Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2016 - 07:16 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: x16 LTE, vulkan, video, ssd, Samsung, qualcomm, podcast, pb328q, opengl, nvidia, micron, Khronos, gtx 950, asus, apple, 840 evo, 750ti, 750 evo, 3d nand
PC Perspective Podcast #387 - 02/18/2016
Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS PB328Q, Samsung 750 EVO SSD, the release of Vulkan and more!
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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano
Program length: 1:34:18
Week in Review:
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Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Subject: Storage | February 14, 2016 - 07:51 PM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: vnand, ssd, Samsung, nand, micron, Intel, imft, 768Gb, 512GB, 3d nand, 384Gb, 32 Layer, 256GB
You may have seen a wave of Micron 3D NAND news posts these past few days, and while many are repeating the 11-month old news with talks of 10TB/3.5TB on a 2.5"/M.2 form factor SSDs, I'm here to dive into the bigger implications of what the upcoming (and future) generation of Intel / Micron flash will mean for SSD performance and pricing.
Remember that with the way these capacity increases are going, the only way to get a high performance and high capacity SSD on-the-cheap in the future will be to actually get those higher capacity models. With such a large per-die capacity, smaller SSDs (like 128GB / 256GB) will suffer significantly slower write speeds. Taking this upcoming Micron flash as an example, a 128GB SSD will contain only four flash memory dies, and as I wrote about back in 2014, such an SSD would likely see HDD-level sequential write speeds of 160MB/sec. Other SSD manufacturers already recognize this issue and are taking steps to correct it. At Storage Visions 2016, Samsung briefed me on the upcoming SSD 750 Series that will use planar 16nm NAND to produce 120GB and 250GB capacities. The smaller die capacities of these models will enable respectable write performance and will also enable them to discontinue their 120GB 850 EVO as they transition that line to higher capacity 48-layer VNAND. Getting back to this Micron announcement, we have some new info that bears analysis, and that pertains to the now announced page and block size:
256Gb MLC: 16KB Page / 16MB Block / 1024 Pages per Block
384Gb TLC: 16KB Page / 24MB Block / 1536 Pages per Block
To understand what these numbers mean, using the MLC line above, imagine a 16MB CD-RW (Block) that can write 1024 individual 16KB 'sessions' (Page). Each 16KB can be added individually over time, and just like how files on a CD-RW could be modified by writing a new copy in the remaining space, flash can do so by writing a new Page and ignoring the out of date copy. Where the rub comes in is when that CD-RW (Block) is completely full. The process at this point is very similar actually, in that the Block must be completely emptied before the erase command (which wipes the entire Block) is issued. The data has to go somewhere, which typically means writing to empty blocks elsewhere on the SSD (and in worst case scenarios, those too may need clearing before that is possible), and this moving and erasing takes time for the die to accomplish. Just like how wiping a CD-RW took a much longer than writing a single file to it, erasing a Block takes typically 3-4x as much time as it does to program a page.
With that explained, of significance here are the growing page and block sizes in this higher capacity flash. Modern OS file systems have a minimum bulk access size of 4KB, and Windows versions since Vista align their partitions by rounding up to the next 2MB increment from the start of the disk. These changes are what enabled HDDs to transition to Advanced Format, which made data storage more efficient by bringing the increment up from the 512 Byte sector up to 4KB. While most storage devices still use 512B addressing, it is assumed that 4KB should be the minimum random access seen most of the time. Wrapping this all together, the Page size (minimum read or write) is 16KB for this new flash, and that is 4x the accepted 4KB minimum OS transfer size. This means that power users heavy on their page file, or running VMs, or any other random-write-heavy operations being performed over time will have a more amplified effect of wear of this flash. That additional shuffling of data that must take place for each 4KB write translates to lower host random write speeds when compared to lower capacity flash that has smaller Page sizes closer to that 4KB figure.
A rendition of 3D IMFT Floating Gate flash, with inset pulling back some of the tunnel oxide layer to show the location of the floating gate. Pic courtesy Schiltron.
Fortunately for Micron, their choice to carry Floating Gate technology into their 3D flash has netted them some impressive endurance benefits over competing Charge Trap Flash. One such benefit is a claimed 30,000 P/E (Program / Erase) cycle endurance rating. Planar NAND had dropped to the 3,000 range at its lowest shrinks, mainly because there was such a small channel which could only store so few electrons, amplifying the (negative) effects of electron leakage. Even back in the 50nm days, MLC ran at ~10,000 cycle endurance, so 30,000 is no small feat here. The key is that by using that same Floating Gate tech so good at controlling leakage for planar NAND on a new 3D channel that can store way more electrons enables excellent endurance that may actually exceed Samsung's Charge Trap Flash equipped 3D VNAND. This should effectively negate the endurance hit on the larger Page sizes discussed above, but the potential small random write performance hit still stands, with a possible remedy being to crank up the Over-Provisioning of SSDs (AKA throwing flash at the problem). Higher OP means less active pages per block and a reduction in the data shuffling forced by smaller writes.
