this endeavor. Of course, I'm getting ahead of myself a bit as there are no consumer products sporting this flash just yet - well not until today at least:
Marketed under Micron's consumer brand Crucial, the MX300 is their first entrant into the consumer space, as well as the first consumer SSD sporting IMFT 3D NAND. Crucial is known for their budget-minded SSDs, and for the MX300 they chose to go with the best cost/GB they could manage with what they had to work with. That meant putting this new 3D NAND into TLC mode. Now there are many TLC haters out there, but remember this is 3D NAND. Samsung's 850 EVO can exceed 500 MB/sec writes to TLC at its 500GB capacity point, and this MX300 is a product that is launching with *only* a 750GB capacity, so its TLC speed should be at least reasonable.
(the return of) Dynamic Write Acceleration
Dynamic Write Acceleration in action during a sequential fill - that last slowest part was my primary concern for the mX300.
TLC is not the only story here because Crucial has included their Dynamic Write Acceleration (DWA) technology into the MX300. This is a tech where the SSD controller is able to dynamically switch flash programming modes of the flash pool, doing so at the block level. This appears to be a feature unique to IMFT flash, as every other 'hybrid' SSD we have tested had a static SLC cache area. DWA's ability to switch flash modes on-the-fly has always fascinated me on paper, but I just haven't been impressed by Micron's previous attempts to implement it. The M600 was a bit all over the place on its write consistency, and that SSD was flipping blocks between SLC and MLC. With the MX300 flipping between SLC and *TLC*, there was a possibility of far more noticeable slow downs in the cases where large writes were taking place and the controller was caught trying to scavenge space in the background.
New Latency Percentile vs. legacy IO Percentile, shown here highlighting a performance inconsistency seen in the Toshiba OCZ RD400. Note which line more closely represents the Latency Distribution (gray) also on this plot.
Subject: Storage | February 18, 2016 - 03:14 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Trion 150, toshiba, tlc, ssd, slc, sata, ocz, A15nm
As you may remember from Al's post, the OCZ Trion 150 is essentially the same as the previous Trion 100, except for the use of 15nm TLC flash from Toshiba and a lower initial price. Hardware Canucks got their paws on two of the drives from this series to benchmark, the 480GB and 960GB models. The 480GB model retains the 256MB DDR3 cache, the 960 doubles that to 512MB but there is one thing missing from this new series; instead of relying on capacitors to prevent lost data from a power failure they rely on OCZ's firmware based Power Failure Management Plus. Read Hardware Canucks full review to see if the new Trion can match the price to performance of the original.
"With the budget-focused SSD market exploding, OCZ is launching the Trion 150, a refresh of their original Trion 100 series which should offer better performance and an even lower price."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- OCZ Trion 150 480GB @ Legion Hardware
- Mushkin Striker 480GB @ eTeknix
- Samsung 750 EVO @ The SSD Review
- PNY CS1311 & XLR8 CS2211 SSDs Review @ Hardware Canucks
- QNAP TS-453A 4-bay NAS @ techPowerUp
- Kingston DataTraveler 2000 @ The Inquirer
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
The steady increase in flash memory capacity per die is necessary for bringing SSD costs down, but SSDs need a minimum number of dies present to maintain good performance. Back when Samsung announced their 48-layer VNAND, their Senior VP of Marketing assured me that the performance drop that comes along with the low die count present in lower capacity models would be dealt with properly. At the time, Unsoo Kim mentioned the possibility of Samsung producing 128Gbit 48-layer VNAND, but it now appears that they have opted to put everything into 256Gbit on 3D side. Fortunately they still have a planar (2D) NAND production line going, and they will be using that same flash in a newer line of low capacity models. When their 850 Series transitions over to 48-layer (enabling 2TB capacities), Samsung will drop the 120GB capacity of that line and replace it with a new OEM / system builder destined 750 EVO:
The SSD 750 EVO Series is essentially a throwback to the 840 EVO, but without all of the growing pains experienced by that line. Samsung assured me that the same corrections that ultimately fixed the long-term read-based slow down issues with the 840 EVO also apply to the 750 EVO, and despite the model number being smaller, these should actually perform a bit better than their predecessor. Since it would be silly to just launch a single 120GB capacity to make up for the soon to be dropped 850 EVO 120GB, we also get a 250GB model, which should make for an interesting price point.
Baseline specs are very similar to the older 840 EVO series, with some minor differences (to be shown below). There are some unlisted specs that are carried over from the original series. For those we need to reference the slides from the 840 EVO launch:
Subject: Storage | February 3, 2016 - 03:31 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: Trion 150, toshiba, tlc, ssd, slc, sata, ocz, A15nm
*Note* This piece originally stated 'A15nm', however this was an error in the Trion 150 spec sheet at OCZ. It has been corrected in this article (as well as at the OCZ web site).