A 25nm flash memory die. Note the support logic (CMOS) along the upper left edge.
One final thing helping out Micron here is that their Floating Gate design also enables a shift of 75% of the CMOS circuitry to a layer *underneath* the flash storage array. This logic is typically part of what you see 'off to the side' of a flash memory die. Layering CMOS logic in such a way is likely thanks to Intel's partnership and CPU development knowledge. Moving this support circuitry to the bottom layer of the die makes for less area per die dedicated to non-storage, more dies per wafer, and ultimately lower cost per chip/GB.
Samsung's Charge Trap Flash, shown in both planar and 3D VNAND forms.
One final thing before we go. If we know anything about how the Intel / Micron duo function, it is that once they get that freight train rolling, it leads to relatively rapid advances. In this case, the changeover to 3D has taken them a while to perfect, but once production gains steam, we can expect to see some *big* advances. Since Samsung launched their 3D VNAND their gains have been mostly iterative in nature (24, 32, and most recently 48). I'm not yet at liberty to say how the second generation of IMFT 3D NAND will achieve it, but I can say that it appears the next iteration after this 32-layer 256Gb (MLC) /384Gb (TLC) per die will *double* to 512Gb/768Gb (you are free to do the math on what that means for layer count). Remember back in the day where Intel launched new SSDs at a fraction of the cost/GB of the previous generation? That might just be happening again within the next year or two.
Subject: Storage | February 3, 2016 - 08:31 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.
Got a high bandwidth video camera that fills a piddly 4TB SSD in too short of a time? How about a 13TB SSD!
Fixstars certainly gets cool points for launching such a high capacity SSD, but there are a few things to consider here. These are not meant to be written in a random fashion and are primarily geared towards media creation (8k RAW video). Filling at saturated SATA bandwidth, these will take about 7 hours to fill, and just as long to empty onto that crazy high end editing machine. But hey, if you can afford 13TB of flash (likely ~$13,000) just to record your video content, then your desktop should be even beefier.
The take home point here is that this is not a consumer device, and it would not work out well even for pro gamers with money to burn. The random write performance is likely poor enough that it could not handle a Steam download over a high end broadband link.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 05:15 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: T3, ssd, Samsung, portable, msata, CES 2016, CES, 850 EVO
We got our first look at the Samsung T1 SSD at CES 2015. The concept was simple - Make a very compact external portable encrypted drive, and make it fast. Based on a 3D VNAND equipped mSATA 850 EVO and using an ASMedia USB to SATA bridge, the T1 had no issue saturating the SATA side of the link and was capable of well over 400 MB/s over a USB 3.0 link.
This year Samsung is teasing the next iteration on this product:
Dubbed the T3 (T2 doesn't translate well in some other languages), the T3 has some notable changes / updates / upgrades over the T1 of last year:
- Type-C connector on the device end of the cable (we assume the included cable will link to Standard A for compatibility). The T1 used micro-B.
- Metal case / housing. T1 was all plastic.
- Capacities up to 2TB. T1 was limited to 1TB.
Full press blast / additional details / specs appear after the break. Look out for a review of this one just as soon as we can get our hands on one!
*Update* I got my hands on one at a Samsung press dinner. Here it is next to the older T1. The T3 is a tiny bit larger and thicker, but the difference is hardly noticeable as the T1 was very thin and light as it was. Here's a pic:
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 06:39 AM | Allyn Malventano
Tagged: CES, CES 2016, Fasetto, Link, wifi, NAS, ssd, Samsung, vnand, 802.11ac
Fasetto is a company previously known as one of those cross-platform file-sharing web apps, but I was shocked to see them with a space at CES Unveiled. Companies without physical products tend to fall flat at this type of venue, but as I walked past, boy was I mistaken!
To give the size a bit of perspective here, that's a business card sitting in front of the 'Link', which only measures 1.9x1.9x0.9" and weighs just under 4 ounces. That's a belt clip to the right of it. Ok, now that we have the tiny size and low weight described, what has Fasetto packed into that space?
- Aluminum + ABS construction
- Waterproof to 45 feet (and it floats!)
- Bluetooth 4.0 LE
- 802.11AC dual band WiFi (reportedly 4x4)
- 4GB RAM
- Quad core ARM CPU
- 9-axis compass/accelerometer/gyro
- 1350 mAh Li battery
- Wireless charging (Chi style)
- Up to 2TB SSD
For a portable storage device, that is just an absolutely outstanding spec sheet! The Link is going to run an OS designed specifically for this device, and will have plugin support (simple add-on apps that can access the accelerometer and log movement, for example).