2015 was a bit of a rough year for OCZ, as their integration with parent company Toshiba ran into a few performance bumps in the road. First was the Vector 180 launch, which saw some particularly troublesome stalls during writes and TRIM operations. The Trion 100 launch went a bit smoother, but we did note some inconsistencies in caching performance of those TLC/SLC caching SSDs.
OCZ hopes to turn things around by kicking off 2016 with some updates to their product lines. First up is the just announced Trion 150:
Looking at the spec sheets of the Trion 100 and 150, it may be difficult to spot any differences. I’ll save you the trouble and say that only *one digit* changes, but it is an important one. The Trion 150 will use Toshiba 15nm TLC flash (the Trion 100 used A19nm). What is interesting about this is that the Trion 150 carries the same endurance rating as its predecessor. A flash memory die shrink typically comes with a corresponding reduction in endurance, so it is good to see Toshiba squeeze this likely last die shrink to their planar flash for all of the endurance they can. Further backing up that endurance claim, the Trion 150 will carry OCZ’s ShieldPlus warranty, which offers shipping-paid advance-RMA (without receipt) of this product line for three years!
OCZ has Trion 150 samples on the way to us, and we will get a full performance review of them up as soon as we can! Full press blast follows after the break.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 06:00 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: tlc, SM2260, SM2258, SM2256, SM2246EN, slc, SK Hynix, silicon motion, mlc, micron, Intel, imft, CES 2016, CES, 3d nand
Silicon Motion has updated their popular SM2246EN controller to support MLC 3D NAND from IMFT and SK Hynix:
The SM2246EN acts as a gateway for third parties to make their own SSDs. Adding support for 3D NAND is good news, as it means we will be able to see third party SSDs launch with 3D flash sourced from Intel, Micron, or SK Hynix. Another cool tidbit is the fact that those demo units in the above photo were equipped and operating with actual 3D NAND from Intel, Micron, and SK Hynix. Yes, this is the first time seeing packaged MLC 3D NAND from a company other than Samsung. Here are some close-ups for those who want to read part numbers:
Another question on non-Samsung 3D NAND is how does its performance stack up against planar (2D) NAND? Silicon Motion had a bit of an answer to that question for us:
Keep in mind those are results from pre-production firmware, but I was happy to see that my prediction of IMFT 3D NAND speeds being effectively equal to their previous 2D flash was correct.
To knock out some other info overheard at our briefing, Silicon Motion will also be making an SM2258, which will be a TLC 3D NAND variant of the SM2256. In addition, we saw the unreleased SM2260:
...which is Silicon Motion's PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD controller. This one is expected to surface towards the middle of 2016, and it is currently in the OEM testing stage.
Lots more storage goodies coming later today, so stay tuned! Full press blast for the updates SM2246EN after the break.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Storage | December 30, 2015 - 02:21 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: transcend, slc, mlc, ssd, flash, SuperMLC
Last year we saw Micron toy with the idea of dynamically flipping flash memory dies between SLC and MLC modes. Ok paper, it sounded like a great idea - get the speed of SLC flash while the SSD is up to 50% full, then start shifting dies over to MLC mode to get the higher capacity. This tech did not exist until the ability to flip dies between modes existed, which was not until shortly before the M600 SSDs were introduced. Realize this is different than other types of mixed mode flash, like that on the Samsung 'EVO' models, which have a small SLC segment present on each TLC die. That static partitioning kept those types of solutions more consistent in performance than the M600 was when we first evaluated its performance.
What if we borrowed the idea of keeping the flash mode static, but just keeping to the faster mode? Transcend has announced it will be doing just that in the coming year. These will be SSDs equipped with MLC flash, but that flash will be configured to operate in SLC mode full time. This will enable ~4x write speeds and higher endurance ~30,000 write cycles compared to ~5-10k P/E cycle figures of the same flash operating in MLC mode. This performance and endurance boost comes at a cost, as these SSDs will consume twice the flash memory for the equivalent MLC model capacity. We predict this type of substitution for standard SLC flash will be a continuing trend since SLC flash production volume is insignificant compared to MLC. This trick gets you most of the way to SLC performance and endurance for (in the current market) less cost/GB of a straight SLC SSD.
Upcoming Transcend models to include SuperMLC technology:
- SSD510K - 2.5”
- MSA510 - mSATA
- HSD510 - half slim
- MTS460 & MTS860 - M.2
Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
Since their acquisition by Toshiba in early 2014, OCZ has gradually transitioned their line of SSD products to include parts provided by their parent company. Existing products were switched over to Toshiba flash memory, and that transition went fairly smoothly, save the recent launch of their Vector 180 (which had a couple of issues noted in our review). After that release, we waited for the next release from OCZ, hoping for something fresh, and that appears to have just happened:
OCZ sent us a round of samples for their new OCZ Trion 100 SSD. This SSD was first teased at Computex 2015. This new model would not only use Toshiba sourced flash memory, it would also displace the OCZ / Indilinx Barefoot controller with Toshiba's own. Then named 'Alishan', this is now officially called the 'Toshiba Controller TC58'. As we found out during Computex, this controller employs Toshiba's proprietary Quadruple Swing-By Code (QSBC) error correction technology:
Error correction tech gets very wordy, windy, and technical and does so very quickly, so I'll do my best to simplify things. Error correction is basically some information interleaved within the data stored on a given medium. Pretty much everything uses it in some form or another. Some Those 700MB CD-R's you used to burn could physically hold over 1GB of data, but all of that extra 'unavailable' space was error correction necessary to deal with the possible scratches and dust over time. Hard drives do the same sort of thing, with recent changes to how the data is interleaved. Early flash memory employed the same sort of simple error correction techniques initially, but advances in understanding of flash memory error modes have led to advances in flash-specific error correction techniques. More advanced algorithms require more advanced math that may not easily lend itself to hardware acceleration. Referencing the above graphic, BCH is simple to perform when needed, while LDPC is known to be more CPU (read SSD controller CPU) intensive. Toshiba's proprietary QSB tech claims to be 8x more capable of correcting errors, but what don't know what, if any, performance penalty exists on account of it.
We will revisit this topic a bit later in the review, but for now lets focus on the other things we know about the Trion 100. The easiest way to explain it is this is essentially Toshiba's answer to the Samsung EVO series of SSDs. This Toshiba flash is configured in a similar fashion, meaning the bulk of it operates in TLC mode, while a portion is segmented off and operates as a faster SLC-mode cache. Writes first go to the SLC area and are purged to TLC in the background during idle time. Continuous writes exceeding the SLC cache size will drop to the write speed of the TLC flash.
Subject: Storage | April 28, 2015 - 12:44 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: TurboWrite, tlc, ssd, slc, Samsung, 840 evo
For those of you following the Samsung 840 EVO saga, last week we saw the release of Magician 4.6. Samsung was initially throttling downloads and firmware update rates, but those limits appear to have been lifted as of this morning. Another thing we noticed this morning was the inclusion of the standalone ISO updater for those who are otherwise unable to run the Magician software (i.e. Mac users):
For those on laptops or other devices with no optical drive, I've confirmed the ISO can be used via USB if placed there with a tool such as Rufus.
Note to Linux users:
There was an early report of complications from a user who was running a full disk fstrim during boot, where that operation was causing errors (corrected once that operation was disabled). It should be noted that full disk TRIM operations are redundant so long as the OS is issuing TRIM on-the-fly during regular file moves / deletions. This may be an issue with queued TRIM handling of the new 840 EVO firmware. If not reproduced / corrected by Samsung, the Linux devs may be able to add this firmware revision to the queued TRIM blacklist to possibly fix the problem on their end.
Note to mSATA 840 EVO users:
It appears the update does not currently apply to these. I've asked Samsung about this.
Subject: Storage | April 23, 2015 - 02:21 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: TurboWrite, tlc, ssd, slc, Samsung, 840 evo
For those who watched last night's podcast live, I predicted that Samsung would be posting their 840 EVO Firmware and new Magician 4.6 software 'soon'. Turns out that 'soon' was actually this morning, but there's a catch - Samsung decided to limit the daily downloads:
If you went to the Samsung SSD Download Page and got the above error, don't fret, there are a few mirrors out there:
I downloaded from these three sources and at the time of this posting can confirm all three are identical to the Magician 4.6 download available from Samsung.
Once installed, you *should* be able to use Magician to update the firmware on your 840 EVO and (hopefully) see its performance come back to where it should be. There have been some reports of users unable to update, but that appears to be Samsung's servers being hammered and Magician's default / timeout is to report that you are on the latest firmware. Restarting Magician may force it to re-check and get the update.
Linux and Mac users are not yet able to update as the ISO updater has not been released for the new firmware. Those capable can update their Linux or Mac 840 EVOs connected as a secondary drive under Windows with Magician 4.6 installed. Also, if you're running Linux and happen use fstrim during boot, read this post prior to updating.