The BIG deal with this device is of course the ability to act as a portable wireless storage device. In that respect it can handle 20 simultaneous devices, stream to seven simultaneously, and can also do the expected functions like wireless internet pass-through. Claimed standby power is two weeks and active streaming is rated at up to 8 hours. Even more interesting is that I was told the internal storage will be Samsung 48-layer VNAND borrowed from their T3 (which explains why the Fasetto Link will not be available until late 2016). This is sure to be a hit with photographers, as WiFi compatible cameras should be able to stream photos to the Link as the photos are being taken, eliminating the need to offload cameras at the end of a shoot.
We will definitely be working with Fasetto to help shake out any bugs prior to the release of this little gem. I suspect it might just be the most groundbreaking storage product that we see come out of this CES.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Storage | December 30, 2015 - 07:21 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
Subject: Storage | December 28, 2015 - 09:44 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: ssd, plextor, PCIe SSD, NVMe, M8Pe, M.2, CES 2016
Plextor is set to announce their first NVMe SSD at CES 2016, and the new M8Pe uses 4 lanes of PCIe 3.0 to provide up to 270,000 IOPS read and 150,000 IOPS write performance (4K random). Throughput numbers were not revealed.
Image credit: PC World
The drive is in the M.2 form factor though the image indicates it will include a PCIe adapter and heat sink.
"The new drives also feature Plextor’s specialty features, such as PlexTurbo RAM caching, compression technology for maximizing storage capacity, and PlexVault, which allows you to hide private data from others on a shared computer."
No details have been announced yet on capacity, release date, or (of course) pricing. We'll have to wait until CES to find out more.
Subject: Storage | December 10, 2015 - 07:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: tlc, crucial, BX200, ocz, Trion 100, ssd
Scott may have moved on but The Tech Report is still going strong and recently posted a double review covering the OCZ Trion 100 and Crucial's BX200. Al has tested out two of the Trion 100s previously, he was less than impressed with the drives performance and The Tech Report's testing revealed the same lacklustre performance. Sadly they preferred the Trion to the BX200, though perhaps not for the reason you might expect. The previous BX100 was an MLC drive which had a great price to performance ratio, it was fast and inexpensive, which lead to certain expectations for the next iteration of BX SSD. Sadly the TLC used in the new drive simply could not match the BX100's performance and so neither drive received accolades for there performance. Check out the actual performance and TR's recommendations in their full review.
"OCZ and Crucial aren't resting on the laurels of their entry-level Arc 100 and BX100 drives. Instead, they've cooked up even more attainable SSDs built with TLC flash—OCZ with its Trion 100, and Crucial with its BX200. We put these drives through their paces to see what they can do."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Patriot Blast 240GB SSD Review @ NikKTech
- 2 TB Seagate Portable HDD Teardown @ Tech ARP
- Seagate 6TB Enterprise NAS HDD @ eTeknix
- NETGEAR ReadyNAS 212 Review @ Missing Remote
- Thecus N4310: A 4-Disk Linux NAS @ Phoronix
- Asustor AS3104T @ Legion Hardware
Subject: Storage | November 10, 2015 - 06:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ssd, NVMe, M.2, M&A, 3D XPoint
This has been a huge year for SSDs with a variety of new technologies and form factors to keep track of, not to mention the wide variety of vendors now shipping SSDs with a plethora of controllers embedded within. [H]ard|OCP has put together a guide to help you translate these acronyms into a form that will help you to make an informed buying decision. You may already understand what NVMe offers or when 3D XPoint flash is the correct solution but have you memorized what U.2 A, B, E, and M connectors look like. For information on those and more check out their article and consider bookmarking it for future reference.
"Since our last SSD update article, the last 7 months have seen no shortage of exciting announcements, and the enthusiast market has rapidly evolved in both positive and confusing ways. Let’s get up to speed on U.2, NVMe, 3D XPoint, M&A, and the rest of the buzzword soup that make up this market."
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
- Crucial BX200 960GB & 480GB SSD Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Crucial BX200 @ The SSD Review
- QNAP TS-251 High-Performance 2-Bay Prosumer NAS @ eTeknix
- QNAP TS-453 Pro @ Kitguru
- QNAP TS-563 5-bay Affordable Quad-Core Business NAS Review @ Madshrimps
- Asustor AS6202T @ Legion Hardware
- Seagate Backup Plus 4TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive Review @ NikKTech
- 4 TB Western Digital Blue Solid State Hybrid Drive @ Tech ARP
- WD Purple 6TB Surveillance Hard Drive @ eTeknix
- WD Purple 6TB Surveillance Hard Drive RAID @ eTeknix